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Is UPDF justified to enter Sudan?

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th March 2002 03:00 AM

At the centre of this circus is the credibility of Sudan which had claimed it had ended support to LRA

At the centre of this circus is the credibility of Sudan which had claimed it had ended support to LRA

By Emmy Allio TENSION is high along the Sudan-Uganda border. In the morning of February 23, Agoro Market in Agoro trading centre was swollen with cattle dealers. It was auction day and indeed, a day for merry-making. For years, Agoro had been immune to the insecurity that gripped most of northern Uganda. Agoro county in Lamwo county, Kitgum district, is a food basket and renown for producing wheat, rice, maize, beans and potatoes. Here, Sudanese bring cattle for sale. The centre, now swollen by over 8,000 displaced people, is located on the foot of a chain of hills that form the boundary between Sudan and Uganda. On February 23, at around 8:00a.m, Agoro was raided by about 300 Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters commanded by Joseph Kony himself. LRA came with a Sudanese militia group, the Equatoria Defence Forces (EDF) led by Martin Kenyi. Both groups are pro-Sudan government and committed to fighting Col. John Garang’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which has since 1983, fought the Sudan government. Kony, reportedly dressed in a new military uniform, was accompanied by two video camera crews, local residents in Agoro told The New Vision last week. Agoro, had only 25 homeguards, who resisted the LRA raid. “The resistance by the homeguards enabled the population to flee from the pillaging rebels. We are proud of them,” the sub-county chief, Patrick Oruni said. He added that the rebels raided the parishes of Lopulingi, Ngachino, Poba and Rudi. They looted foodstuffs, clothes, drugs and any valuable items from 130 homes and 92 shops, clinics and bars. They also killed 24 cows, which were part of the 58 Ankole cows brought to the area by government officials as part of the programme to restock cattle in the north. The aftermath of the rebel attack was marked by wild feasting in Agoro as the meat from the dead cows sold as low as sh500 a kilogramme. Following pressure from UPDF, Kony released the 48 captives he had taken from Agoro to transport his “booty.” In hot pursuit, UPDF followed LRA into Sudan. Since then, more and more army units have been deployed along the border stretching from Pader, Kitgum to Kotido border. “We believe that LRA is gathering food to prepare for attacks on either Kitgum or Pader districts. It is our duty to confine them to within Sudan,” UPDF sources told The New Vision. On March 1, the UPDF claimed to have killed at least 100 LRA, part of those who raided Agoro. In the battle near Lubone, 10km inside Sudan, UPDF lost a captain and two soldiers. This UPDF entry into Sudan, no doubt, has added fuel to fire. At the centre of this circus is the credibility of the Sudan government, which had claimed that it had ended support to LRA. Facts on the ground are that LRA were infact re-trained by Sudanese government forces into a better army. LRA and EDF are the cannon fodders in Sudan government’s war against the SPLA. At the same time, LRA and EDF are viewed by UPDF as the enemies to the development of northern Uganda. Over the weekend, sources said SPLA moved thousands of its troops and equipment from Magwi to face Sudan government forces, who control the garrison town of Torit, about 150km from Uganda border. Thrice in the past, SPLA has failed to capture Torit. SPLA sees LRA as its real problem and to dislodge government forces from Torit, it must first destroy LRA camp at Lubanga Tek, located between Juba and Torit. However, Lubanga Tek could also be the ultimate target of the UPDF. What are Kony’s chances of surviving in such circumstances? What is also possible is that the old pattern of war is now dead. In the first place, LRA is now classified as a terrorist organisation. Any open support Sudan government might give to LRA will automatically include them into abetting terrorism. Secondly, in the past, when the Sudan government was supporting LRA, the now defunct West Nile Bank Front (WNBF) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), it was fashionable for the three rebel groups to attack simultaneously. “Their aim used to be to out-stretch us as we fought in the north, west and West Nile. But, now with WNBF and ADF gone, we have only LRA. Kony must be destroyed and this is the year to end this Kony phenomenon,” a senior UPDF officer said. “We succeeded in wiping out ADF from its source in Congo, we also do not see a problem ending this Kony dream. We also know that with Kony gone, the north will prosper and catch up with the rest of Uganda in development,” the officer added. Last week, army spokesman Major Shaban Bantariza said hot pursuit is allowed under international law. He is backed by positive sentiments of the population at the border, who are asking the army to take the war to Kony’s base inside the Sudan and end it there. “They are wasting time here. They should cross to Sudan and finish off the Otong tong group, who are just behind those hills preparing to come to kill us,” said Samson Okwera, who was one of the 48 people rescued from the LRA. Otong tong is a Luo word meaning “cut cut” and is used by the Acholi of Sudan and Uganda to refer to LRA as cutters of human beings. However, other residents fear that the recent semblance of diplomatic normalcy between Khartoum and Kampala could be damaged. Is the army justified to enter Sudan? The Sudanese charge d’affairs to Uganda, Mohammad Sirajuddin, last week declined to comment to the press, on UPDF incursion into his country. However, he only talked about a “new phase” in Uganda-Sudan relations. The New Vision had sought to know whether UPDF operations inside his country were part of a “deal” arranged by the two countries to crush Kony rebels.

Is UPDF justified to enter Sudan?

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