New conflict with Ugandan rebels looms on horizon

June 13th, 2008 - 9:56 am ICT by IANS  

By Henry Wasswa
Kampala, June 13 (DPA) The two-year peace process in Uganda aimed at ending a rebellion by the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) lies in tatters as the rebels re-arm and Uganda, Congo and southern Sudan gear up for battle. The LRA rebellion, which stretched over decades with varying degrees of intensity, saw tens of thousands killed or mutilated and several million displaced.

Now military officials say LRA leader Joseph Kony is preparing to re-ignite the civil war that wreaked havoc in northern Uganda.

“He is not only re-arming, but he already has the arms for the war,” Ugandan military spokesman, Major Paddy Ankunda told DPA.

The LRA, which is well known for recruiting child soldiers, is already attacking villages and killing and abducting people in southern Sudan, Congo and parts of the Central African Republic (CAR), United Nations and military officials say.

Uganda has said it will this month attack the LRA in collaboration with Congo, southern Sudan and the UN peace-keeping force in the Congo.

“The problem with Kony is that he is continuing to destabilize the region,” Captain Chris Magezi, a spokesman for the Ugandan government team in the talks aimed at setting up a force to tackle Kony’s guerrillas, told DPA.

“He is trying to provoke the region into attacking him and that will be his end,” he added.

Kony, a former lay preacher in his late 40s, in April refused to sign the peace deal. He said he would only comply if the International Criminal Court (ICC) removed indictments it slapped on him and four other LRA members for war crimes.

According to the ICC, the LRA is guilty of abductions, killings, rape and conscription of Ugandan children into the war.

UN and human rights groups, which accuse the rebels of abducting nearly 30,000 children in northern Uganda, say that they are now committing exactly the same crimes in Sudan, Congo and the CAR.

A report released in May by the US-based Human Rights Watch says that since February the rebel outfit has “carried out at least 100 abductions and perhaps more in the CAR, Congo and Southern Sudan.”

Southern Sudan brokered the peace deal, but the LRA now seems hell-bent on antagonizing the peacemakers as well.

On June 5, the LRA attacked a military outpost of the southern Sudanese army near Congo border, killing over 20 people, including 14 members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

“The military option has always been there for as long as Kony failed to sign the agreement - we are just waiting for a word from the Sudanese mediators before we act,” Ankunda said.

It appears that Uganda may not have to wait long. A Sudanese government newspaper, The New Vision, quoted Trade Minister Anthony Makana as saying during a recent visit to Kampala that they are ready to act.

“The LRA has abused the hospitality we accorded it. We are still consulting with other regional leaders so that we can flush him (Kony) out of his hide-out,” the minister said.

The elusive guerrilla commander is based in the northeast of Congo, where he fled in late 2004 after being forced out of his former southern Sudanese bases.

A senior Ugandan official, who spoke to DPA on condition of anonymity, said that the LRA was receiving weapons from the Sudanese government based in Khartoum.

The largely Christian southern Sudanese rebels and the mainly Muslim North are now at an uneasy peace after a long civil war.

Kony’s intransigence seems to be based upon the ICC warrants.

William Sasagah Wanzira, a specialist in international law, said that the rebel leader has opted to fight because “he knows that if he signs the agreement, he might be arrested.”

LRA fighters are mostly members of the ethnic northern Acholi, who were removed from power by the southern Bantu tribesmen in 1986.

Their rebellion has been one of Africa’s longest and probably most brutal conflicts. Now it seems as though it may continue to add to its long and unsavoury record.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |