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Uganda: Rebels create havoc

NewsNotes, November-December 2008

In recent weeks the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has committed a wave of coordinated attacks on communities in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), abducting over 150 children and displacing as many as 50,000 people. The rebels also attacked a South Sudan military outpost. Local authorities report that the LRA is enlarging its forces and consolidating control over areas adjacent to their bases. In addition, reports indicate that the LRA may be trading arms and linking up with other militias in the region and that a new rebel group is forming in the Northern Ugandan space vacated by the LRA when they moved to the DRC.

Prospects are dim for convincing LRA leader Joseph Kony to sign the Final Peace Agreement, negotiated between the LRA and the government of Uganda after 20 years of war. The agreement was finalized in April, but several meetings between Kony and mediators since then have fallen through and he has curtailed contact with intermediaries in the past month since the renewed rebel attacks.

[See Northern Uganda: Peace process stalled, September-October 2008 NewsNotes and N. Uganda: Still hope for peace?, July-August 2008 NewsNotes]

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns is primarily involved with those issues which impact the lives of the people in countries where Maryknollers work.

President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, which mediated the Juba peace talks, reportedly called recently for a definitive timetable for concluding the talks in order to allow other options for addressing the rebel threat to be pursued.

The International Criminal Court renewed its call for the arrest of LRA leaders indicted by the Court, and requested that the Congolese government provide it with information on how it is working to arrest the indictees. The Congolese army, with support from the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUC), is continuing to build up troop presence near LRA bases. However, neither force has engaged the LRA, prompting several local communities to form self-defense militias.

One year after the launch of the Ugandan government’s Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP), implementation of the recovery plan remains slow and tangible results scarce. Yet, despite a persistent lack of basic services in areas of return, northern Ugandans continue to leave displaced persons’ camps. Over 145,000 displaced persons have moved to transit sites or their original homes since May 2008.

Map of displaced persons’ camps

Meanwhile, a recent report by Bill Oketch for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (Oct. 10) says that the new rebel group in Northern Uganda “may be headed by Peter Karim, who used to command a band of insurgents in Uganda’s West Nile region. Since the late 1990s, Karim has been active in the Ituri area of eastern DRC, and has been affiliated with the notorious Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes, FNI, a Lendu militia headed by Colonel Mathieu Ngudjolo. Ngudjolo and another Congolese rebel leader, Germaine Katanga, are awaiting prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for an alleged joint attack on the Ituri village of Bogoro, by their respective militias, the FNI and the Patriotic Resistance Force, FRPI, on February 24, 2003. In advance of the DRC’s 2006 election, Karim and his militia were reportedly offered an amnesty and positions in the Congolese army, which apparently were not accepted.

“Additionally, a 2006 United Nations report on the exploitation of natural resources in DRC identified Karim as ‘one of the chief perpetrators,’ and said he routinely exchanged timber and coffee from DRC for arms and ammunition. The report also identified him as a former Ugandan soldier and timber contractor in Paidha, a Ugandan town on the DRC border. In March 2007, reports surfaced that Karim had agreed to the surrender of 170 of his troops, including numerous children, to UN peacekeepers in the Ituri region, claiming that he wanted peace. Karim and his senior deputies, however, refused to hand themselves in because they were unhappy with the terms they were offered, say reports.”

Faith in action:

Write to your members of Congress, urging them to ensure that the next administration develops a viable strategy to apprehend LRA leaders and stop the escalating violence, and appoints a diplomat to work regionally to ensure protection of vulnerable civilians. Congress also should introduce legislation addressing the needs for reconstruction and stabilization within northern Uganda.

For additional information contact Resolve Uganda and see Africa Files.


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