Friday, January 16, 2009

LRA in disarray, again

My friend and fellow reporter, Henry Mukasa of the New Vision newspaper in Kampala, this week contacted the former spokesman for Lord's Resistance Army's former negotiating team.

The former spokesman, Obonyo Olweny, says that the self-proclaimed spokesman and chief negotiator for the LRA, David Matsanga, does not represent the LRA and never has.

By so doing, Olweny has shed light on the chaos behind the scenes of the LRA, which has been under attack by the Ugandan army since December 14, and at this point appears to be scrambling for its life.

Most significantly, in his response to these charges, Matsanga has revealed that a new rebel group may be emerging in northern Uganda called the Uganda People's Liberation Front/Army.

Who are these people and what do they want? Matsanga says they're an Acholi cabal based in London and headed by a man named Ladit Balgara.

If the Acholi diaspora are forming a new rebel group, does this mean they've written off LRA leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium meant to lead the Acholi?

Could Uganda President Yoweri Museveni be on the verge of victory at last?

These issues will be dealt with in future dispatches.

Olweny is a former English teacher and currently a resident of Nairobi, I believe, and Henry and I spend a lot of time with him in July 2006 when the peace talks were beginning between the LRA and Uganda in Juba, South Sudan.
After Olweny and the leaders of the former negotiators, Martin Ojul, in particular, were supposedly fired by Kony in early 2008 -- in a surprise announcement made by Matsanga, not Kony -- Olweny dropped out of sight, only to re-emerge this week.

Ojul, by the way, now lives in Kampala on a Ugandan government salary.

The Olweny-Matsanga dispute has revealed one reality of the LRA: Kony keeps his own council.

According to sources at the late November meeting between Kony and the Acholi religious and cultural leaders, Kony knew nothing about the peace agreement that has been negotiated for two and a half years. When his fellow Acholi tried to explain it to him, including the Catholic archbishop from Gulu, Kony became angry and called them traitors.

“Kony never saw the text of the agreement until the day of signing. Is that normal?” Olweny told New Vision. Now, to be fair, Olweny here may be confirming earlier reports, but could also be simply repeating them.

But what he also said is more interesting:

“Since the attack on LRA bases in the DRC, I don’t think he (Matsanga) has talked to Kony. Kony is under pressure. He hardly talks to anyone,” Olweny said.
“Kony sees Matsanga as responsible for the attack. He misled him,” he added.

This is an amazing charge, but probably true. Matsanga should be looking over his shoulder. Yet, Matsanga continues to speak for the LRA.

As I've said before, Matsanga is in this for the money. As previously noted, Matsanga was stopped in the airport in Juba this past April, just a couple of days after he has successfully duped the entire international community into believing Kony was prepared to sign a peace deal.

Matsanga had $20,000 in cash, his pay for three months work as the LRA negotiation team leader. Matsanga then fled, and deputy, the Dr. James Obita, a western educated Acholi, took over.

Obita managed to pull yet another layer of wool over the world's eyes, and convinced everyone that Kony would sign the deal in May. Again Kony didn't show. Obita dropped out of sight. Obita then accepted amnesty from the government and reportedly is also collecting govenment money.

Would Matsanga keep quiet if Uganda offered him a job and a house in Kampala? Hmmm.

In the interim from May to about October, Matsanga saw an opening, and with no one openly disputing his claim, he re-emerged and convinced the world that Kony would sign a deal at the end of November.

Despite Olweny's remarks, Matsanga maintains that he is in contact with Kony, despite a statement said to be from the LRA "high command" this past weekend, that Matsanga was fired.

Matsanga explained it this way: “This group of former LRA delegates have teamed up with self-confessed paupers and senior militarists in Nairobi and London, namely Obonyo Olweny and Alex Oloya, under a new outfit called Uganda Peoples Liberation Front/Army (UPLF) headed by Ladit Balgara based in London to cause mayhem for the people of northern Uganda,” Matsanga said in an email sent to The New Vision.

“They issue unsigned statements using the LRA letterheads that Obonyo acquired during his spokesman tenure one year ago.”

“Those who have plotted against me have lost in the past and will lose on this round. They have been advised (by Kony) to desist from such malicious acts and work with me to bring peace in northern Uganda,” Matsanga said.

When asked to describe Matsanga's motivations, Olweny said, "He is the one asking for money in the name of LRA and the blood of the suffering people in the north. We began the peace process in Juba and he came from London begging to join the LRA delegation. You tell him he has failed to deliver the peace agreement he promised to his paymasters,” he added.

It is clear that Olweny is enjoying Matsanga's failures, because his "paymasters" are the UN, which has been funding the peace talks.

Asked whether it was true that he had joined a new rebel front (UPLF/A), Olweny said: “I think Matsanga is running out of his mind.”

That is not a denial, rather it's an attempt to disparage the messanger.

Matsanga blamed what he called “merchants of conflicts in Uganda based in London” for sowing discord in the LRA to derail the peace process.

Sowing discord in the LRA? That assumes there has been unity.


humanlife said...

Dear Peter, I understand that most of your information comes from government-sponsored sources, so your view will definitely be shaped in particular way, however some of your views are completely erroneous.

It is a myth that Kony is an "Acholi leader." As an Acholi myself, I'll tell you that very clearly. You mention in your article that a new rebellion would mean people are "done with Kony." The general population in Acholi never approved of Kony, and you do Acholi a great disservice by suggesting is a credible "Acholi leader."

Maybe this is a simply a fascinating piece of research for you to engage in, but this conflict has meant tremendous suffering for many innocent people, and it is only escalating, as other players get involved, supposedly to "stop it."

Please keep journalistic integrity and objectivity as you research this conflict. Truth would be the best thing you can contribute. Do not allow it to become yet another casualty of this war.

Peter Eichstaedt said...

Thanks for the comment and I appreciate your reading of the post. However, I a bit confused because nowhere in this post, or anywhere else, have I ever said Kony was an "Acholi leader." I wrote that he MET with "Acholi leaders" not was one. And, please pick up a copy of my new book, First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army.

humanlife said...

Hi Peter, thanks for your response. The paraphrased words were incorrect, the passage I meant is this one: "If the Acholi diaspora are forming a new rebel group, does this mean they've written off LRA leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium meant to lead the Acholi?"