August 26, 2003
The BBC, Agence France-Presse, and The Monitor (Kampala) are all reporting today on what strongly appears to be direct, high-level support by the armed forces of Khartoum’s National Islamic Front for the maniacal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), headed by the savagely barbaric Joseph Kony. Kony’s forces are reported to have recently crossed back from northern Uganda into the sanctuary of southern Sudan, where they expect to receive additional heavy weaponry from generals in the NIF army at Juba (Khartoum’s main garrison town in southern Sudan). The Ugandan government has made the charges on the basis of information from an LRA defector and other evidence. The BBC reports:
“The latest round of accusations follows reports that the Ugandan army received information from an LRA defector, David Oneka, about the alleged supply of arms, including anti-tank missiles, by Sudan to the rebels. Mr Oneka also claimed that he witnessed Mr Kony crossing into Sudan accompanied by his wives and 600 rebel fighters.” (BBC, August 26, 2003)
The (Kampala) Monitor gives further insight into the evidence that has recently been obtained by Uganda’s armed forces:
“The army spokesman, Maj. Shaban Bantariza, told The [Kampala] Monitor yesterday that Sudanese generals meet monthly and regularly supply arms to the LRA. ‘We are getting information indicating how Sudanese generals meet the LRA on the 15th of every month and supply them with arms on the 28th of each month,’ Bantariza said.
The report continued:
“The army has benefited from fresh intelligence reports provided by an LRA defector who handed himself over to the [Ugandan Defense Forces] at the weekend. The defector fighter, David Oneka, claims that Kony knows him personally, having been part of the rebel leader’s security detail in Juba, southern Sudan. He said that Sudan is supplying heavy arms to the LRA, including anti-tank destroyers. ‘The B10 is what the LRA has been using to attack our battle wagons. They used it last Friday in Katakwi and injured three of our soldiers,’ Bantariza said.” (The [Kampala] Monitor, August 26, 2003)
There have been other recent and authoritative charges that Khartoum’s forces are aiding the LRA. Especially significant was a June 2003 statement from the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), representing many of the people most deeply affected by LRA depredations in northern Uganda. Notably, the ARLPI had been instrumental in bringing the Ugandan government and the LRA together in the (now) failed talks to end LRA terrorism by peaceful means. The ARLPI declared on June 16, 2003:
“Senior officers of the LRA have been receiving a constant supply of arms, ammunition and other items from SAF [Khartoum armed forces] officers since the last months of 2002. This accounts for the fact that in recent months violence has escalated to unprecedented levels in Northern Uganda, with the civilian population bearing the brunt of the rebel offensive.”
The church leaders went on to say that “had the LRA remained short of military supplies since last year, by now they would have been forced to come to a negotiated settlement with the Ugandan Government that would have made it possible to have peace in Northern Uganda.”
Father Carlos Rodriguez Soto, a key figure in the ARLPI’s efforts to bring about peace in northern Uganda through dialogue, told the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Network (June 19, 2003) “We always had our suspicions when we kept seeing the LRA with new uniforms and new guns. But we didn’t have enough to be sure. Now, with each independent report coming from the bush saying the same thing, we know for a fact that they [Khartoum’s military forces] are doing this.”
And even greater detail on the more recent evidence comes from a second report in The (Kampala) Monitor:
“[The LRA defector] Oneka said that Sudan recently supplied the LRA rebels with sub-machine guns, boxes of ammunition, 86 B10 bombs, and 42 SPG9 guns, anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines and Milan guns (anti-tank destroyers). He said that the Milan guns have not yet been used against the UPDF because the ‘Arabs’ (meaning Sudan government forces) have not taught the LRA how to operate them.”
The report continued:
“Oneka said that he has been to many places in Sudan with Kony—including to Juba, Umm Durmn [Omdurman] and Khartoum. Under the watchful eyes of [Ugandan Defense Force] officers, Oneka told journalists that the Sudan government has renovated Kony’s house in Juba and handed it back to the rebel leader’s family there. Sudanese officials have also reportedly given Kony two more new vehicles; a Toyota pick-up truck and a lorry painted army green.” (The [Kampala] Monitor, August 26, 2003)
In turn, Agence France-Presse today gives some sense of the scale of destruction wrought by the LRA when it reports that:
“[The LRA’s] brutality has killed or maimed thousands of people in northern Uganda, as well as displaced more than 800,000, currently forced to living in squalid camps dotting the region.” (Agence France-Presse, August 26, 2003)
The LRA is perhaps most notorious for its abduction of children, especially young girls. In this connection, The (Kampala) Monitor also reports today, in a third article concerning the LRA, on the devastating effects for these girls following upon abduction:
“According to President Yoweri Museveni, 89 percent of the abducted girls rescued from the LRA rebels have been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.” (The [Kampala] Monitor, August 26, 2003)
There is one obvious and very significant implication of Khartoum’s continued support for this terrorist organization, whose only real agenda is vicious rapacity and sadistic human destruction and mutilation. It calls into serious question the integrity of an agreement (a military protocol) that the National Islamic Front regime had earlier negotiated with the Ugandan government over Ugandan military access to southern Sudan to destroy the LRA as a threat to Ugandan and Sudanese civilians (Khartoum in return was to monitor activities of the SPLA). Bilateral relations between Khartoum and Kampala were already in serious danger by virtue of earlier reports of Khartoum’s support for Kony and the LRA (see June 20, 2003 analysis by this writer; available upon request). Now a breakdown in the agreement between the two governments seems inevitable.
Indeed, the agreement may have already broken down. A report last week from the New Vision (Kampala) indicated that Khartoum had already reneged on a key provision of the military protocol:
“Uganda on Monday said it had withdrawn its observers based in Sudan and accused Khartoum of not undertaking its obligations. ‘It is true we have withdrawn our liaison officers but this was prompted by Sudan which decided not to allow them do their job in Juba,’ army spokesman Major Shaban Bantariza said. ‘The liaison officers were supposed to do their job from Juba, but unfortunately Sudan decided to remove them from there and instead took them to Khartoum.'” (New Vision [Kampala], August 21, 2003)
In other words, the monitoring part of the agreement was completely compromised by Khartoum’s refusal to allow Uganda’s military observers to be based where they could actually be effective. Stationing Ugandan military observers in Khartoum—far away from where Kony and the LRA operate—is completely pointless, which is exactly what the National Islamic Front regime intends.
Though the issues raised by Khartoum’s support of an organization as brutally destructive as the LRA are fully significant in their own right, it should also be clear that they highlight yet again the difficulty of securing any meaningful agreement from the National Islamic Front in Khartoum. This is the problem confronted by the Machakos/IGAD mediators, as they attempt to facilitate a peace agreement involving the same regime that sees fit to provide heavy military support to an outlaw terrorist organization bent only on mayhem, self-aggrandizement, and wanton rapacity.
The problem is distilled neatly by Major Bantariza: “Ever since [the Khartoum regime] knew that their commanders were helping the LRA, what have they done? Failure to take action implicates them as a government.” (The [Kampala] Monitor, August 26, 2003)
As long as the National Islamic Front regime retains control in Khartoum, it would seem that the LRA will have a powerful supporter. This should tell the international community something of very great importance.
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