War Against Lord’s Resistance Army Looms in Congo
After two years of relative quiet, and as peace talks with Uganda continued in Juba, South Sudan, the LRA went on the rampage in the remote region where the park is located, with a campaign of looting, abduction and killing.
In a major extended raid, rebel forces left the Garamba park at the beginning of February and crossed into the neighbouring Central African Republic, where the rebels kidnapped more than 100 people and pillaged the town of Obo, before entering Sudan a few weeks later and finally returning to their base camp in DRC.
Along the way, the group used captured civilians to act as porters for looted goods. Some of the captives were then pressed into service, forced to undergo military training to boost the ranks of a group that has survived over many years by abducting and forcibly conscripting civilians including children.
Recent reports suggest the situation is about to intensify. United Nations sources say units of the DRC army could begin arriving by the end of June in Dungu, the area’s main town, located less than 100 kilometres from the Garamba park. Their mission would be to keep the LRA forces in check, if not drive them out of the park altogether.
Such a move could, however, herald a protracted war against the LRA, which currently numbers about 700 seasoned guerrilla fighters with a cult-like devotion to their leader Joseph Kony, making them one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most feared militias.
Despite the difficulty of negotiating the thick forest in the national park, the DRC military is now making plans to dislodge Kony from his hideout, following his refusal this May to sign a peace deal with Uganda that had been two years in the making. The deal would have ended more than 20 years of warfare in northern Uganda that has claimed 100,000 lives and displaced nearly two million.
Rather than make peace, Kony appears to be remaking his army by abducting people from around the region, training the men as combatants and forcing young women to become sex slaves and cooks for commanders and fighters.
If the DRC army confronts the rebels as it is now expected to do, that will create new worries.
“We expect the army to chase the rebels,” he said. But with a force of at least 1,000 soldiers about to descend on Dungu, whose population is about 12,000, “we’re afraid because of bad [past] experiences with the army”, he added.
The community may be willing to put up with some of the abuses for which the Congolese army has become notorious as long as it can get rid of the rebels.
“Local people want to see Kony out of the DRC,” said Kinalegu. “We don’t care what means are used.”
– Source: Peter Eichstaedt, War Against LRA Looms in Congo, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), June 24, 2008
Uganda: Kony ready to resume peace talks
The leader of the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Joseph Kony has at last broken a long period of silence and asked for resumption of peace talks which stalled in April this year.
Kony’s call for the resumption of the talks broadcast on Sunday June 22 2008 by Radio France International comes a few weeks after three nations- Uganda, DR Congo and Sudan- threatened to carry out a joint attack on the rebel forces. The USA had also pledged to support the three nations.
In his statement Kony said that he wants the talks to be held in Juba and doesn’t want to fight again because he thinks that the talks will succeed. “There is going to be peace through negotiations and my message to the people of Uganda is that … I am the one who started the peace talks, so I am going to struggle to make sure that this war is solved,” he said.
South Sudan’s Vice-President Riek Machar who had chaired the previous talks in Juba is optimistic that a new round of peace talks could be fruitful and sees the preparations by Kampala, Khartoum and Kinshasa for a joint attack against the LRA as uncalled for, at present.
However, the new development is unlikely to change the decision by Uganda, DR Congo and Sudan to undertake a joint offensive against the rebel group.
– Source: Deodatus Mfugale, Uganda: Kony ready to resume peace talks, Africa News, June 24, 2008
Ugandan Govt Welcomes Kony’s ‘Change of Heart’ But Rules Out More Talks
The Ugandan government has hailed rebel leader Joseph Kony’s latest commitment to peace but ruled out a return to the negotiating table, saying the talks had been concluded.
“It is a welcome development,” Capt Chris Magezi, spokesman for the government delegation at two years of talks with Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Southern Sudan capital, Juba, said on 23 June.
“We only hope that he will put his pronouncement into practice. We note, however, that negotiations were concluded and there will not be a re-opening of the negotiations whatsoever,” he said, responding to an interview Kony gave over the weekend.
In April 2008, Kony failed to show up at what had been expected to be the signing ceremony of Final Peace Agreement (FPA) to end the LRA’s rebellion, which began in northern Uganda in the late 1980s.
At the time, Kony explained he was unclear over how the issue of the International Criminal Court indictments for war crimes against him and three other LRA leaders would be resolved. Kony has insisted he will not agree to stand trial at the ICC and wants clarification about alternative judicial provisions to be established inside Uganda.
On 16 June, the chief mediator to the talks, Southern Sudan’s Vice-President Riek Machar, told reporters that formal negotiations between the LRA and the Ugandan government had ended.
In a report on the talks, Machar wrote that by late March 2008, “the parties had achieved consensus on all the Agenda Items. They signed or initialled eight substantive agreements which, altogether, constitute the Final Peace Agreement.”
Earlier in June, military chiefs from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan agreed – without setting a date – to attack Kony if he refused to sign the FPA.
Since then, many attacks and abductions in Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic have been blamed on the LRA.
– Source: Ugandan Govt Welcomes Kony’s ‘Change of Heart’ But Rules Out More Talks, Garowe Online, Garowe, the State capital of Puntland, a self-governing region in northern Somalia, June 24, 2008
Watch a video report on the Lord’s Resistance Army by Journeymay Pictures, which explains:
In the Ugandan civil war, most of the victims and perpetrators of violence are children. North Uganda has been devastated by the LRA, the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The LRA’s standard initiation involves recruiting children, after torturing and executing their parents, and then training them to become killers. Thousands of children have been turned into soldiers or sex slaves.
The LRA wants to gain control over all of Uganda and then implement a government ruled by the Ten Commandments. For the moment their commandments are rather more hellish. One of their most recent and esoteric edicts has been against the riding of bicycles – anyone caught doing so has both their feet cut off on the spot.
One missionary school fell prey to the LRA in the dead of night. Working all night, the rebels chiselled right through the dormitory walls. They abducted the 130 girls inside. A brave nun chased them through the night and begged the LRA Commander to give back the girls. He gave most back, but kept 30. Today their beds are empty, and their parents beg Musseveni to negotiate with the LRA for their return from camps in neighbouring Sudan. But Musseveni tells us his army will defeat the LRA in war, then the abductions will stop.
Those who do escape the LRA’s clutches are encouraged to dance or act their horror out. 10 year old Francis was asked to stab a woman as others beat her up, or be shot himself. “We left her dead, holding her baby.” One of those who was forced to abduct children into the LRA says he himself killed 120 people.
– Source: Journeyman Pictures, posted at YouTube.com