Weekly Roundup August 28 – September 10: 8 killed in LRA attacks in South Sudan, more LRA activity reported in South Darfur
It’s been a busy week for us here at Resolve Uganda as we prepare to launch a new campaign focused on getting the Administration to implement the provisions of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, passed in May. President Obama has just 70 days left to produce a comprehensive strategy to help protect civilians from LRA violence across central Africa. This mandate is even more urgent in light of a series of brutal attacks in South Sudan last weekend, continuing concerns about the Sudanese government’s links to the LRA in advance of next year’s referendum in the South, and concerns about political repression in the run-up to Uganda’s own national elections next year. So let’s get right on to this week’s news:
The Good: On Tuesday, the government of South Sudan launched a program to end the use of child soldiers in its army, and promised that the 900 minors in the army’s ranks would be demobilized by this November.
The Bad: The UN reports that newly displaced refugees in DR Congo from the Central African Republic are in a “precarious” humanitarian situation. “Unfortunately, owing to logistical challenges in gaining access to refugees along the border, it is feared that some may be beyond the [UN refugee] agency’s reach,” said a UN official.
The Ugly: The LRA killed at least 8 people in a series of attacks on villages in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State last weekend. All of those killed were civilians, and one of the attacks even targeted villagers who had gathered for the funeral of another victim of LRA violence.
- A rebel group in South Darfur, Sudan, said it was attacked by a group of LRA fighters and claimed that the rebels were ordered to do so by the Sudanese government in Khartoum. Though details of the incident have yet to be confirmed, the report fuels concerns that the central government in Khartoum is supporting the Ugandan rebels to fight as a proxy army in South Sudan and Darfur.
- The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, alleged this week that the northern government in Khartoum is providing logistical support to the LRA. South Sudan’s vice president said that he worries LRA activity in the country may affect the upcoming 2011 referendum.
- A special feature in Time Magazine published last week documents the LRA’s continuing brutal attacks in South Sudan. Click here to watch a moving video interviewing Moses, a 15-year old former child soldier, and Sister Giovanna, a nun working with displaced populations in Nzara, South Sudan (who I had the privilege of meeting earlier this year on my research trip to the region).
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
- One year after police brutally suppressed riots which swept through Uganda’s capital Kampala, Human Rights Watch reports that the government has yet to try any security forces for the alleged misuse of force that left at least 40 people dead.
- Since the riots last September, and especially since the terrorist bombings in Kampala this July, the Ugandan government has grown increasingly repressive of media freedoms and political dissent, shutting down several radio stations, passing a law permitting phone tapping, and violently suppressing election-related demonstrations. Opposition leaders worry that this will curtail prospects for free and fair elections next year.
- The primary elections last week for the ruling NRM party in Uganda were marred by violence at the polls, intimidation, and allegations of fraud, leading to the arrest of nearly 20 people and the postponement of a number of local polls, and further fueling worries about next year’s national elections.
- Uganda’s War Crimes Court began proceedings on its first case, charging former LRA commander Thomas Kwoyelo with 12 counts of war crimes including killing and hostage-taking in northern Uganda throughout the past two decades.
- At an international religious conference held in Uganda last week, a group of Sudanese bishops condemned recent LRA attacks in the south of the country and reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to peace and reconciliation.