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21st May 2004 No 52
Items in this issue
1. United Nations Press Release: UN confirms 39 dead in attack on camp near Gulu, Uganda
2. IRIN: Rebels abduct Kitgum bishop from Church compound
3. The Monitor: UPDF beat off Pagak rebels
4. The Monitor: UPDF commander against Kony trial
5. The New Vision: Amnesty talk riles Soroti boss
6. Mega FM local news
Thirty-nine people have been confirmed dead and 17 injured after an attack by the rebel group known as the Lord's Resistance Army on the Pagak camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Uganda.
Yesterday, a mission comprising representatives of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP), together with partners from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), went to the camp some 24 kilometres from Gulu and saw that 544 huts had been burned. A third of the camp's total population of about 11,000 people has left to nearby camps and Gulu town.
The United Nations country team in Uganda has condemned this appalling atrocity, which follows similar attacks against civilians of Barlonyo on 21 February and Odek on 29 April 2004. The United Nations is monitoring the situation and will go back to the site in the coming days.
The situation in northern Uganda has deteriorated sharply since summer 2002. The number of persons internally displaced by fighting, and in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection, has increased from 800,000 to over 1.6 million. Children and women, in particular, have suffered enormously. The Lord's Resistance Army had abducted more than 10,000 children since June 2002, the highest number since the insurgency began. All children are at risk of being abducted, forced to fight and commit atrocities, and subjected to sexual violence and sexual slavery. To escape this fate, tens of thousands of children – “night commuters” -- leave their homes each evening, seeking protection in towns. In Kitgum and Gulu and Kalongo, there are 50,000 night commuters.
The United Nations has launched a Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for $109 million to meet the humanitarian needs of vulnerable populations in 2004. With the year nearly half over, only some $22 million, just 20 per cent of the funds required have been donated. The WFP foresees a serious pipeline problem by the end of June unless funds are made available.
Despite the dramatic increase in needs, it remains extremely difficult to deliver humanitarian aid outside the main northern and eastern towns without the use of military escorts. The escorts accompany food convoys to camps for displaced persons in northern Uganda. Because of the fragile security situation, it has been difficult to maintain a humanitarian presence in these areas, meaning there is no sustainable assistance for health, education or other basic services.
Rebels of the Lord's Resistance
Army (LRA) on Wednesday abducted an Anglican Bishop and 11 other people in the
northern town of Kitgum, 460 km north of the capital, Kampala, in an attack
on a church compound, the Ugandan army spokesman said.
President Yoweri Museveni yesterday said the army reacted appropriately to disperse rebels who attacked Pagak camp for internally displaced persons, in Pader district.
The president said the UPDF killed six invaders in the process. Separate groups of the Lord’s Resistance Army also attacked Lokung IDP and Palabek-Gem IDP on May 16 and May 17. the death toll had by yesterday reached 39.
Mr Museveni said this yesterday when he met Mr Conrad Nkutu, managing director of The Monitor, and Mr William Pike, Managing Director of the New Vision to clarify the circumstances surrounding the latest rebel attack. He was reacting to a story on the Pagak attack that appeared in The New Vision on Tuesday. Some civilians, Museveni said, were killed in cross fire as they fled towards the Pagak army detach in search of safety. Eighteen others were abducted by the rebels and murdered a few kilometers from the camp. Museveni met the media chiefs in the presence of Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi, Minister in charge of the Presidency Kirunda Kivejinja, and Information Minister Nsaba Buturo.
Also present were Mr Onapito Ekomoloit, Acting Press Secretary, Mr Moses Byaruhanga, Political Assistant, and Mrs Joan Magezi, Principal Private Secretary to the President. Below is Museveni’s full statement and subsequent interview with Nkutu and Pike.
MUSEVENI: There was this incident at Pagak which was presented yesterday when you were talking about…you had a story on the front page (of New Vision). There was a collaborator in that camp who was living there. He coordinated with the terrorists to attack the IDP camp from the side where the army is not camped. This was around 6pm. The small army detach was preparing to go for evening patrol. When they attacked, people started running into the detach. That created some problems for the soldiers – crowds fleeing into the detach (for safety).
The soldiers tried to attack from the side. They dispersed the terrorists, killed six of them. But the LRA kidnapped 18 civilians. They ran with them and killed some, a few kilometers ahead. That was the incident at Pagak. The way you wrote was that the army was overpowered. Some people were also killed in the crossfire.
Simultaneously, the LRA tried to attack Palabek Gem IDP camp in Kitgum. There was no damage at all. They (also) attacked Lokung in Kitgum. In Pagak, the army handled it well but there was some damage.
Yesterday, because of the pressure on the terrorists, 76 of them (led by) a terrorist commander called Okot who apparently has been in terrorism for a long time – he started in 1988 – because of army pressure, he reported to Pajule in Pader with 77 people. This was yesterday.
Then, there was another incident in Pader, near Katango, where (another LRA commander) Kamdulu was killed. Finally, yesterday, our gunships attacked Odhiambo whose group massacred people in Barlonyo – 200 people were killed. This was in Lira. Odhiambo himself did not die. He is now near Southern Sudan near the Kit Valley. They were hit by our gunship from Gulu. Thirty-four of his people were killed. It is near Juba. I wanted to inform my partners (The Monitor and New Vision) about these generally positive developments in the anti-terrorism campaign.
PIKE: What intelligence
do you currently have on Kony himself?
PIKE: Did you read that interview in a southern Sudanese newsletter purportedly held with Joseph Kony? And do you believe it is genuine?
MUSEVENI: That interview was fake. We normally know what happens with Kony. These were Southern Sudanese trying to instigate us against the Arabs.
NKUTU: What is the source of the various military successes you have scored against the LRA during the last few months?
MUSEVENI: The source of our success is better equipment. For example, Kit is 100 miles (Mbabazi interjects to say it is 80 miles) from the Uganda-Sudan border. But gunships can cover that area in 40 minutes. On foot, it would take four days!
In spite of Sudan’s backing for LRA, we would have done better with better equipment. This 23% budget cut from other ministries enabled us to get better equipment.
PIKE: Are you dropping troops on the ground or are you using gunships only?
MUSEVENI: We are using gunships, we are not dropping troops on the ground. We have few helicopters. One crashed, another is in Russia…
PIKE: Why don’t you get trackers to go after Kony and hit him the way the Israelis have been hitting their enemies in the mosques?
MUSEVENI: But you see, the mosques are immobile. Kony is mobile. Kony will be hit. But he is still hiding with a small group. Even the Americans have not been able to get Bin Laden (leader of Al-Qaeda) because he is mobile.
With better equipment there is no one we cannot get. We know the area well. Now that we have degraded them into small groups, we are carrying out cordon-search-and-destroy operations. We are dealing with fugitives.
NKUTU: What shape is Kony in?
MUSEVENI: Kony is in very bad shape. No food, no ammunition. People are deserting in large numbers – those they had abducted. You remember Abola came out with his group of 28. this was the first time for them to come out in groups. Previously, we used to get one, two, three coming out. Now they are coming out in groups.
NKUTU: Many times, we get information from the army spokesman that Military Intelligence monitors LRA radio communications. Are you not able to locate Kony’s exact position from these radio communications?
MUSEVENI: We have those abilities. But the problem is to get there quickly.
NKUTU: Have you reached consensus or disagreement with donors on the need for higher defence spending to get better equipment?
MUSEVENI: We are still discussing. I don’t call them ‘donors’. Uganda has been donating $10 per kilogramme of cotton and $15 per kilogramme of coffee exported. We are the donors! These are development partners. But we are still discussing over the spending.
NSABA BUTURO: Mr President, we need more and better equipment and also better welfare for our soldiers. This should be emphasised.
NKUTU: What helicopter capacity do you need to bring this insurgency to a conclusion?
MUSEVENI: In March, I pointed out that within the last 10 months, we killed more than 1,000 terrorists. For the future, if we had like a squadron, which is 12 helicopters, you could airlift 360 people at ago. If we had even half of that… Ohhhh!
Those are for airlifting.
We are currently using only gunships, which don’t airlift. An Mi-17 costs
about $2 million…
MUSEVENI: You check with Mbabazi for the exact figures. But sometime back, I think we bought it at about $2 million. We had four choppers for the last 18 years. One crashed and was written off. One was partially damaged in a crash. They can serve us another 10 years or more. We keep refurbishing them. This has been 18 years of continuous fighting. If you had 12 of these…(gestures with hands in the air). Okay, that is all for today. Thank you very much.
The president directed Mbabazi
to provide details of the UPDF/LRA encounter to the public. The details are
On May 17 at 20;00 hours,
an LRA group suspected to be under one Lakati and Onen Kamdule attacked Palabek-Gem
Rebels burnt some huts. On May 18, an LRA commander, one ‘Major’ Okot Silyvio a.k.a Okoti Ayoli defected to UPDF in Pajule with 76 people, 23 fighters, 20 women, 24 men and 10 children. (77 in total including the ‘Major’.
The UPDF recovered 22 AK-47 riffles and 18 full magazines, four grenades, three APMs, one Sub Machine Gun (SPG)-9 bomb, two SPG-9 fuses, and three 82mm bomb fuses.
A senior UPDF officer wants the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader, Joseph Kony, to be pardoned rather than be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
Lt. Col. Silver Kayemba, the UPDF 3rd Division Commander based in Soroti, said this while presenting a paper on ‘Security and Rural Community in War’ at a one-day workshop at Soroti district headquarters last Friday.
Kayemba said that granting amnesty to the elusive rebel chief would end bloodshed and usher in peace in the war-ravaged northern Uganda.
The workshop was sponsored by the Amnesty Commission.Kayemba doubted whether Kony will be eliminated in the next two years. He said that military pursuit against Kony could lead to death of more than 200 people in the next two years.
He said the UPDF has been fighting Kony since 15 years ago but the LRA has continued to wreck havoc on the people. “My advice is that we should not be battle hardened but have a big room for forgiveness and save more life other than fight a mad man and lose more people and resources,” he said, attracting applause from the participants.
Soroti Women MP Alice Alaso commended Kayemba for rightly speaking out his mind regarding the end to the LRA war. The chairman of the Amnesty Commission Justice Peter Onega said he had persuaded many to return home.
THE LC5 chairperson of Soroti district, Capt. Emily Otekat, has called on the Government not to grant amnesty to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel leader, Joseph Kony.
Otekat said it would set a bad precedent and encourage others to kill with impunity.
“I am opposed to the Government’s wish to grant amnesty to Kony. If we grant him amnesty, a bad precedent will be set for others to kill innocent Ugandans left and right,” he said. Otekat was on Friday speaking at a sensitisation workshop organised by the Amnesty Commission for district heads and security officers at Soroti Lukiiko Hall. The resident district commissioners of Soroti, Katakwi, Kaberamaido, and Kumi districts attended.
Otekat said Kony had committed several atrocities and should be punished with his immediate commanders.
“I am a Christian
but I wouldn’t forgive Kony. I think it’s better to answer fire
with fire,” he said.
Amnesty Commission chairperson Justice P. Onega said the commission found in a recent survey that there was overwhelming support for a blanket amnesty.
Soroti Woman MP Alice Alaso urged the Government to explore ways of channelling information about the amnesty to the LRA rebels.
Lamwo MP Shocked
at Death of Campaign Manager
Lamwo County MP, Hillary Onek, has expressed shock and anger at the killing of his
2001 campaign task force chairman, Erisania Ongom Agoro. Agoro was killed in an LRA rebel ambush at Porogali along Kitgum-Lira road yesterday.
Hon. Onek said Agoro was greatly respected by everybody in Lamwo, and that his death had left a void in the sub-county. The MP also extended his condolences to the families of Mrs. Santa Olaa and Ms Agnes Aciro Lubik, both of whom were also killed in the ambush.
He appealed to the LRA to stop targeting innocent civilians, and called on security personnel to step up their efforts to protect the population from rebel attacks.
Onen Kamdule is Dead, Says Army
The Army reports that Col. Onen Kamdule, the LRA’s Director of Operations, was killed yesterday in Pader district.
The Northern and Northeastern Regional Army spokesman, Lt. Paddy Ankunda, told Mega FM today that Kamdule was shot dead by the UPDF in Luzira in Patongo sub-county.
Ankunda has also revealed that 76 rebels and their families, plus their commander, Maj. Sylvio Okot Ayoli, surrendered to the Army in Pader district yesterday.
He said they surrendered with 22 Sub-Machine Guns, 3 anti-personnel mines and 4 hand grenades.
Our correspondent in the district says there is jubilation in Pajule and Lapul sub-counties following Maj. Okot’s surrender.
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