Sunday, January 25, 2009

LRA was high tech in the bush

The ability of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army to stay a step ahead of the Ugandan army and other adversaries is evident with the recent capture of equipment pictured above.
With its wide array of laptop computers and at least a dozen satellite phones and other equipment, the LRA appears to have been able to stay abreast of international developments via the Internet.
Such capacities, however, require computer skills that neither LRA leader Joseph Kony, nor the vast majority of his fighters and commanders have.
Abducted as children from their villages in northern Uganda, most in the LRA have been living in the bush their entire lives. They lack formal education, certainly not computer training, and instead have undergone the bizarre indoctrination at the hands of Kony and his commanders.
So where did all of this equipment come from and who operated it? Satellite phones require the purchase of air time, and you can't buy it in remote villages in the jungle. Who was buying that for the LRA and how was that done?
The mere presence of this equipment and communications devices shows that Kony has an organized system of support far beyond the confines of his camps in the Garamba National Park of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It is this network that should be investigated by the international community as it is clear that this network in the Acholi tribal diaspora has been vital to the survival of the LRA.
Even Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has alluded to this network, as he explained why and how Kony was able to escape the Dec. 14 attack on his camps in Garamba.
Museveni said that among the equipment pictured above, was a radio that may have allowed Kony to monitor communications the Ugandan army and learn of a pending attack.
The Ugandan army know how to keep its communications secure? Or, has the Ugandan army been infiltrated with Kony sympathizers?
The existance of Kony supporters in the Acholi tribal diaspora was evidenced recently when Kony's former negotiators made public their distaste for the LRA's self-proclaimed new spokesman, David Matsanga.
These former representatives, most of them ex-patriots of northern Uganda, also alluded to the formation of a new rebel group called the Uganda People's Liberation Front and Army.
The Kony support network, some have suggested, not only purchased this equipment, but smuggled it in the massive shipments of food and supplies that were paid for by the international community and trucked to the jungle camps of Kony by the Catholic charity, Caritas.
Fortunately, this support for Kony by the international community has ended, and, as far as we can tell, so has Kony's access to electronics. Kony certainly kept a few sat phones as he fled his camp. But they won't last long without batteries, battery chargers, and airtime.
While Kony's ability to wage war may have been damaged, he has yet to be captured or killed. He is still out there, and his soldiers are still killing innocent civilians.
While the Ugandan government has obtained the support of the Central African Republic in the fight against the LRA, it also shows that Uganda is very worried that Kony will head to the CAR.
If he goes there, as many suspect he will, he will become harder and harder to capture or contain, with or without his high tech equipment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don’t know how closely you have followed the beginnings of the latest peace initiative that seems to have just ended in failure. Since 2006 when the process started, various groups and facilitators including President Museveni himself have at various times provided the LRA with satellite phones and airtime, ostensibly to facilitate the peace process by easing communication and helping the LRA understand the terms of the agreement , implications of the ICC indictments and other contentious issues. So blame the equipment and supplies on all sides including mediators and the international donors.

Part of the terms of the ceasefire agreement in which LRA was ordered to assemble in designated areas also opened the way for food, medication, cash allowances and other supplies paid for by the international community to be delivered to these designated camps. It was largely as a result of this that the raids and attacks on civilians in southern Sudan and northern Ugandan virtually stopped for two years. It is now apparent that the LRA also engaged in some agriculture to supplement the food supplies.

When the Ugandan government mounted their December 14 attack, it looked to many long term observers like they were merely repeating what they had done for over 20 years in northern Uganda. First coming up with an ominous sounding end-all operation, then bombing from a safe distance without a care for abductees – equivalent to merely throwing rocks into the hornet’s nest from a distance and running away while defenseless victims in the DRC and southern Sudan are attacked and child captives are placed at risk. And then they step aside to watch from a safe distance the predictable reaction of the desperate LRA, wreaking vengeance on defenseless civilian populations and making violent forages for food. As the death toll mounts, then their propaganda arm loudly proclaim to the UN, the world and any out there who will listen how evil the LRA are, while avoiding all responsibility on their part, and giving a litany of excuses for their failures. And then as usual, when proof was demanded of the proclaimed success of the operation, the army provides an assortment of trophies from Kony (a wig and guitar this time) with impressive claims of narrowly missing capturing of Kony’s very own shadow. We’ve heard it so often it sounds like a broken record!

So, was the Uganda army attack and the few LRA “trophies” captured worth the 640 plus Congolese, Sudanese and abducted children’s lives, and massive displacement and human suffering incurred in the region? Is it worth the new risks and exposure of victim communities? You be the judge.

And as in the past, the “Acholi Diaspora” has then hazily and collectively been used as an easy scapegoat for every failure and setback in the peace process, and accused of funding and enabling the rebels. Another familiar broken record! It would be more helpful if allegations were aimed at specific individuals and investigations targeted at those.

As for David Matsanga who is known in Ugandan circles at his UK base as a desperate, unscrupulous, self-seeking opportunist with a very shady background, who will do and say just about anything for money or for self promotion. I would be wary of giving much credibility to anything he says. Some of his highest credentials include serving as an ardent supporter and public relations strategist and mouthpiece for Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. In the Juba peace process he is suspected of using dubious means to insert himself into the position of Chief Negotiator for Kony, elbowing out any potential rivals while at the same time allegedly secretly doubling as an agent on Museveni’s payroll (read stories of his arrest at Juba airport in mid-2008). As long as Matsanga continues to masquerade as Chief Negotiator, and as long as regional leaders and mediators give him audience, there is no hope for the peace process. I would read his latest claims of a new “Acholi Diaspora” rebel army as a huge smokescreen for his current precarious position, with his credibility fast unraveling.

Furthermore, both the Ugandan government representatives and other observers have recently publicly expressed doubt about his claim of having continued contact with Kony, going as far back as the April 2008 date originally set for signing the final peace deal. Here is a link to Matsanga’s old website with some of his ranting: