LRA: Uganda's worst export of the century
SOURCE: The Monitor
By Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi
Joseph Kony could have been sent packing from the northern Uganda but this did not stop his Lord’s Resistance Army from showing its ugly head in South Sudan, DR Congo and Central African republic. As Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi writes, a walk through Kony’s footpath reveals that his fighters have left many scars that will take centuries to heal.
Politicians in Kampala celebrate the end of the war in the north of the country. It is a key campaign issue for President Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement as the country draws closer to a critical election early 2011.
But in President Museveni’s own home district, a family is wailing the loss of a son and a father who dedicated his time to serving his country and spent 17 years on war fronts before being killed on duty thousands of kilometres from his home in a foreign country whose language he cannot even speak.
The Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency has defined much of President Museveni’s 24-year hold onto power in Uganda. But since 2005, the government has celebrated its victory over the rebel LRA which at the height of its rebellion forced 1.6 million people into camps for the Internally Displaced (IDPs), saw an estimated 20,000 children abducted to serve either as child soldiers or sex slaves for the rebel commanders and thousands either killed or maimed.
It is the killing of people like Lt. Henry Taremwa (promoted posthumously to Captain) that flashes the ominous reality back to an audience working hard to forget the conflict. The silence from the government and the military about deaths of Ugandan soldiers in a foreign land is simply too loud. “Why can’t they tell us the truth?” asks a brother to late Taremwa. “Must we have our troops so far away? They chased away Kony, why follow him there?”
“We are suffering, we know he was killed in service of his country but why deny him a chance for a decent burial? Since we learnt of his death we are not being given any official information, people have been gathered at home [to attend the funeral and interment]; we put announcements on radio but still no word from the authorities,” Mr Musinguzi cried out in a June 29 interview.
It is the number of civilian deaths that are not disputed. In two separate reports, international human rights bodies; the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and The Project to End Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (Enough) released in April, the LRA had massacred up to 1,800 people in previously unreported assaults. In a week of madness the rebels are said to have murdered 400 residents in a single village. Roaming with relative ease across international borders, killing at will despite the pursuit by Ugandan soldiers, the LRA, has become Uganda’s worst export of this century.
Ugandan authorities and politicians shy away from discussing the damage a home-grown problem - the LRA that is - has caused vulnerable Africans in the largely ungoverned, and ungovernable, parts of the continent’s central wilderness. Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, Uganda’s defence and military spokesman, says Uganda “feels bad but not guilty” for the LRA activities in neighbouring countries.
In an interview with Sunday Monitor, Lt. Col. Kulayigye said LRA’s destructive excursion into the new territories beyond Uganda’s border is “not a Ugandan problem but rather an African one”. He argues that rather than exploit weakness in the Ugandan security system the LRA exploited broader continental problems that have especially bedevilled the Great Lakes Region. “I see it as the African backwardness,” the spokesman says, “You need to see the contextualisation of the conflict system in the Great Lakes Region which has been exploited by the LRA.”
LRA’S centres of activity are reported to be Obbo, Ndjema, and areas
north east of Ndjema. The rebels are also operating in DRC areas of
Ddungu and other parts of North Orientale province.
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