Saturday, October 17, 2009

A new chapter?

After predicting more than a year ago that the now rebels-for-hire of the Lord's Resistance Army, led by their maniacal leader, Joseph Kony, eventually could be used against Darfur rebels, it appears to be coming a reality.

In a story published this Saturday in The Independent, and featuring the above photo by Reuters, Africa Correspondent Daniel Howden quotes a South Sudan military man as saying that LRA has entered South Darfur.

"We have confirmed that the LRA are there and they have clashed with the local population," said Major-General Kuol Deim Kuol.

South Sudanese officials are prone to saying such things based on extremely flimsy evidence. They eagerly make statements that call attention to the nefarious and always duplicitous dealings of the Sudan government in Khartoum.

That said, South Sudan knows what it's talking about since the south battled Sudan for more than 20 years. They know well that Sudan loves to use proxy militias, such as the janjaweed, to fight its bloody battles against defenseless civilian populations.

The LRA fits the Sudan ideal since it specializes in attacking, mutilating, raping and destroying the softest of civilian targets, just as it has done for 20 years in northern Uganda and for the past three years in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, two of which were during the farcical peace talks in with Uganda, held in Juba, South Sudan.

While I remain skeptical that the LRA will be actively involved in what remains of the war in Darfur, I think the LRA is being positioned for that possibility by the Sudan government, which may again be arming and supplying the LRA.

The region south and west of Nyala, south Darfur's largest town, and extending into southeastern Chad, has been the province of Darfur rebel groups such as the Justice and Equality Movement. The JEM remains a strong threat to the Sudan government, having conducted the wild raid on Omdurman in February 2008, an attack that shocked Khartoum and revealed its glaring vulnerabilities.

With Kony's militia-for-hire in the area, Sudan has a perfect foil to conduct attacks on civilian targets in south Darfur and southeastern Chad, which is where Darfur rebels have found refuge for regrouping and resupply.

This will allow Sudan to tell the world that the war in Darfur is over, when in truth it is not.

My stronger sense is that Kony's move into the Darfur region is more for him to obtain the weaponry and supplies he will need for Sudan's likely efforts to disrupt the coming elections in South Sudan in 2010.

This will be a prelude to what could be an all-out civil war with horrendous civilian casualties as South Sudan moves to its independence vote in 2011, as called for in Sudan's 2005 peace agreement.

Sudan has used the LRA like this before, having given the LRA aid and comfort in South Sudan during the long 20-year war with Uganda. Sudan used the LRA also to fight south Sudan's army, which to the delight of Khartoum, made the region a veritable hell-on-earth where four armies fought: the LRA, the Ugandan army, the Sudan army and the South Sudan army.

Likewise, a consensus is growing that the recent fighting in the eastern South Sudan province of Jonglei is much more than bloody ethnic clashes over cows that it is portrayed to be. Rather, it is part of a calculated effort by the Sudan government to destabilize the region and prevent the development of the region's oil, which South Sudan needs desperately.

While this is speculative, it is based on well-established patterns by Sudan and the horrific history of the LRA. One can only hope that people like the U.S.'s envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, is cognizant of all of this as he flies around the world trying to negotiate a "deal" with Sudan.

The sad reality is that while the world knows all too well the death and destruction that follows that LRA wherever it goes, nothing is being done about the LRA other than a lot of deep sighing and muttering.

As the numbers of dead and mutilated and raped continue to grow and as the LRA continues to grow increasingly malignant, those among the international community, such as the Dutch, the Danes, Scandinavians, and others who supplied the LRA from 2006 to 2008, saying that it was necessary for peace, should think again about the blood of innocent people that now covers their hands.

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