Posts Tagged ‘lords resistance army’

When this decade started in 2001, Museveni had been in power for 15 years. As it ends, he is the only regional leader still in office who was in when it started. The events that ensured that climaxed at 3:10 p.m. on Tuesday July 12, 2005.

At that moment Uganda’s parliament was involved in what historians like to call a defining moment. It marked the end of an arduous process to amend Article 105 (2) of the constitution to remove presidential term limits.

On that day, Jacob Oulanya, the burly man with a penchant for wearing sharp suits complete with pocket handkerchief and bowtie and whose thick moustache appears to block out his nose whenever he speaks, broke his silence. The amendment, he said, had been coached not to dwell on the principle behind term limits. Rather the arguments had “zeroed down on those who like President Museveni and those who hate him.” Oulanya was at the time the MP of Moro County in Gulu district and chairman of the Legal Committee of parliament which scrutinised the amendment.

The removal of term limits on the presidency marked the maturation of political corruption. Efforts by prominent Museveni ministers against the third term campaign did not change Museveni’s determination to have article 105 of the 1995 constitution repealed. Instead, ministers Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, Eriya Kategaya and Miria Matembe were dropped from cabinet. In the end, Shs 5 million was paid to each of 222 MPs to let Museveni have his way. Only 37 MPs voted against the bill and two abstained. Did the MPs realise that his personalisation of a momentous question of principle marked the defining political moment of the last decade?

Sometimes to understand such an unfathomable question one needs an anchor in something less speculative.

In my case, it was an article by BBC Washington Correspondent Steve Kingstone on October 2, 2010 that spurred the thought. It was titled `How President Lula changed Brazil’ and it started with the paragraph: “I used to tell visitors to close their eyes as I drove them into Sao Paulo from the airport. That was seven years ago, when the first impression of South America’s biggest city was a pot-holed motorway running parallel to a stinking river…”

Does that sound familiar? Possibly yes.

At the heart of the debate was whether President Museveni could ever democratically relinquish power.

The events of July 12, 2005 have become even more poignant as the decade ends. They make 2005 the defining year of the decade. In that year, Uganda’s founding President Milton Obote died, and leading opposition politician, Rt. Col. Dr Kizza Besigye was arrested on a trumped-up rape case, Uganda ditched the Movement system for multiparty politics, and a military commando squad known as Black Mamba besieged the High Court in a flagrant re-arrest of treason suspects that had been granted bail.

Those events are comparable regionally, only to the fallout from the death in a mysterious helicopter crash of the legendary leader of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), Col. John Garanga, and the deployment of Ugandan army troops in Somalia.

They eclipse even Museveni’s election victories in 2001 and 2006, the government of Uganda peace talks with the LRA in Juba in 2006, the 2007 Kampala Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and its entrenching of corruption, the 2009 Buganda riots, and the 2010 signing of the East African Community Common Market Protocol.

Yet some of the events, like the rift between Buganda kingdom and the central government, corruption and conduct of the February 18, 2011 general elections are already impacting on the new decade.

The Brazil story has a happy ending. Kingstone was there to cover the election in which, in November 2010, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva passed on the baton to his anointed successor, Dilma Rousseff. In power for only eight years, Lula cleared the pot-holed motorways, pushed 29 million Brazilians into the middle class, created 2.5 million jobs in 2010 alone, eradicated hunger, improved education and health and transformed Brazil from a borrower from the IMF to a lender. On December 16, he proudly presented a review of his eight year in power to his cabinet in six volumes and is leaving office when over 80 percent of Brazilians approve of his work.

Walking along the Upper Kololo Terrace, just after the swanky Protea Hotel in the high end section of Kampala city, one easily notices a new row of bulletin billboards exhorting passersby to vote for Museveni in the Feb. 18 presidential elections.

They are professionally erected low at car windshield level to catch the driver’s eye and with just a few words. Next to them on the same road, in the section just above Kololo Airstrip, venue of national celebrations is another row of neat bulletin billboards. These ones are for MTN Uganda, a subsidiary of the South African telecom giant. The placement is possibly coincidental but very apt: Museveni’s brand colour, like MTN’s, is yellow. Going forward, it appears the fate of the most important engine of his success, big business, will become more intertwined with the fortunes of the most powerful person in Uganda, Museveni.

The decade started well enough for Museveni.

In March 2001, he trounced a pack of five to emerge with 69 percent of the vote in the presidential elections. Optimism was high. He had promised it was his last term and most voters looked forward to a peaceful transition with a new face at the top in 2006. It did not happen. Museveni clang on and as the decade ends, it makes more sense to assess what the future will be like under him than speculate on when he will quit.

Meanwhile, corruption has grown exponentially. When the decade began the biggest scandal was the Shs 11 billion purchase of four junk Mi-24 helicopters by the UPDF that was before the Justice Sebutinde Commission of Inquiry in 2001. This was followed closely by a similar probe in the Uganda Revenue Authority in 2002.

However, the money involved is laughable compared to what is being swindled today. As the decade ends, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament chaired by MP Nandala Mafabi has just completed a probe into the squandering of Shs 500 billion meant for hosting of CHOGM. Two years ago, there was the case of Amama Mbabazi allegedly influencing NSSF to buy his 400 acre land in Temangalo at Shs 11 billion.

And the impunity has burgeoned. Just as only Emma Katto, the fixer, was the fall guy in the Sebutinde junk helicopters inquiry and just as Sebutinde’s report on URA was quashed by court as her fellow commissioners, Fawn Cousens and James Kahooza, disowned it, PAC’s CHOGM report was defeated on a technicality in parliament and Mbabazi walked scot-free from the Temangalo scandal.

Many people close to Museveni are tainted. The British jailed and deported Museveni’s aide; Ananias Tumukunde for stealing Shs 117 million from the government of Uganda in inflated procurement bills. On December 9, 2009 the British handed a cheque for the amount to the IGG at a public function in Kampala. But Museveni kept Tumukunde.

As the decade ends, a WikiLeak of US diplomatic cables reveals that the US Ambassador in Kampala, Jerry Lanier wrote that two ministers, Hilary Onek and Amama Mbabazi took bribes from an oil company in what could mark the first cases of the so-called `oil curse’.

As the decade ends, oil might not be the only big business that Ugandans are to watch with trepidation.

Uganda’s biggest telecom company is losing market share in a volatile market. Its market share is down to an unconfirmed 60 percent due to competition from new entrants and its Average Revenue per User (ARPU) is the lowest in the region at US$ 5. As a result, the only good news at the MTN Towers is the 5 percent increase in subscribers to 6,215,000 by Q3 of 2010.

This gloom is in sharp contrast to the excitement at MTN at the start of the decade. The year 2001 was the second that MTN Uganda, which had been in operation for two years, made a profit. At the time, it had about 150,000 subscribers and controlled over 75 percent of the mobile phone market and 60 percent of the whole telecom market. Thomas Bragaw was the MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer at the start of the decade. Just three months before the New Year, he had a launched the first ever fibre optic cable in Africa. It linked Kampala City’s business district and industrial area.

But big business could suffer more as big money believed to be ill-gotten has been discovered in government official’s homes instead of banks. Damian Akankwasa, a National Forestry Authority managing director had Shs900 million in his house and another Shs500 million was found in the family of Museveni’s brother, Salim Saleh.

Regionally, on July 11, 2010 Kampala witnessed twin bomb attacks that left at least 76 people dead and scores injured. The Somali-based al-Shabaab claimed responsibility arguing that it was punishment for Uganda’s involvement in the affairs of their country Somalia. As the decade ends, the referendum in Southern Sudan promises self-determination for John Garang’s people. But there is apprehension that it could ignite another regional conflict.

The 20 year-long war of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army is quiet but not quashed. The butcher of the north is somewhere in the jungles of Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Southern Sudan. Can he return to haunt the north? Some say, possibly not.

As reported By Mubatsi Asinja Habati – THE INDEPENDENT

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UN must stop failing civilians under threat from the LRA | Oxfam International.

New York – Tens of thousands of people will remain without life-saving aid unless the UN mission in Congo steps up its presence in areas brutalized by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), Oxfam warned today. Insecurity has continually put humanitarian plans on hold and forced an estimated 43% of people displaced by LRA violence in the remote Bas-Uélé territory to survive without any assistance at all.

The call comes as the UN Security Council meets to discuss its peacekeeping force’s operations in a country terrorized by multiple rebel groups.

In recent weeks LRA attacks have caused hundreds of families to flee their homes in the Haut-Uélé territory of north-eastern the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), adding to the almost 260,000 people already displaced in Haut- and Bas-Uélé and vulnerable to disease, exploitation and destitution.

Marcel Stoessel, head of Oxfam in DRC, said:

MONUSCO is failing tens of thousands of people in urgent need of protection and assistance. The LRA has killed and abducted more people than any other armed group in Congo, yet the resources the UN allocates to protecting civilians in the affected areas remain wholly inadequate. The UN Security Council should insist on immediate redeployment of peacekeepers, transport equipment and senior civilian protection personnel to the area. Needs are great across eastern Congo, but the exceptional levels of violence from the LRA mean MONUSCO need to start giving the problem priority in their allocation of resources.

“Once they are there, they must move fast to listen to communities and respond effectively to protect them as well as working to improve security so that humanitarian assistance can get through.

Protecting civilians is the primary responsibility of the Congolese government, but further attacks in recent weeks demonstrate that national efforts are currently inadequate to keep people safe. While strengthening the Congolese security services is clearly the long-term solution, in the immediate MONUSCO must step up.”

The UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO) is the largest in the world with more than 18,000 troops across the country. However, fewer than 1,000 peacekeepers are estimated to be deployed in the LRA-affected areas, despite extreme and unremitting attacks on civilians there in the last two years.

Since September 2008, the LRA has killed more than 2,000 people, abducted more than 2,500 and displaced over 400,000 others in DRC, Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Stoessel said:

“Communities interviewed by Oxfam in July of this year felt the UN mission was doing more to protect its own bases than it was to keep the population safe. The mission has shown in other parts of Congo that it can do far better than this.

“Oxfam is working with people living in fear and in dire need of help. To reach more of those affected we need the UN to fulfil its responsibilities and help secure the most volatile areas.”

Earlier this month, Oxfam called for urgent action by the UN and international community to address the threat the LRA poses to civilians and to regional peace and stability, arguing that it has been allowed to slide off the international agenda, and that the UN must provide a forum for regular discussion and coordination of non-military responses.

Stoessel said:

“The Security Council should be seeking regular briefings and reports on the LRA’s activities and on what is being done to address the threat to civilians. It should use its influence to ensure non-military responses are not neglected, for instance by reviving the role of Special Envoy to the affected areas.”

For Further Information see the Full Post here as reported by Oxfam International – All information contained in this Blog entry is Copyrighted to Oxfam.

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency said Friday it was alarmed at reports of a dramatic rise in the frequency and brutality of attacks by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) from Uganda against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Between March 20 and May 6 this year, there were at least 10 LRA raids on villages in southern CAR’s Haut-Mbomou province. Thirty-six people were killed, houses were burned and 10,000 people were uprooted, including 411 who fled across the border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The newly displaced are concentrated in the towns of Bangassou, Rafai, Zemio and Mboki.

In the eastern DRC, the latest large-scale LRA attack is reported to have occurred between February 22-26 at Kpanga in Bas-Uele district of Orientale province. The LRA is reported to have killed up to 100 people, including children. This is an area that has repeatedly suffered from LRA violence.

In Sudan, LRA attacks have centred on the Central and Western Equatoria regions, bordering Uganda, DRC and the Central African Republic. Since August 2009, the LRA has carried out renewed incursions, which have forced the relocation of refugees and the displacement of the local population as well as seriously disrupting the movement of humanitarian assistance.

On April 6, the rebel group raided the Ezo Napere refugee settlement in Western Equatoria, killing a male refugee and injuring another. The attack was repulsed by the South Sudan police force.

Roving bands of LRA fighters often prey on villages in remote areas. As a result, some of the group’s atrocities remain unknown for long periods.

The epicentre of LRA atrocities is in the two districts of Haut-Uele and Bas-Uele in Orientale province, where, since December 2008, it has killed more than 1,800 people, abducted some 2,500 and displaced 280,000 people. It has also forced nearly 20,000 Congolese to seek refuge in Sudan and the CAR.

In Sudan, the LRA is said to have caused the deaths of some 2,500 people and forcibly displaced another 87,800, mostly in Central and Western Equatoria.

The LRA sprung up in Uganda in 1986, established its first base in Sudan in 1993 and spread to the DRC in 2005, before moving further north into the Central African Republic in 2009.

In the CAR, the UN Taskforce on IDPs [internally displaced people], of which UNHCR is a member, is making arrangements to deliver aid to the newly displaced in Haute-Mbomou province as quickly as possible. An assessment mission will travel to Zemio this weekend to asses the needs of the internally displaced and refugees.

By Yusuf Hassan in Nairobi, Kenya

via UNHCR – Thousands flee, many killed as Lord’s Resistance Army steps up attacks.

For two decades in northern Uganda, a cult-like rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) waged war against the government and local Acholi people, launching horrific attacks on villages, towns and camps for the internally displaced.

At the height of the conflict, the United Nations called northern Uganda one of the world’s most neglected humanitarian crises. Some 2 million people – about 90 percent of Acholiland – were uprooted from their homes and tens of thousands were killed or mutilated.

The LRA kidnapped thousands of children for use as fighters, porters and “wives”. Many were forced to perform terrible atrocities – including killing their families and other children. The rebels were also notorious for slicing off people’s lips, ears and noses or padlocking people’s lips shut.

A Sudanese-brokered ceasefire in August 2006 brought relative peace to northern Uganda. But rebel leader Joseph Kony has repeatedly refused to sign a final peace deal, demanding guarantees that he will not be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which wants to try him for war crimes.

Kony’s rebels have camped out in remote regions of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic since the peace process started.

During the worst of the conflict in northern Uganda many people fled their homes to live in camps. Others were herded into the camps by the Ugandan army during counter-insurgency operations. The makeshift settlements lacked food and clean water and were vulnerable to rebel attacks.

At one time, almost 1,000 people were dying every week from disease, poor living conditions and violence, according to a 2005 survey of internally displaced in Acholiland by Uganda’s health ministry, New York-based aid agency International Rescue Committee and several U.N. agencies.

Improved security since peace talks has allowed about half of the displaced to return to their villages while about a quarter have moved to transit sites near their homes, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre says. But many people, including the elderly, disabled and orphaned, are still stuck in the camps. Despite relative peace, the problems in the north continue to undermine the country’s gains since the bloodshed and economic chaos of the Idi Amin and Milton Obote years.

Northerners ruled Uganda from independence in 1962 until Yoweri Museveni, a rebel leader from the southwest, seized power in 1986. Some critics accused him of prolonging the conflict to subdue political opposition in the north – an allegation he denies.

WHO ARE THE LRA?


Patrick Odong, 13, whose jaw was smashed by a bullet in 2002 as troops battled rebels in his village.<br> REUTERS/Patrick Olum
Patrick Odong, 13, whose jaw was smashed by a bullet in 2002 as troops battled rebels in his village.
REUTERS/Patrick Olum

Museveni’s seizure of power prompted a number of popular uprisings in the north. The LRA emerged in 1992, comprising northern rebel groups and former Obote troops. At its helm was Kony, a former altar boy and self-proclaimed prophet.

Kony, an Acholi himself, turned resentment towards Museveni into an apocalyptic spiritual crusade that has sustained one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts. Analysts say that aside from rabid opposition to Museveni, the rebels have showed no clear political goals during their insurgency.

Kony has said he is fighting to defend the Biblical Ten Commandments, although his group has also articulated a range of northern grievances, from the looting of cattle by Museveni’s troops to demands for a greater share of political power. A report by World Vision International says Kony’s spiritualism blends elements of Christianity, Islam and traditional Acholi beliefs to psychologically enslave abducted children and instil fear in local villagers.

In 1994, Sudan began backing the LRA with weapons and training and let it set up camps on Sudanese soil. Sudan was getting back at Uganda for supporting its own southern rebels during its 20-year civil war. It also used the LRA as a proxy to fight against the rebels. Sudan’s civil war came to an end in 2005 with a fragile peace deal. Khartoum says it has ended all support to the LRA. In 2002, Museveni launched a military campaign, “Iron Fist”, aimed at wiping out the LRA for good. Kony’s rebels responded by abducting more children and attacking more civilians. Some 10,000 children were seized in about a year. The number of displaced people shot up.

It was then that the phenomenon of “night commuting” emerged. Every evening tens of thousands of children trudged into towns like Gulu to sleep on the streets, rather than risk being kidnapped from their beds by the rebels. No one knows how many children have been abducted overall but the figure is widely believed to exceed 20,000. In October 2005, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Kony and other top LRA leaders, accusing them of multiple war crimes. Sudan agreed to let Ugandan troops pursue the rebels into its territory.

Within months, the LRA leaders sought refuge in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, rekindling historic tension between Kampala and Kinshasa. Operating from camps in Garamba National Park, in northeastern DRC, the LRA has attacked Congolese villages and towns, killed civilians and abducted children. Rebels have also attacked civilians across the border in Sudan.

HOPES FOR PEACE


A Uganda soldier sits on an amoured vehicle while escorting a U.N. convoy from Lira to Pader district, 2005.<br> REUTERS/ Joseph Akena
A Uganda soldier sits on an amoured vehicle while escorting a U.N. convoy from Lira to Pader district, 2005.
REUTERS/ Joseph Akena

South Sudan’s vice president, Riek Machar, himself a former rebel in Sudan’s north-south war, began mediating between the LRA and Museveni after meeting Kony in the bush near the Congolese border in May 2006. The LRA declared a unilateral ceasefire in early August and by the end of the month there was a truce in place.

Rebels agreed to gather in two assembly points in southern Sudan while negotiations continued. However, most rebels drifted away from the assembly points and both sides accused each other of breaking their word. A key obstacle in the negotiations is the fact the ICC global war crimes court wants senior rebels handed over for trial. The LRA has vowed never to sign a final peace deal unless Kampala persuades the ICC to drop the case – something analysts say is unlikely.

Talks between the rebels and the government have frequently stalled since 2006. In January 2008, it was confirmed that the LRA’s deputy commander Vincent Otti was dead following rumours he had been killed in late 2007. Numerous LRA deserters have said Kony shot his number two after accusing him of spying for the government. The news raised fears of a wobble in the peace process because Otti, regarded as the brains behind the group in contrast to the volatile Kony, had been a prime mover behind the LRA joining peace talks.

A possible breakthrough came in February 2008, when the Ugandan government and LRA signed a deal stipulating that Kampala would set up special war crimes courts to handle the gravest crimes, while traditional justice known as mato oput would be used for others.

This homegrown solution has the support of the Acholis, who have borne the brunt of the conflict. But Kony has repeatedly failed to show up to sign a final peace deal. With patience wearing thin, Uganda, DRC and southern Sudan began a major offensive against LRA camps in Garamba in December 2008. A U.S. official said Washington had provided equipment and helped plan the operation.

Semi-autonomous southern Sudan said its troops wouldn’t cross into Congo, but it would block any fleeing LRA rebels. The LRA responded by looting local villages, killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands. Ugandan troops withdrew in March 2009, and the LRA continue to terrorise parts of Central African Republic, DRC and southern Sudan.

GUNS AND DROUGHT PLAGUE KARAMOJA


A Karamojong warrior at an army disarmament operation, 2007. <br>REUTERS/Euan Denholm
A Karamojong warrior at an army disarmament operation, 2007.
REUTERS/Euan Denholm

Karamoja, a semi-arid region in Uganda’s northeast along the border with Kenya, has been affected by banditry and inter-clan warfare for decades. But the drought-prone area has experienced escalating levels of violence in recent years due to an influx of arms and competition over resources. The Karamojong people are a semi-nomadic pastoral tribe who depend on cattle for their livelihood.

Their way of life has been disrupted by disputes over shrinking water supplies and a flood of cheap semi-automatic weapons trafficked from conflicts in the Horn of Africa. The influx of guns has made frequent cattle raids more deadly. The government has attempted to tackle the widespread possession of small arms through a series of disarmament programmes.

In 2006, after persistent raids, revenge killings and warrior ambushes, it began using a more aggressive approach, in which the army has surrounded villages with tanks and helicopter gunships and forcibly searched for weapons. Dozens of civilians have been killed, and cases of torture reported during the forced disarmament campaign. Houses have been burned down and hundreds of civilians have fled the violence. Traditional nomadic movement patterns have also been disrupted. The number of reported incidents fell in 2008, says Human Rights Watch, but violations continue.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) says the government’s disarmament approach does not offer a sustainable solution to Karamoja’s insecurity because of the region’s economic and political marginalisation and limited ways to make a living. Karamoja is one of Uganda’s most impoverished regions, and lacks government services and institutions, including civilian policing. The neglect can be traced back to colonial times, when British administrators largely left Uganda’s northern tribes out of the process of modernisation.

Adding to the woes of poverty and violence, the population has been badly affected by successive years of drought. In May 2009 – during the hunger season – the entire population was experiencing food shortages, said the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. The region suffered a severe famine in the early 1980s, and still has the highest malnutrition rates in the country. Its livestock has been decimated by disease since 2007.

According to World Health Organisation figures, the region has very high child and maternal mortality rates compared with the national average. Rights groups are also concerned about forced evictions. In one case cited by the United Nations, a group of women and children were kicked out of their homes on the grounds that they were providing intelligence information to warriors.

Meanwhile, the government has tried to get hundreds of Karamojong who have migrated to the capital Kampala to return to the northeast. Aid agencies are worried that returns have not been voluntary in some cases, and that the government has failed to provide adequate support.

via Reuters AlertNet – Uganda violence.

* Rights group wants phone network and radio stations

* Says U.N. member countries should send in elite military

* U.N. says has not got enough troops, asked to withdraw

By Katrina Manson

KINSHASA, March 28 (Reuters) – The United Nations must boost peacekeeping forces in areas of Africa where Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels operate to stop massacres such as one that killed more than 300 people in December, a rights group said.

The Ugandan rebel group has killed and abducted people on a regular basis for the last 23 years, from Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, Human Rights Watch noted in a report.

It said the United Nations has fewer than 1,000 peacekeepers in this vast and and often impenetrable areas where the rebels mount their attacks.

The U.N. says the LRA killed more than 1,200 people in a 10-month period throughout 2008 and 2009, while the rights group puts the death toll in a massacre previously unreported in the remote northeast last December at 321.

“The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim,” Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher at HRW, said.

HRW also wants the Congolese government to work with mobile phone companies to bring network coverage to the area.

One witness cycled 60 km (40 miles) to find a telephone to inform the U.N. of the massacre, and villages that were subsequently attacked knew nothing of nearby attacks.

via Troops, cash needed to fight Uganda rebels-group | News by Country | Reuters.

(Kampala) – The rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) killed at least 321 civilians and abducted 250 others, including at least 80 children, during a previously unreported four-day rampage in the Makombo area of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2009, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

“The Makombo massacre is one of the worst ever committed by the LRA in its bloody 23-year history, yet it has gone unreported for months,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim.”

The 67-page report, “Trail of Death: LRA Atrocities in Northeastern Congo,” is the first detailed documentation of the Makombo massacre and other atrocities by the LRA in Congo in 2009 and early 2010. The report, based on a Human Rights Watch fact-finding mission to the massacre area in February, documents the brutal killings during the well-planned LRA attack from December 14 to 17 in the remote Makombo area of Haute Uele district.

LRA forces attacked at least 10 villages, capturing, killing, and abducting hundreds of civilians, including women and children. The vast majority of those killed were adult men, whom LRA combatants first tied up and then hacked to death with machetes or crushed their skulls with axes and heavy wooden sticks. The dead include at least 13 women and 23 children, the youngest a 3-year-old girl who was burned to death. LRA combatants tied some of the victims to trees before crushing their skulls with axes.

The LRA also killed those they abducted who walked too slowly or tried to escape. Family members and local authorities later found bodies all along the LRA’s 105-kilometer journey through the Makombo area and the small town of Tapili. Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that for days and weeks after the attack, this vast area was filled with the “stench of death.”

Children and adults who managed to escape provided similar accounts of the group’s extreme brutality. Many of the children captured by the LRA were forced to kill other children who had disobeyed the LRA’s rules. In numerous cases documented by Human Rights Watch, children were ordered to surround the victim in a circle and take turns beating the child on the head with a large wooden stick until the child died.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Congo (MONUC) has some 1,000 peacekeeping troops in the LRA-affected areas of northeastern Congo – far too few to protect the population adequately, given the area’s size. Yet instead of sending more troops, the peacekeeping force, under pressure from the Congolese government to withdraw from the country by July 2011, is considering removing some troops from the northeast by June in the first phase of its drawdown.

“The people of northeastern Congo are in desperate need of more protection, not less,” said Van Woudenberg. “The UN Security Council should stop any drawdown of MONUC peacekeeping troops from areas where the LRA threatens to kill and abduct civilians.”

In mid-April, the Security Council is due to visit Congo to discuss the peacekeeping force’s plans for withdrawal and the protection of civilians.

The Makombo massacre is part of a longstanding history of atrocities and abuse by the LRA in Uganda, southern Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Congo. Pushed out of northern Uganda in 2005, the LRA now operates in the remote border area between southern Sudan, Congo, and CAR. In July 2005, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for the senior leaders of the LRA for crimes they committed in northern Uganda, but those indicted remain at large.

The Human Rights Watch research indicated that the Makombo massacre was perpetrated by two LRA commanders – Lt. Col. Binansio Okumu (also known as Binany) and a commander known as Obol. They report to Gen. Dominic Ongwen, a senior LRA leader who is believed to command the LRA’s forces in Congo and who is among those sought by the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Watch urged investigations of these commanders’ alleged participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In December 2008, the governments of the region, led by the Ugandan armed forces, with intelligence and logistical support from the United States, began a military campaign known as Operation Lightning Thunder against the LRA in northeastern Congo. A surprise aerial strike on the main LRA camp failed to neutralize the LRA leadership, which escaped. In retaliation, the LRA attacked villages and towns in northern Congo and southern Sudan, killing more than 865 civilians during the Christmas 2008 holiday season and in the weeks thereafter.

On March 15, 2009, Operation Lightning Thunder officially ended, following pressure from the Congolese government, which found it politically difficult to support a continued Ugandan army presence on Congolese territory. But a covert joint military campaign continued, with the quiet approval of the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila. Both governments publicly maintain that the LRA is no longer a serious threat in Congo and that the bulk of the rebel group has either moved to Central African Republic or has been killed or dispersed.

These public declarations might have contributed to burying information about ongoing LRA attacks, leaving many victims feeling abandoned. An 80-year-old traditional chief, whose son was killed during the Makombo massacre, told Human Rights Watch: “We have been forgotten. It’s as if we don’t exist. The government says the LRA are no longer a problem, but I know that’s not true. I beg of you, please talk to others about what has happened to us.”

While the Makombo massacre is the most deadly documented attack by the LRA since the Christmas massacres of 2008, dozens of attacks against civilians have also been carried out in other areas in recent months – near the towns of Bangadi and Ngilima in Haut Uele district, in Ango territory in Bas Uele district, as well as in the Central African Republic.

In the December 2009 attacks near Bangadi and Ngilima, LRA combatants horribly mutilated six civilians, cutting off each victim’s lips and an ear with a razor. The LRA sent the victims back to their villages with a chilling warning to others that anyone who heard or spoke about the LRA would be similarly punished.

On March 11, 2010, the US Senate unanimously passed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. If it becomes law, it will require President Barack Obama’s administration to develop a regional strategy to protect civilians in central Africa from attacks by the LRA, to work to apprehend the LRA’s leadership, and to support economic recovery for northern Uganda. The bill is currently before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“The people of northeastern Congo and other LRA-affected areas have suffered for far too long,” said Van Woudenberg. “The US and other concerned governments should work with the UN and regional parties to develop and carry out a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians and apprehend abusive LRA leaders.”

As reported by Human Rights Watch

By Milton Olupot

PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has said he is ready to be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC), if he committed crimes against humanity.

The President said this during the launch of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Communication Bureau in Kampala on Friday.

Parliament last week passed the ICC Bill, three years after it was tabled. The Bill makes a provision in Uganda’s law for the prosecution and punishment for international crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Asked by journalists whether he would surrender any of the government officials or himself to the court now that Uganda had passed the Bill, Museveni said he would be willing to stand trial.

“I would be very happy to be tried. If I committed crimes against humanity, I should be tried,” he replied.

Mengo has threatened to drag some government and security officials to the ICC for quelling the September riots, in which more than 20 people were killed.

The President, however, noted that the law in Uganda allows for private prosecution. He wondered why those who talk about the ICC have not brought any criminal charges against security officers.

“Certainly if any of our officers committed any crimes, we would have tried them here,” he said. “Since we came to power, we have executed 123 people for killing others. Those going to The Hague are wasting their time.”

Responding to the question that LRA leader Joseph Kony was in Darfur and being facilitated by the Sudanese government, Museveni said Ugandan troops pursuing the rebels in the Central African Republic had sent a brief that Kony and a small group of his fighters had disappeared near Darfur.

He, however, assured Ugandans that Kony and his fighters would never come back to Uganda.

“If the Sudanese want to accommodate him in Darfur, that is upon them. Darfur is 1,000 miles away from Uganda. Why should I worry about a man who is 1,000 miles away?”

Kony and his commanders were indicted by the ICC in 2005. The court wants them to face trial for crimes against humanity. In their 22-year war, the LRA killed, maimed, raped and abducted civilians in northern Uganda.

The Bill passed last week is intended to enforce the law in Uganda after the Rome Statute was adopted by the UN in 1998 and ratified by Uganda in 2002.

It will enable Uganda to co-operate with the ICC in the investigation and prosecution of people accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It further provides for the arrest and surrender to the ICC of persons alleged to have committed crimes against humanity, in addition to enabling the ICC conduct proceedings in Uganda.

A total of 110 countries have ratified the Rome Statute. The US and China have not done so.

via Welcome To The Sunday Vision online: Uganda’s leading weekly.

My Thoughts

“President Museveni needs to stand trial for his crimes against humanity.  It is well documented and the early NRA used child soldiers as well as  forced conscription of children into the NRA. Museveni is just another tyrant who has only fixed the area’s that he wanted fixed. He may have bought relative stability to the south but what about the north? for 24 yrs he allowed Kony and his LRA Rebels to pillage, rape and abduct the Acholi and Luo of Northern Uganda. Then the Ugandan military pushed them over the border into DRC, Sudan and CAR – now the LRA are committing the same crimes in those countries.  As he say’s “why should i worry about a person who is 1000 miles away” – he never worried even when kony was in the North of Uganda. He didn’t care as Kony was more prone to attack the civilians than the soliders. Its as if Museveni wanted to destroy the Acholi. There are also documented cases of Museveni’s NRA pillaging, Raping and Torturing civilians in the North as well. Stealing cattle and maiming/murdering those who stood in the way.

Museveni MUST be investigated by the ICC and must be tried for his part in the NRA take over of DR Obote’s government.

I really feel for the people of Uganda, Amin, Obote & Museveni are all tyrannts, who have manipulated their government and rulings to suit themselves. They want the power and money and therefore will use it against any who challenge them.

My only hope is that the 2011 elections in Uganda are a Free and Fair election and that someone else is elected president. Museveni believes that Roads are the key to the country’s future. Infastructure, Electricity, Access to clean water and health care and what the country needs in order to survive, with less poverty and illness.

Mr Museveni, Shame On YOU! ”

Rebecca Fowler – Freeuganda

NAIROBI (AlertNet)

Written by: Frank Nyakairu

One of Africa’s fiercest rebel organisations, Uganda’s Lords Resistance Army, has denied a report that it has moved into western Sudan’s turbulent Darfur region.

A U.S.-based anti-genocide group, the Enough Project, said Ugandan rebels notorious for mutilating their victims and abducting children had found a safe haven in Darfur. But two senior members of the rebel group’s political wing in the Kenyan capital Nairobi dismissed the claims. “This is part of continued fabrications and guesswork about LRA whereabouts and we would like to dismiss this baseless report with all the contempt it deserves,” Colonel Michael Anywar, who acted as LRA military liaison, told Alertnet in Nairobi.

Led by self proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony, the LRA has fought the Ugandan government since 1987. But following the collapsed of a peace process in 2008, the rebels, who were once supported by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, have since sought safe havens in DR Congo, Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan. “It’s true that Khartoum once supported LRA but that kind of support stopped in 2002 after which we chose cut those ties,” said Justine Labeja, who said he is the head of LRA peace delegation.

Analysts say that with political tensions flaring in Sudan, the LRA is likely to strike an alliance with the Khartoum government as a regional mercenary force. The cult-like group, accused of turning boys into child soldiers and girls into sex slaves, seeks to rule Uganda according to the Bible’s Ten Commandments. At the height of Kony’s war, thousands were killed and 2 million Ugandans were forced into precarious camps that dotted northern Uganda and southern Sudan for close to two decades. Both men declined to disclose the whereabouts of LRA leader Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

CALL FOR CEASEFIRE

The rebel representatives also echoed recent calls for peace talks made by a religious leaders’ group from the four countries affected by the LRA activities. “Ugandan forces need to heed to this call for ceasefire so that this war can end once and for all,” said Labeja, who says he coordinates LRA’s external affairs. But the Ugandan army, which has been fighting the LRA in Congo, Sudan and CAR, with little success, insists on a military option. “We gave LRA the best option to talk peace but they decided to squander it,” said Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, a spokesman for Uganda’s military.

He said military intelligence indicated the rebels had bases in CAR and southern Darfur but could not confirm any link between the LRA and its former ally, Khartoum. “They are oscillating between CAR and southern Darfur but we have no information that they are receiving any kind of help from anyone,” said Kaluyigye in a telephone interview from the Ugandan capital. Relations between Kampala and Khartoum have always been fraught as Uganda supported rebels now heading the semi-autonomous government in southern Sudan.

COULD DARFUR CRISIS WORSEN?

Darfur’s conflict surged in 2003 when the rebel groups took up arms against Sudan’s government, accusing it of leaving the mostly desert region underdeveloped. If the LRA joins the complex web of Darfur’s conflict, the scale of human suffering could increase, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) warns. “The LRA has been leaving a trail of devastation from their bases in DRC, South Sudan and CAR. If they go to Darfur, we could seen more displacement there,” said Hassan Yusuf, UNHCR’s regional spokesman based in Nairobi. According to the U.N. refugees agency, the LRA caused most of the displacement in central Africa in 2009 with hundreds of thousands uprooted.

The rebels have looted, killed civilians and abducted children from three countries, forcing many to flee their homes, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. “This is a very unpredictable outfit and it makes it very difficult to plan for humanitarian response,” said Yusuf.

via Reuters AlertNet – Ugandan rebels deny they have moved in to Sudan’s Darfur.

“Calls for ceasefire have been tried and yet the LRA have refused to sign the peace agreements. Kony must realise that now the international conmmunity is involved in this since he spread his war from Northern Uganda to surrounding countries, he will not get the “lifting” of his Warrants by the ICC. The time has come for him to be captured and tried at the hague just like Suddam hussain was tried.

Could Darfur’s crisis worsen? Yes most definately, if the LRA was to gain any support and they choose to stay in the Darfur region, this will likely cause issues, especially with the elections coming to split the nation.  The North will never want to let go of the south and the oil without a fight. This is what it comes down to; power, money and greed. Will the Khartourm give up control of such wealth and power and money? i highly doubt it, i forsee more issues ahead for those of Darfur not only by the LRA but by the political process that will soon take place. ”

Rebecca Fowler – Freeuganda

STATEMENT: Lord’s Resistance Army Finds Safe Haven in Darfur

KAMPALA, Uganda, JUBA, Sudan and WASHINGTON, March 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Enough Project at the Center for American Progress today released the following statement:

The Enough Project confirms that a contingent of the deadly Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, has taken refuge in areas of south Darfur, Sudan, controlled by the Government of Sudan. The possibility of rekindled collaboration between LRA leader Joseph Kony and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – both wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, or ICC – should alarm policymakers and demands urgent international investigation and response.

The LRA originated in northern Uganda during the late 1980s. In addition to committing widespread atrocities in Uganda, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s the LRA served as a proxy for the Sudanese government in its war with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA, in southern Sudan. In 2005, Kony publicly stated that the Bashir government supported the LRA as a proxy force to destabilize the south, a charge that Khartoum continues to deny despite considerable evidence to the contrary.

“The Khartoum regime’s principal tool of war during its 21-year reign has been support for marauding militias such as the Janjaweed, the Murahaliin, and the Lord’s Resistance Army,” said Enough Co-founder John Prendergast. “Facing no consequences for this destructive method of governing, it is unsurprising that the regime is again providing safe haven for the LRA. Absent a cost for this, we will likely see the LRA unleashed again later this year to destabilize the referendum in southern Sudan.”

With material support from Khartoum, the LRA quickly became one of the deadliest militias in Africa, known for gruesome mutilations of civilians and abduction of children to serve as fighters and sex slaves. Following failed peace talks from 2006 to 2008, the LRA morphed into a full blown regional insurgency with fighters in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, or CAR, and southern Sudan.

In late 2009, Enough received credible information that an LRA reconnaissance team was seeking to make contact with the Sudanese army at their base in Kafia Kingi, near south Darfur‘s border with CAR. In recent months, Ugandan forces have pursued the LRA into Congo, CAR, and southern Sudan, but are restricted from crossing Sudan‘s disputed north-south border.

Now, based on months of field research and interviews with government and United Nations officials in several countries, Enough can confirm that LRA units have reached south Darfur.

“This is a very disturbing development. The move by the Government of Sudan to provide the LRA with safe haven demands a firm, rapid, and well-coordinated response from the United States and its partners in the international community,” said John Norris, Enough’s Executive Director. “A failure to bring clear and consistent pressure on President Bashir and his allies for this latest outrage will only encourage the Sudanese government to commit further abuses, with a terrible cost for civilians on the ground.”

Also today, Enough released a strategy paper by field researcher Ledio Cakaj detailing the continuing threat posed by the LRA to civilians in northeastern Congo. The report, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: LRA Attacks and Congolese Army Abuses in Northeastern Congo,” argues that much greater efforts must be made to protect civilians from a resurgent LRA and the predatory Congolese army.

Read the report at: http://www.enoughproject.org/publications/lra-army-abuses-congo

Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.

SOURCE Center for American Progress

RELATED LINKS
http://www.enoughproject.org
http://www.americanprogress.org

via STATEMENT: Lord’s Resistance Army Finds Safe Haven in Darfur — KAMPALA, Uganda, JUBA, Sudan and WASHINGTON, March 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —.

So i’ve been reading a few books lately and i really need to let people know how amazing these books are.  Stories of real life struggles, survival and courage in the face of hardships.

Cola’s Journey – The story of a young sudanese man’s journey from Sudan, throughout africa and to finally become an Australian Refugee and Citizen. This book amazed me. The courage and strength of Cola (chol) and all that he has survived and lived through totally amazed me, how can one person have so much courage and strength to keep on going? 14 years of travelling, mostly by foot! but its not just one person that has gone through this, there are thousands upon thousands of kids with similar stories that still remain unheard. Cola’s determination, courage and strength inspire me to keep on doing what i do for Human Rights. NO ONE should have to be faced with the life he was dealt. No Human deserves to live in fear, be abducted, forced to do something against their will. No One!

First Kill Your Family – Child soldiers of Uganda and the Lords Resistance Army. This book is a great informational tool. Contains facts and information about the war, theories and stories of those who were abducted.  All that i had suspected previously was confirmed in this book. Peter, thank you for bringing to light the stories of these beautiful children and the Acholi and Langi Tribes of Northern Uganda. Your book has just inspired me to be all i can be and to never give up. None of these children ever gave up on hope, nor will i.

I stand firm with my beliefs and hope that through my work with Invisible Children and other local non profits i can help bring about change. I can help inspire our nation to change the lives of others.

Australians have compassion, love and sympathy, yet sometimes they are lazy. The typical way of “laid back” life for us is someone else’s pain and suffering, when we are “laid back” they are dying, suffering and starving.You don’t need to be a martyr or a genius to help. Each person in this world has their own unique ability, a way in which they can help. Find your ability, find a cause and go on a mission, a mission to change.

I was bought up with parents who have served many years (even still serving) in the local Lions Club organisation. Through my childhood years i spent many hours volunteering in Blacktown with them. Through all i have done, it has given me a renewed sense of life, a greater meaning for me being here. I see myself as “a voice for the voiceless” one whom is willing to stand up when injustice happens and say “NO, this is NOT right!”

Imagine if our beloved country had rebels? Imagine YOUR children being abducted and forced to be soldiers? Imagine our government telling us we had 24 hours to leave our homes and go to displacement camps? How would this make you feel? Find that emotional connection and work with it. I found mine in an ex-child solider called “Jacob”. I connected with his pain as my son is called “jacob”, how easy it is to connect, to make something emotional and personal. Once we make it emotional and personal, we find our lives changing. Open your eyes to the uncomfortable, embrace it, work with it and change your life!

My life, will never be the same, it changed dramatically 3 yrs ago when i was introducted to Invisible Children’s Rough Cut DVD. This is my mission now, to help those who have been “invisible” through this 24 year war of madness. I am a new person, a different person, a fighter and challenger of evil. I will not stop until the day i die. I hope, once my children are older, to be able to take my mission international. To visit and help locally with those who are affected by evil’s, war and poverty.  Be it Africa, Indonesia or any other country that requires help. I have found why i was placed on earth, i challenge you to find your reason for existence.

My father said to me only a few weeks ago “you know you can’t save everyone”. Deep in my heart, i really wish i could, but i am only 1 person in a world of billions. I may not be able to “save” everyone, but i can educate those who will listen.  Education to me is something i never really cared to much about, but as i have grown older, i know that it is the key to everything. At 29 yrs old (pushing 30 next month!) i am only now realising how important education is, i am hoping to apply to university next year (2011) and to continue with my education. Each day i browse the net, looking for information, seeking education, seeking that which is not known and sharing with others. What satisfaction do i get out of this? Not Money or gifts, i get personal and spiritual satisfaction knowing that i CAN CHANGE THE WORLD one person at a time!

Without education, where would humanity be?

– Rebecca Fowler (freeuganda)

YouTube – Koh Reports – Embracing Evaline.

The story of a beautiful young Ugandan lady. I am honored to be a friend of her’s on Facebook and one day hope to meet with Evaline. God bless those still trapped in the bush, may this war have an end soon.  With International pressure we call all lend a hand in ending this war. Visit Invisible Children and see how you can help.

Kampala — THE UPDF 4th Division commander, Brig. Charles Otema Awany, has camped at Obbo village in the Central African Republic to coordinate operations against the LRA remnants headed by Joseph Kony.

The regional army spokesman, Capt. Ronald Kakurungu, said Otema took over the command against the LRA rebels from Brig. Patrick Kankiriho.

“The hardcore LRA criminals are in the Central African Republic. The issue now is when to put the final nails on them since they are already defeated,” Kakurungu told journalists at his office on Monday.

He said the situation in the north was calm with more troops deployed in the DR Congo, the Central African Republic and at all the borders to pursue the LRA rebels and ensure that they do not return to Uganda.

“We have not lost focus in these operations and our mission is to ensure that the problem of LRA rebels does not spill over to the north again,” Kakurungu noted.

Kakurungu said the army had killed 305 rebels since it launched a joint military offensive, Operation Lightning Thunder, on December 14, 2008, under the command of Kankiriho.

He said the UPDF jointly attacked the LRA hideouts with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army and the Congolese army in an operation backed by the air force, paratroopers and infantry.

Read the full report via allAfrica.com: Central African Republic: Army in CAR to Fight Kony.

Who was Bok Abudema?

Abudema hails from Alero-Lamogi in Amuru district. He worked as a sugarcane cutter in Jinja during the Obote II regime.

When President Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986, he joined the UPDA, a rebel group composed of soldiers of the former Okello regime which fought to overthrow the new Government.

He joined the LRA in 1988 after Kony was attacked by Museveni’s NRA at Bwobo railways station in Alero Sub-county, Gulu District. He was one of the few remaining LRA fighters who had joined the rebel group voluntarily.

Abudema was involved in many massacres in northern Uganda. In 1998, he took part in the killing of 11 LRA fighters who were accused of practicing witchcraft in Jebelein, the LRA camp in Southern Sudan.

In December 1999, after the passing of the Amnesty Act by the Ugandan Parliament, he executed the then number two, Otti Lagony, in their camp in Sudan on Kony’s orders.

In 2002, Abudema commanded a raid in Agoro Sub-county in Kitgum district in which several civilians and UPDF soldiers died and at least 100 people were abducted. The trading centre was looted and the military barracks burnt down.

In April 2002, he took part in a massacre of about 800 civilians at Katire village in Southern Sudan.

In 2003, he was among the senior LRA commanders who crossed into the Teso region in eastern Uganda and carried out horrific massacres and massive abductions.

On October 2, 2007, he took part in the execution of Kony’s deputy, Vincent Otti, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Abudema shouted the order ‘fire’ to the firing squad. Earlier, he had participated in arresting, torturing and humiliating Otti.

He was reportedly wounded during the December 14, 2008 air strikes on the LRA camps in eastern Congo under the joint offensive.

via Welcome To The Sunday Vision online: Uganda’s leading weekly.

Yesterday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay released two new reports that detail Joseph Kony’s campaigns of violence against civilians in northeastern DR Congo and South Sudan over the past year. The reports are the first public accounting of recent LRA crimes from the UN.  Joseph Kony

Pillay described LRA brutality as “consistent, deliberate and egregious,” and the report includes gruesome witness accounts such as that of one man who “reported discovering the mutilated body of a fellow villager. The villager’s leg had been chopped off, his jaws had been dislocated and his teeth had been pulled out.”

In her press briefing about the reports, Pillay called for regional governments and international leaders to enforce outstanding International Criminal Court warrants for the arrest of Kony and other senior LRA commanders, and for UN peacekeepers to act more boldly to protect civilians from the widespread violence.

Even though the reports conclude that LRA violence constitutes one of the deadliest situations of violence in the world – the rebel group murdered at least 1,300 civilians over the past year – few international leaders have called for aggressive international action to execute the warrants. LRA violence is taking place in incredibly remote areas of the Congo, Sudan, and Central African Republic, and international attention to the region has been focused much more on separate situations of violence in eastern Congo and Sudan.

The UN reports come amdist  growing fears that the LRA intends to repeat the “Christmas Massacres” of 2008, in which hundreds of Congolese civilians celebrating the holiday were brutally killed. UN peacekeepers in the Congo are deploying additional troops and are said to be on “high alert” to address this immediate threat.

As reported: United Nations rights chief: “Arrest Joseph Kony” | Resolve Uganda.

Since the signing of a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2006, about two thirds of the 1.8 million IDPs who lived in camps at the height of the crisis have returned to their areas of origin.

However, much work remains to be done to ensure that these returns are sustainable. Basic infrastructure and services in the return areas are inadequate or non-existent. Lack of access to clean water poses a risk of epidemics, and clinics and schools struggle with a lack of facilities and qualified personnel. While returnees have begun to grow their own food, the food security situation of many is still fragile, particularly as low rainfall since April 2009 means that harvests are predicted to be more than 60 per cent lower than normal.

Significant numbers of those who remain in the camps are there not out of choice but because they are unable to return to their home areas. Some IDPs cannot return because land disputes prevent them from accessing land, while IDPs with special needs and vulnerabilities are unable to support themselves in the return areas. Returnee communities need assistance to reintegrate these vulnerable IDPs.

The government and its international partners in northern Uganda have struggled to manage the transition from humanitarian emergency assistance to recovery and development. The government is in the process of reasserting its authority in the north, and is formally in charge of coordination and the provision of planning frameworks. However, a lack of capacity at the local level means that government authorities frequently struggle to discharge their operational responsibilities. (…)

via IDMC | Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Uganda.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (also Lord’s Resistance Movement or Lakwena Part Two) is a sectarian Christian militant group based in northern Uganda.

The group was formed in 1987 and is engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what is now one of Africa‘s longest-running conflicts. It is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself the “spokesperson” of God and a spirit medium, primarily of the Holy Spirit, which the Acholi believe can represent itself in many manifestations.[3] The group adheres to a syncretistic[4] blend of Christianity, Mysticism,[5] traditional religion,[6] and witchcraft,[7] and claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and Acholi tradition.[3][8][9][10] The LRA is accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate in hostilities.[11] The LRA operates mainly in northern Uganda, but also in parts of Sudan and DR Congo.[12][13]

The LRA is currently proscribed as a terrorist organization by the United States.[14]

See more on : Lord’s Resistance Army – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) , led by Joseph Kony, operated in the north from bases in southern Sudan. The LRA committed numerous abuses and atrocities, including the abduction, rape, maiming, and killing of civilians, including children. In addition to destabilising northern Uganda from bases in Sudan, the LRA congregated in the Bunia area in eastern Congo. They linked up with the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR) and other rebel groups battling with forces from the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD)

Some accused the Sudan of supporting the LRA and Uganda of allegedly supporting the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the rebel movement that fought against the Sudanese government. Although both governments denied the accusations, they severed diplomatic relations with eachother on April 22, 1995. However, relations between the two countries improved. In 1999, Sudan and Uganda signed an agreement under which Sudan said it would stop aiding the LRA and Uganda would stop aiding the SPLA.

The LRA continued to kill, torture, maim, rape, and abduct large numbers of civilians, virtually enslaving numerous children. Although its levels of activity diminished somewhat compared with 1997, the area that the LRA targeted grew. The LRA sought to overthrow the Ugandan Government and inflicted brutal violence on the population in northern Uganda. LRA forces also targeted local government officials and employees. The LRA also targeted international humanitarian convoys and local NGO workers.

The LRA has abducted large numbers of civilians for training as guerrillas; most victims were children and young adults. The LRA abducted young girls as sex and labor slaves. Other children, mainly girls, were reported to have been sold, traded, or given as gifts by the LRA to arms dealers in Sudan. While some later escaped or were rescued, the whereabouts of many children remain unknown.

In particular, the LRA abducted numerous children and, at clandestine bases, terrorized them into virtual slavery as guards, concubines, and soldiers. In addition to being beaten, raped, and forced to march until exhausted, abducted children were forced to participate in the killing of other children who had attempted to escape. Amnesty International reported that without child abductions, the LRA would have few combatants. More than 6,000 children were abducted during 1998, although many of those abducted later escaped or were released. Most human rights NGOs place the number of abducted children still held captive by the LRA at around 3,000, although estimates vary substantially.

Civil strife in the north has led to the violation of the rights of many members of the Acholi tribe, which is largely resident in the northern districts of Gulu and Kitgum. Both government forces and the LRA rebels–who themselves largely are Acholi–committed violations. LRA fighters in particular were implicated in the killing, maiming, and kidnaping of Alcholi tribe members, although the number and severity of their attacks decreased somewhat compared with 1997.

The LRA rebels say they are fighting for the establishment of a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments. They are notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to become rebel fighters or concubines. More than one-half-million people in Uganda’s Gulu and Kitgum districts have been displaced by the fighting and are living in temporary camps, protected by the army.

Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The Ugandan army says that it has killed a senior commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army militant group in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Bok Abudema was killed on Friday along with one of his fighters, while two women found with them were freed, an army spokesman told the BBC.

The army said LRA leader Joseph Kony was moving between the CAR and Sudan.

Ugandan forces have been operating outside the country’s borders for a year in a campaign to destroy the LRA.

They have been deployed in northern Democratic Republic Congo and southern Sudan as well as the CAR to track down the LRA, which once operated in northern Uganda.

BBC map

Army spokesman Lt Col Felix Kulayigye said that Mr Kony was moving between the CAR and Darfur in southern Sudan in order to escape Ugandan army patrols.

Bok Abudema is only one of a number of senior LRA commanders who have been cornered and killed, says the BBC’s Africa editor, Martin Plaut.

Others have surrendered but the LRA is scattered across a remote region of dense forests and swamps, savannah and deserts – ideal territory for guerrilla operations, our editor says.

Last month the UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, demanded the capture of LRA leaders for crimes against humanity and gave details of the killings, torture and rape of hundreds of civilians by the rebels.

She accused the movement of killing at least 1,200 civilians between September 2008 and June 2009.

BBC News – Uganda reports killing LRA commander Abudema in CAR.

” Lets hope that 2010 is the year that Joseph Kony is bought to justice for all the innocent victims of this atrocious war. for him to be skipping back and forth between CAR and Sudan is an eerie thought, so ok some of his rebels have been caught, killed or defected, yet it only takes a handful of rebels to go back out and attack another village and abduct another lot of children for the atrocities to re-start again. Don’t close your eyes to this war…to do so could take a life” Rebecca Fowler

Lira: about 1,300 civilians have died in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 10 Months following Human Rights abuses allegedly committed by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army, according to latest periodic reports by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

One report on southern Sudan reveals attacks on civilians in Western and Central Equatoria States, between December 15 2008 and March 10 2009.

The report on the DRC states that at least 1,200 civilians were killed, including women who were raped before execution. According to the report, more than 100 people were wounded by gunshots and stabbing and about 1,400 people were abducted and some executed or are missing.

Sexual slavery”During their captivity, abductees were subjected to forced labour in fields, forced to carry looted goods or personal effects or recruited into the LRA. Women were forced to marry LRA members, subjected to sexual slavery, or both,” the report released last week said.

It adds: “Thousands of homes, dozens of shops and businesses, as well as public buildings, including at least 30 schools, health centres, hospitals, churches, markets, and traditional seats of chiefdoms, were looted, set on fire and over 200,000 people were also displaced.”

Describing harrowing experience from victims, the report called on the international community to co-operate with the ICC in investigating, arresting, and transferring all LRA leaders accused of international crimes.

The report also accused the DRC army, FARDC, of human rights violation of the displaced persons instead of protecting them.

“Soldiers of the Congolese armed forces, supposed to protect civilians, also committed human rights violations, including executions, rape, arbitrary arrests and detentions and illegal, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and extortion,” the report said.

The report stated that attacks, systematic and widespread human rights violations carried out since mid-September 2008 against Congolese civilians may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Sudan report on the other hand based on 27 confirmed attacks, reveals that at least 81 civilians were killed in attacks and many others injured.

“The evidence presented in this report suggests that LRA actions may amount to crimes against humanity,” the report says. The reports recommended that the United Nation Mission in Sudan should exercise its protection of civilians since its mandated to prevent further loss of life.

“The international community, including governments, should cooperate with the ICC to search for, arrest and surrender the LRA leaders accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international community should support meaningful peace efforts between governments in the region and the LRA,” the report recommends.

Issues in report

Women were forced to marry LRA members, subjected to sexual slavery or both.

Thirty schools, health centres, hospitals, churches, markets, and traditional seats of chiefdoms, were looted, set on fire. Over 200,000 people were displaced.

The report describes the report as systematic and widespread human rights violations carried out since mid-September 2008 against Congolese civilians may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

DRC army accused of violating rights displaced persons instead of protecting them.

As reported: allAfrica.com: Uganda: LRA Kill 1,300 in Sudan, DRC.

Orientale Province

Since late 2008, the civilian population of Haut and Bas-Uélé has been caught up in a dramatic cycle of violence linked to attacks perpetrated by the Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and the Ugandan and Congolese offensive against the LRA. As the situation deteriorates, civilians also find themselves facing increasing banditry.

One year after violence erupted in Haut-Uélé district, in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), attacks and clashes have now expanded to new areas, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee. MSF is working in five locations of Haut-Uélé and Bas-Uélé to bring free health care, emergency aid, and psychological support to the displaced and resident populations.

Haut-Uélé

From June to September, MSF conducted 2,800 outpatient consultations in the two health centres it supports in Namboli and Lipay, in the Dungu area. Most patients were treated for malaria, diarrhoea, and respiratory infections.

In Dungu hospital, MSF medical teams performed 452 surgeries, cared for 100 severely malnourished children, and for another 220 children with a variety of other health problems.

Since August, MSF has also worked in reproductive health and supports the hospital’s maternity department, where sexually transmitted infections are common.

Teams provided psychological support for 88 patients who had suffered as a result of the violence.

Doruma, a town on the border with Sudan, is at the heart of a very insecure area. The population of Doruma and the 12,000 people who have fled there are at risk of hunger – it is too dangerous for them to go to their fields and tend their crops.

MSF supports three health centres where 2,500 outpatient consultations have been carried out this year. MSF also supports the hospital in Doruma, where 94 patients were hospitalised in September. In October, MSF began providing mental health support and treatment for sleeping sickness, in addition to supporting the surgical and maternity wards.

Niangara is the main town at the crossroads leading to the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan. Around 11,000 displaced people have arrived in the town, fleeing violence. MSF is supporting the main referral hospital in Niangara and the nearby Wawé health centre.

Since the start of MSF activities there seven months ago, medical teams have carried out up to 1,000consultations per week at the general hospital and the Wawé health centre.

Each month, around 100 new patients are admitted to Niangara hospital. MSF is mainly treating malaria, respiratory infections, sexually transmitted infections and stress-related diseases.

MSF teams put a psychosocial programme in place to help the local population cope with the trauma and stress of continuous violence and displacement. Between June and early November, 80 patients received treatment.

Following attacks in December 2008, MSF started to provide medical and psychological care in Faradje. Teams cared for more than 100 children, both boys and girls, who had been abducted by armed men and then escaped or were released. They were given a place to sleep, a space to play, and individual support from an MSF psychologist. This programme has been handed over to another organisation.

MSF continues to support Faradje hospital, where some 11,000 patients have received consultations and 900 were treated in the maternity, paediatric, surgical or internal medicine departments. The main diseases treated here are malaria, intestinal parasites and skin infections.

MSF Activities | Condition: Critical.

Civilians attacked, bombed, and cut off from aid in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), along with stagnant funding for treating HIV/AIDS and ongoing neglect of other diseases, were among the worst emergencies in 2009.

Continuing crises in north and south Sudan, along with the failure of the international community to finally combat childhood malnutrition were also included on this year’s list. The list is drawn from MSF’s operational activities in close to 70 countries, where the organization’s medical teams witnessed some of the worst humanitarian conditions.

via MSF’s Top Ten Humanitarian Crises of 2009.

Kampala — ANOTHER LRA rebel commander has surrendered in eastern Congo, the Ugandan army has said.

‘Captain’ Ocen turned himself in to the Congolese army in Paika two days before Christmas, according to Capt. Peter Mugisa, the UPDF spokesman for West Nile region.

Ocen was one of the LRA officers under the command of Okello Kalalang who committed horrendous atrocities in northern Uganda and eastern Congo.

“Kalalang was one of Kony’s most notorious commanders who burnt down houses after killing and abducting hundreds of Congolese,” said Mugisa.

The LRA carried out reprisal attacks after the armies of Congo, Southern Sudan and Uganda launched a joint military offensive on the rebel bases in Garamba National Park.

The offensive, dubbed ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’, was launched after LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign the final peace agreement after two years of protracted talks in Juba, Sudan.

Mugisa said Ocen surrendered with a gun and 30 rounds of ammunition, as well as four fighters under his command. They were transferred to the battalion headquarters in Duru.

This brings to 56 the number of fighters who have defected since the joint operation started a year ago.

According to figures released by the UPDF on Monday, another 305 rebels were killed, 41 captured and 513 abductees rescued since December 2008.

Mugisa noted that the continued surrender of LRA fighters signals the end of the insurgency.

“This trend implies that the UPDF have dealt the LRA bandits a decisive blow through comprehensive combat engagement,” he said.

“The remaining LRA fugitives no longer deserve to be called rebels. They are bandits because they are scattered in four countries with no clear central command structure.”

Ocen is expected to be flown to Entebbe or Gulu army headquarters.

Samuel Obali, who surrendered in November, said they were also forced to surrender because of the constant pursuit by the UPDF forces in the CAR, DR-Congo and Southern Sudan.

“We had no food, water, medicine and lacked communication with the central command. We had to organise ourselves and surrender to the Congolese Armed Forces in order to survive.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Monday released a damning report, saying at least 1,200 people were killed, 1,400 abducted, and 230,000 displaced in eastern Congo during 10 months of LRA rampage.

“These attacks and systematic and widespread human rights violations carried out by the LRA may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the report said.

A second report, issued the same day, described a similar pattern of LRA attacks in neighbouring Southern Sudan.

It documented 30 LRA attacks between December 2008 and March 2009 in Western and Central Equatoria states in which at least 81 civilians were killed, 74 abducted and 11 villages pillaged.

As reported: allAfrica.com: Uganda: Notorious LRA Rebel Surrenders.

allAfrica.com: Uganda: Army Lists Gains Against LRA in 2009.

Over 513 abductees were rescued in the operation that was jointly conducted with the armies of Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The army pointed out that several commanders were either killed or captured, while others defected to UPDF reception points in the war zone. Those killed include ‘Lt Col’ Okello Yapee and ‘Lt Col’ Okuti, while ‘Col’ Thomas Kwoyelo was captured, the statement said.

Among those who defected were ‘Lt Col’ Charles Arop, ‘Maj’ Joseph Okot Atiak, ‘Capt’ Obali, ‘Lieutenants’ Michael Ojok and Francis Opira, and Second Lieutenants Geoffrey Okwera, Onen Quinto and Christopher Ochora.

Under Operation Lightning Thunder, the UPDF and its allies attacked the LRA hideouts with helicopter gun-ships and Mig23 jet-fighters.

In fact LRA is re-grouping and gaining intensive training in Sudan. They are training in Dimo in southern Darfur. This fact is known to the intelligence community,” Maj. Gen. Kuol stated in the Sudan Tribune on December 23.

Last month, former LRA director of operations Charles Arop told The New Vision that LRA leader Joseph Kony had ordered his troops to move to Darfur and report to the first Sudanese army detachment to get protection and logistical support.

The Sudan Government through its Kampala embassy, however, denied it continues to assist the LRA.

–  Its good to see action has been taken. it is a hard one with respect to military action as child soldiers are the main fighters for the LRA, however i do understand there comes a point when its a war situation and hard decisions must be made. God bless the survivors and victims, the innocent children especially.  I hope that through Invisible children the USA will support the Disarmament of the LRA bill of 2009 check it out here *Rebecca-Anne

Enough, the anti-genocide project at the Center for  American Progress, released the following statement today regarding incursions by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group against civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Recent interviews conducted by Enough Project researchers traveling in Haut Uele and Bas Uele in Province Orientale, in northern Congo, suggest that the Lord’s Resistance Army–a transnational terrorist group with a 20-year record of atrocities–is threatening to repeat the massacres it committed during Christmas 2008, in which over 800 Congolese civilians were brutally murdered. Meanwhile, Congolese army units deployed to protect local populations from the LRA continue to commit grave abuses against Congolese civilians. // The LRA have killed nearly 1,500 Congolese civilians and abducted 3,000 more (including at least 700 children) since the Ugandan army launched an offensive against the LRA in December 2008. The presence of 6,000 Congolese soldiers in Province Orientale–many of them integrated brigades of former rebels and local militia from the troubled Kivu provinces in eastern Congo–has actually made matters worse. The U.N. Mission in the Congo, or MONUC, has deployed to the affected region, but peacekeepers conduct only limited patrols in some LRA-affected area that provide little deterrent against LRA attacks and Congolese army abuses. A battalion of Tunisian reinforcements that was supposed to deploy in June 2009 has yet to arrive.

Read the full report Below

allAfrica.com: Congo-Kinshasa: Lord’s Resistance Army’s Sends Chilling Threat to Congolese Civilians – We Will Celebrate Christmas With You Page 1 of 1.

So i’ve finally decided!! I’m submitting my application to University of Western Sydney for Bachelor of Social Sciences Peace and Development!  It was a tough decision between that and Bachelor of Communications Journalism but i finally decided. I think it would be a great thing to be formally trained in an area i am passionate in. I’m really looking forward to going to University, as i really never thought i would get a chance to do it.

Through volunteering with Invisible Children i have uncovered a side of me that id never really knew existed. I want to continue to expand, grow and further my knowledge so i can in turn be of more help to those who require it the most.

So…Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes are in the air for me and my life and i really am excited. I’m going to apply to start mid year so that way i have around 6 months to get my medication settled and hopefully all my ongoing tests done and be cleared for start June 2010!