Monday, April 13, 2009

War on Kony can be profitable

A story in the Daily Monitor reveals that, as many have suggested, the army is profiting from the recent three-month operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo against the Lord's Resistance Army.

This information only supports speculation that the Ugandan army didn't really want to capture Kony. After all, it would mean an end to the army's cash cow.

Enjoy this story by Chris Obore.

KAMPALA -- The revelation that the army spent Shs390 million a day during the three-month Garamba operation against the LRA, has divided some top army officers, Saturday Monitor has learnt.

The antagonism has also been worsened by the discovery that some junior army officers in collusion with their superiors had been stealing money meant for pensions and benefits for fallen and retired soldiers. Sources say the army chiefs are now trading accusations against each other over the leakage of that information to the public.

President Museveni, who is also Commander-in-Chief, has also demanded answers to what in military circles has been labelled “abnormal expenditure”.

Our sources said after Daily Monitor reported recently that the Garamba expedition against LRA’s Joseph Kony had drawn Shs35 billion ($17 million USD) from the public coffers, Mr Museveni reportedly called his top commanders and asked them to explain the huge expenditure.

“The President was furious with the Shs390 million a day bill, saying it is abnormal; the man was really hard on the army,” the source said.

Presenting a balance sheet of the Garamba operation to Parliament’s Defence and Internal Affairs Committee, the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, justified the expenditure, saying although Kony was not captured, killed or forced to sign the agreement, the overall operation was a success as it had significantly impaired the rebels’ capacity to return and destabilise the country.

Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga, who appeared with the CDF, said the “little” money for the operation was not catered for in the budget, the reason his ministry was forced to ask for supplementary funding. MPs did not get details on how the money was spent.

But sources say Mr Museveni was not amused by the expenditure and accused some army officers of financial impropriety.

Apparently, the President was not aware of the huge expenditure until the story was carried by the Daily Monitor.

According to sources, on learning of the President’s dissatisfaction, a blame game at the defence ministry ensued, leading to the sudden transfer of the Undersecretary, Mr Fred Ogene.

Sources say some sections wanted Mr Ogene fired or interdicted but being a civil servant, it was not possible, considering the stringent laws governing his appointment.

But Defence and army spokesman Felix Kulayigye told Saturday Monitor: “He has been requesting for transfer for a long time, so I don’t believe he was forced out.”

Mr Ogene confirmed by telephone yesterday that he had been moved.“I don’t think the transfer has anything to do with Garamba; it might be but I was not told,” he said, adding: “I have been transferred to the President’s Office.”Mr Ogene, however, said what was given about Garamba expenditure was not the accountability but the highlights.

Pension scamMeanwhile, Dr Kiyonga, has reportedly put more pressure on the army chiefs to explain why there was delayed detection of how money for pensions and benefits was stolen by paymasters.

Sunday Monitor reported recently that the army was investigating a racket involving officers who have been stealing money meant for retired soldiers and families of dead servicemen in a scandal that could eclipse the infamous ghost soldier scam that led to the sacking and prosecution of a former army commander.

Soldires celebrating after arriving at Entebbe Airport from Garamba.
The racket was being perpetrated through a chain of soldiers working in the Directorate of Records, Manpower Audit and Army Strength Management sections.

When the story was reported, Mr Kiyonga, who was then in South Africa attending to his ill relative, reportedly instructed his military assistant to dig into the matter.

When the military assistant swung into action, top army chiefs reportedly refused to cooperate because the investigation could end up at their doorsteps.

The Chief of Staff Land Forces, Brig. Charles Angina, who had instigated a covert fact-finding operation using a combination of military intelligence and staff officers to establish the facts; and later arrested some culprits, reportedly got furious that the information had leaked to the media.

Now Brig. Angina has reportedly deployed operatives to find out how his confidential information ended up at Daily Monitor.

When Kiyonga returned from South Africa, sources say he wrote asking for more information regarding the Mafia-like racket that had been fleecing widows and orphans of fallen fighters but he is reportedly getting lukewarm response from top army chiefs.

Maj. Kulayigye said he was not aware that Mr Kiyonga had asked for answers to the pension graft in the army but promised to reach to his military assistant.
He, however, later called back saying: “All phones are off, so I can’t help you.”But Joint Chief of Staff, Brig. Robert Rusoke, said yesterday that when the matter first came up, “he ( Kiyonga) was not around.”“But the PS will brief him,” Brig. Rusoke said.

Asked what the army had done so far, Brig. Rusoke accused Saturday Monitor of trying to sabotage investigations.“What do want us to say? The matter is under investigation,” he said.He said the Defence permanent secretary “has been in contact with Ministry of Public Service” because “we are working together with Public Service to investigate the matter.”

Last financial year alone, while Shs53 billion was released for payment of benefits and pension, not more than Shs10 billion was actually paid out to beneficiaries. The rest disappeared.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

International action needed

(Originally published at, on March 27)

The recent withdrawals of the Ugandan and Rwandan armies from different corners of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, call into question the international community’s desire to bring peace to the country.

The Ugandan army’s departure from northeastern DRC – after an abortive attempt to deal a decisive blow to rampaging Ugandan rebels – has left thousands of people vulnerable to continued atrocities.

Sadly, the Ugandan attack on Kony this past December was leaked, allowing Kony to take his soldiers out of the camp before the strike. Then, it took two days for Ugandan soldiers to show up.

This stumbling start to the operation against Kony raised doubts about the seriousness of the effort.

Meanwhile, the numbers of dead and displaced by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, in northeastern DRC continue to climb.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that another 11,000 people were uprooted in the mid-March attacks by the LRA. This brings the total displaced by rebel raids in the Haut Uele district of Oriental province to more than 188,000 in the last six months.

An additional 990 Congolese have been murdered by the LRA and 747 abducted, the vast majority of them children, UNHCR says. Another 16,000 Congolese refugees who have crossed into Southern Sudan to escape LRA attacks are also receiving assistance.

Requested by the DRC’s president Joseph Kabila, the abrupt end to Uganda’s drive against Kony came without complaint or objection from the UN, the United States or any European Union countries.

Although the military support provided by the US showed that someone was willing to help end the menace of the LRA, the mission was poorly executed and failed in its main objective.

Likewise in the Kivu provinces of DRC. The same populations who have been in turmoil for a decade are once again in panic after Rwanda’s failed attempt to eliminate the threat of Hutu militias.

Despite the capture of Tutsi commander Laurent Nkunda and the DRC’s stand-down agreement with his former militia, serious concerns remain should indicted commander Bosco Ntaganda remain free.

Rather than shrink away from these situations with a quiet shrug, the international community should be preparing to act. Unless a new and more serious effort is organised against Kony and the LRA, a tragedy of even greater proportions will unfold.

Not only will Kony continue the senseless killing in this remote corner of the world, a worrisome message will be sent around the globe. The message is that if you’re far enough off the beaten track, and you’re victimising people who are already marginalised, you can commit atrocities as along as you like.

It doesn’t matter if you’re indicted by the International Criminal Court, as Kony and some of his henchmen have been. You can easily remain free. No one will lift a finger. In other parts of DRC, the message is the same.

Despite the presence of 17,000 UN peacekeepers, ethnic-based militias remain. Occasional interventions by neighbouring countries may generate a temporary diversion, but little will change.Of course, some benefit from the status quo. The well-documented illegal exploitation of minerals in the eastern Congo can only continue as long as the militia fighting is allowed to mask the plunder.

All of this can only stop with aggressive outside intervention.

One viable option is for the UN Security Council to authorise a multi-national strike force to encircle, confront and capture Kony and his commanders. Such an action has precedent and could be accomplished by a seasoned NATO commando strike force.

The same should be done in eastern DRC. The mission of the UN peacekeepers there is fruitless without a peace to keep.

Without active intervention, the illegal plunder of DRC minerals will continue. An available force of 3,300 EU troops is now in Chad, drawn from 26 countries and called EUFOR, which just recently was turned over to the UN.

In the hand-over ceremony earlier this month, the force was called a “new model” for EU involvement in troubled regions of Africa.

Despite the availability, however, one can only wonder about the purpose of the force, since on the occasion of the hand-over, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner proclaimed, “We won’t intervene ever again in internal affairs.”

The new force expects to have 3,900 troops by June, when the rainy season starts, and 5,200 by the end of the year. Despite Kouchner’s comments, 1,100 French soldiers remain in Chad under an earlier agreement with the government.

Why not use this force for short-term, focused missions to neighbouring countries? Why not stop the endless bloodshed which DRC, Uganda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan have all failed to do?