Saturday, July 4, 2009

Serious threat or convenient diversion?

While the Ugandan government's recent arrest of some 17 people allegedly involved with a shadowy group called the Ugandan Patriotic Front (UPF) makes dramatic news, one is left wondering about the validity of this so-called threat.

Rather, it seems like yet another grand diversion for Ugandans from the serious problems it faces as the much heralded "pearl of Africa," to say nothing of the government's inability to stop the real threat: Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army.

Further, this recent arrest of alleged enemies of the regime underscores the often stated accusation that Uganda's strong man President Yoweri Museveni is first and foremost a military man, not a politician.

The rise of this apparent new threat to Museveni's government is very related to the Kony and the LRA and Museveni's lack of action in northern Uganda.

Kony has been camped out in the remote forest regions of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo since early 2006 (advance LRA units were there in late 2005), leaving northern Uganda a relatively calm and safe place.

To most observers, this would have been the perfect time for Museveni to move in and begin rebuilding the region economically, socially and every other way. After all, the Acholi people who populate the north have been outsiders at best and enemies at worst of the Museveni government.

What better way to turn your former enemies into your staunchest allies than to help the Ugandans who have borne the brunt of 20 years of Kony's war than to quickly rebuild, roads, farms, schools and hospitals?

Instead of a massive reconstruction of the north, Museveni's government has done next to nothing, and what little it has been done has been riddled with corruption and theft.

It is now more than three years since Kony has vacated the north, yet little has been done to improve the north and even less is on the horizon.

The frustration in the north with Museveni's government grows every day as residents now face drought conditions in the north, which means fewer crops and higher food prices.

What else would any reasonable person expect to happen when news breaks that yet another rebel group may be forming in the north to challenge Museveni's government?

Rumors of this and other shadowy rebels groups are not uncommon in the north as well as other places in Uganda where citizens have been left out of the mainstream of Uganda political and economic life.

And also not uncommon is Museveni's reaction, which is to arrest the alleged conspirators and toss them in prison.

While it is certainly a concern for the government, the repeated surfacing of such groups, in particular this one in northern Uganda, should be seen as a wake-up call for Museveni, rather than a serious threat.

The question, however, is Museveni listening?


Robert Olet Egwea said...

Dear Peter,

Are you writing from Uganda or from the comfort of some foreign country? If even the Gulu District Chairman Norbert Mao has admitted the presence of the new rebel group, why are you trying to make people believe otherwise?

I don't know when you last stepped foot on northern Uganda but I can assure you that the government has commenced a major infrastructure development in the region. I was there last month and therefore know what I am talking about. Here is what I saw, to mention just a few:

1. Major resurfacing of Kampala-Gulu highway
2. Brand new tarmac on Karuma-Arua road
3. Major road construction + surfacing of Soroti-Dokolo-Lira road.
4. Several recently constructed health centres in northern Uganda

President Museveni's plan to modernise the country was published in the New Vision. It outlined key developments of manpower, road, rail,electricity and oil industry. In all these plans, Northern Uganda featured prominently.

Please do not mislead the world about the situation in Uganda.

Robert Egwea

Joe Powell said...

You might be interested in reading the full document outlining the formation of the UPF: