THIS is to respond to the article in The Monitor titled â€˜Cardinal warns of genocide in the northâ€™. It is reported that in his Easter message, Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala warned â€œof a genocide in the north if the international community does not intervene to end the warâ€ (The Monitor, April 09,
Minister of Defence
THIS is to respond to the article in The Monitor titled â€˜Cardinal warns of genocide in the northâ€™. It is reported that in his Easter message, Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala warned â€œof a genocide in the north if the international community does not intervene to end the warâ€ (The Monitor, April 09, 2004).
The question that immediately comes to mind is, who is planning genocide in the north and who can carry it out? There are two protagonists in the north â€” the Government and the terrorists.
Before answering this question, it is important that we all have a common understanding of the words used by the Cardinal in his homily especially the word â€œgenocideâ€. Although the term has attracted considerable debate in its definition and coverage, I will present it in its most commonly and universally understood and used sense. I will reserve my comment on the notion of â€œthe international community [intervening] to end the warâ€ for another day.
According to S. D. Steinl, the word â€œgenocideâ€ is of recent derivation; etymologically, it combines the Greek for group, tribe-genos, with the Latin for killing-cide. The word was coined after events in Europe in 1933-45 called for a legal concept to describe the deliberate destruction of large groups especially European Jews.
The United Nations passed a resolution by the General Assembly affirming that â€œgenocide is a crime under international law which the civilized world condemns, and for the commission of which principals and accomplices are punishable.â€ This culminated in the signing of the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide.
More recently, the international community adopted what is popularly called The Rome Statute for International Criminal Court in which the term is defined in Article 6 as follows:
Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
So it is clear that genocide is the systematic and planned killing of an entire national, racial, or ethnic group. The critical element is the presence of an â€œintent to destroyâ€, which can be either â€œin whole or in partâ€, groups defined in terms of nationality, ethnicity, race or religion.
Which of the protagonists in northern Uganda has the â€œintent to destroyâ€ the tribal or ethnic group there, I ask the Cardinal and all those who have been talking of genocide in the north. Certainly not the Movement Government! He that alleges that the Government has such intentions should come forth and present the evidence. This would run in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary. The performance of the Government in the last 18 years is self-evident. That the populations run to UPDF units whenever they feel insecure is clear testimony or open acknowledgement that the people have confidence in the demonstrated capacity and intention of the government to protect and not to destroy them.
Of course the terrorist group, the Lordâ€™s Resistance Army, may have such intentions. Their actions in mutilating people and the various massacres lend credence to that belief. But do they have the ability to execute such a plan? Clearly not! The LRA does not have an overall political-military strategy against the government.
A political strategy is essential to guerrilla warfare and a serious guerrilla organisation would have very close affiliation with the people who would support them and provide them with sanctuary, supplies and information. When the guerrillas resort to terrorist tactics, however, the peopleâ€™s loyalty wavers and they co-operate with government forces instead.
Guerrilla warfare demands extraordinary leadership at all levels â€” leadership that is able to attract, organize and inspire their followers while instilling in them a military discipline.
The LRA obviously does not answer to this billing! It is, therefore, weak and disorganized and unable to launch let alone sustain a military campaign against the UPDF.
Therefore, even if they so wished, they do not have the ability to execute a genocide against any of the tribal or ethnic groups in the north.
The UPDF has demonstrated its superiority over the bandits even if the bandits have had residual capacity to commit crime. Indeed the International Criminal Court is investigating the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes and the Uganda government is fully co-operating with them.
This, however, is different from capacity to commit a genocide in the north.
The UPDF would stop any attempt by the bandits to execute such a plan. Although what is happening in the north is, therefore, not genocide, it is critical to acknowledge the gravity of the situation there. The people there are facing tremendous suffering and difficulties to unacceptable levels. The fact that there is no possibility of genocide now must not diminish the appropriate appreciation by Government and the international community of the suffering the people of the north have faced at the hands of these bandits. They have been subjected to murder or even massacres like in the recent case of Barlonyo and Atiak, Acholi Pii and Lokung earlier on at the hands of the LRA. They continue to live in Internally Displaced Peopleâ€™s camps where the conditions are unacceptably poor (they are crowded, have little food, very limited medical care, etc).
The Government is doing everything possible to bring this to an end. In Teso region, the people have begun to return to their homes. We are working hard to create conditions in the Lango and Acholi regions conducive to the return of normalcy to the area including return to their homes by all the populations currently in IDP camps. The international community has been very supportive in the provision of relief to the people. The Government is most grateful for this support. All we ask of you Ugandans and the international community at large is your total support of the continued effort by the Government to pacify the area as soon as possible.
Who Would Want To Commit Genocide In Northern Uganda?