Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Defiance from the LRA?

It is increasing difficult to understand why credible news organizations and international news agencies continue to quote the nonsense being spewed by David Matsanga.

For those who don't know this man, he is the so-called spokesman for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has gone on a bloody rampage in the Democratic Republic of Congo since Christmas and killed 400 innocent people.

Senseless killing is standard operating procedure for the LRA. This time it's in response to the Dec. 14 attack on the LRA camps by the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudanese armies.

Any true military force would combat another military force that attacked it. But not the LRA. This cult of killers responds by killing defenseless villagers, then thumps its chest about how "invicible" it is.

And, there is Matsanga, taking calls from news hacks and claiming that it is not the LRA, but the Uganda army that is killing the civilians. And, pathetically, the news organizations publish that.

The most recent nonsense sent around the world came from the Voice of America. Matsanga told VOA the killings were carried out by a special battalion of the Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF) called Battalion 105 that is composed of former LRA combatants who have defected.

It's an interesting idea, but like everything Matsanga says, impossible to take seriously.

The many former LRA fighters I have interviewed -- something Matsanga has not done -- would welcome the opportunity to put a bullet into the head of each and every LRA commander for what these abducted children were forced to do by the LRA. This included killing their own parents, or mutilating their friends and relatives.

Matsanga goes on to say that he has talked with the LRA leader Joseph Kony (who the VOA dutifully calls "general") and he has informed Matsanga that the LRA was not responsible for the alleged killings.

Why would anyone believe Kony? And, where is he?

Now, this is the same Matsanga who earlier this year told the world he spoke for the LRA and convinced the international community to trek to the jungles where they were to witness Kony signing a peace agreement with Uganda.

Of course, Kony didn't. Once confronted, Matsanga confessed that he had never really talked with Kony, who probably didn't even know he was supposed to show up and sign a document he knew nothing about.

But, this has not stopped people like Matsanga from continuing to claim he represents the LRA, while sitting in his house in Nairobi. And, it has not stopped the news hacks at VOA from giving this man a global forum for his unique brand of nonsense.

It is no wonder that fewer and fewer people take news organizations, especially newspapers, seriously anymore, and prefer to read blogs like this.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Situation worsens as LRA rampages

As feared, the situation in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has worsened now two weeks after the Dec. 14 air strike against the rebel Lord's Resistance Army camps in and around the Garamba National Park.

Aid agencies report that tens of thousands of people continue to flee the rampaging Ugandan rebels in the wake of more than 400 deaths, about half of which were in the town of Doruma, not far from the South Sudan border.

The Catholic relief agency Caritas has reported that some 20,000 people had fled to the mountains from the rebels, whose controversial spokesmen continue to deny carrying out the attacks.

Yet, an eyewitness told the BBC that five people in Faradje had their lips cut off by Lord's Resistance Army fighters as a warning not to speak ill of the rebels.

Bruno Mitewo, head of the Catholic aid agency, said the agency has information that from parishes in the region that more than 400 civilians have died in the attacks.

He said that in Faradje 150 civilians had died, almost 75 people in Duru and 215 in Doruma. The victims had been hacked to death and forced into fires, he said.

"All villages were burned by rebels... we don't know where exactly the population is because all the villages are empty," he told the BBC.

"We have almost 6,500 displaced who are refugees in the parishes of the Catholic Church around the city of Dungu, more than 20,000 people displaced are running to the mountains," he said.

Those who were hiding in the bush and forest were mainly the young, as the LRA tends to kidnap children and recruit them as fighters, he said.

An eyewitness in Faradje said the people who had their lips cut off were being treated for their injuries.

“The entire population of Faradje [80km from the Sudanese border], some 30,000 people, has left. Most have taken refuge in Tadu and Kpodo,” said Ivo Brandau, head of information for the UN's OCHA. The villages are 37km and 11km from Faradje.

As has been widely reported, forces from the DRC, Uganda and Southern Sudan are in the midst of a joint military operation against the LRA after the LRA's leader, Joseph Kony, failed to sign a peace agreement with Uganda in early December.

OCHA officials said people from Kiliwa and Paika, two villages north of the regional capital of Dungu, had also fled.

“It’s not yet known exactly how many. Another group of around 180 households is said to be in Duru (about 50 kms north of Dungu). This area is considered to be at risk because of the presence of the LRA,” said Brandau. “Villages and local officials are still looking for bodies.”

Several prominent Faradje citizens were killed in the attacks, including a senior doctor, two pastors, a school inspector, a pharmacist, and the deputy head of the Directorate General of Migration.

According to OCHA, the LRA occupies seven villages around Doruma: Batande, Manzagala, Mabando, Bagbugu, Nakatilikpa, Nagengwa and Natulugbu.

Military officials said that following the air strike on LRA positions in Garamba National Park, the rebels fled north towards Sudan and south into the DRC.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Deja-vu northern Uganda

As many feared and some predicted, the Dec. 14 attack on the camps of the Lord's Resistance Army in northeastern DRC has provoked a bloody response.

So far, according to UN sources, at least 200 people have been killed by the scattered forces of the LRA, led by their self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony. At least 120 homes have been burned.

One of the most gruesome of these latest attacks was in a church near the town of Doruma (pictured above) close to the border with South Sudan. There LRA rebels hacked to death 45 people who were hiding in a church.

This attack on innocent civilians rivals some of the gore that the LRA indulged in across northern Uganda for two decades.

I visited Doruma this past June to interview people there about an earlier attack by Kony's killers on Easter weekend of this year.

Maybe this is how Joseph Kony likes to spend religious holidays: killing hundreds of innocent people.

The attack against Kony was of course long overdue. He has been killing and abducting people in this remote area of the DRC for more than two years now.

And, he has been lavishly aided and abetted by the soft-minded members of European Union who remain convinced Kony will sign a peace agreement and give up, no matter how many people he kills.


The latest bloody rampage, however, can be blamed on the Ugandan government which can be accused of botching this attack on Kony.

Instead of surrounding the camp before they bombed it, thus enabling the LRA and its leadership to be killed and/or captured as they fled, Uganda bombed first and sent troops two days later.

This allowed Kony and his army to disperse, taking what they needed, including their supposedly dead and wounded, assuming there were any.

Why has it taken so long for Uganda to produce proof of any casualties?

The problem now is that Uganda and the DRC are facing an extended guerrilla war in northern DRC, much like it suffered in northern Uganda.

Already, Kony's units have scattered, and despite the claims of "victory" by the Ugandan government, Kony was able to conduct coordinated attacks on and after Christmas day.

In short, it's deja-vu northern Uganda. The coming year promises to be a bleak one for the people of northern DRC.

And sadly, neither Kony nor his top commanders are any closer to being captured and put on trial before the International Criminal Court which has sought them since October 2005.