OPENING STATEMENT OF THE LRA PEACE DELEGATION
JUBA - SOUTHERN SUDAN (16th JULY 2006)
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First published: July 19, 2006
Peace Talks or Peace Jokes- : A Gideon Analysis
OPENING STATEMENT OF THE LRA PEACE DELEGATION
GOVERNMENT OF UGANDA'S POSITION AT THE TALKS
JUBA - SOUTHERN SUDAN
(16th JULY 2006)
Your Excellency, Lt. Gen. Dr. Riek Machar, Vice President of the Autonomous state of Southern Sudan, and mediator to the Uganda peace negotiations.
Honorable envoys to the Uganda peace process,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the LRM/LRA high command and my delegation and on my own behalf, I wish to take this opportunity to once again thank H.E the President of Southern Sudan, Gen. Salva Kiir and his Vice President, Lt. Gen. Dr. Riek Machar, and through them the entire people of Southern Sudan, for affording us this rare opportunity for a negotiated resolution of the conflict that have kept the two parties at arms reach for nearly twenty years.
We are aware that you have done this at great costs and sincerely hope that your great sacrifice and forbearance shall not be in vain; and that the two compatriot sides shall reward you with the successful accomplishment of the peace talks you have so painstakingly sponsored.
Your Excellency, it is not true, as has been suggested, that the LRM/LRA has no political agenda. To say so is to underrate the problem at hand and to give the false impression that LRM/A has no cause for its armed rebellion.
Failure to express its Political Agenda loudly in intellection form does not mean the lack of it. Until now, we have been speaking through action.
We now want to use this forum, space and time to express our agenda in words.
Let the world and all the stakeholders grasp this opportunity to hear us out and be the final judges. In broad terms, Your Excellency, the immediate cause of the conflict and war between the LRM/A and the NRM government is the perception by our people in the northern and eastern Uganda of injustice and unfairness in the treatment we were and still are, receiving from the government.
In order for us to get to a reasonable stage of this negotiation, we would implore the NRM government to search its soul to see whether it has been fair and reasonable in its treatment of the northern and eastern regions of the country.
It is the inescapable duty of the NRM government not only to give, but to be seen to give fair and equal treatment to the northern and eastern regions of the country, relative to the other regions of the country.
Your Excellency, I would like to repeat what I said last Friday during the opening ceremony that in spite of all the bitterness engendered by nearly two decades of marginilisation, abuse, torture and other forms of oppression and suppression of the people of northern and eastern Uganda, the LRA are not only desirous, but committed to arriving at a just and lasting peace in Uganda in general, but in northern and eastern Uganda, in particular.
We feel it would be an act of betrayal if we did not harken the hue and cry of our people to honestly and committedly submit ourselves to the process of finding a meaningful, just and lasting peace.
We hope that the government of Uganda shall frame the same mindset and reciprocate this desire and commitment.
History and posterity shall judge us harshly if we loose this opportunity your government has so magnanimously and devotedly put at our disposal.
Your Excellency, last Friday, I pointed out that on our part, we shall seize this great opportunity to accomplish certain objectives. Today, I want to repeat that it is the desire of my delegation that:-
Both sides should get to the root causes of the conflicts and wars in Uganda generally; but in northern and eastern Uganda particularly in order to appropriate recommendations for their resolution.
We give our side of the story against extremely negative and malicious distortions, misinformation and outright lies about the role of the LRA in the conflict,and to a no less extent, against the people of northern Uganda.
We state our position on the vagaries of injustice, inequality, corruption, abuse of office, etc.
We clearly put our positions on the conditions for not only laying down our arms, but also for achieving a just and lasting peace and stability in the whole country in general and the northern and eastern Uganda, in particular.
We appeal to NRM to stop its elaborate propaganda machinery that has caused the international community to treat the LRA with absolute scorn, disdain and contempt, based on prejudices and misgivings.
We promise to commit ourselves to the peace negotiation for the attainment of a just and lasting peace.
The root causes and development of the conflict.
Your Excellency, the root causes of the conflict in northern and eastern Uganda can be categorised into:-
a. Immediate causes and
b. Consequential causes
A. The immediate causes of the conflict
Your Excellency, the immediate causes of the current conflict in northern and eastern Uganda can be attributed, but are not limited to the following occurrences exclusively blamed on the conduct of the NRM:
As a matter of fact, it can be said without any fear of contradiction that the LRA is an offshoot of those forces.
Your Excellency, as soon as NRM came into power, it became obvious that its target was not to integrate, but to finish off members of the former armies. It also became clear that it was their mission to terminate any semblance of human resource that might in future pose a military threat to the NRM hegemony.
NRM soldiers combed the villages of northern and eastern Uganda in the most vicious and gruesome manner never before conceived even during Dictator Idi Amin's regime.
Scores of young men, both former soldiers and even those who had not been in the army, were arrested, tortured and either killed or damped in prison cells without trial, under the most squalid conditions.
They were sarcastically referred to as "lodgers". Many of them died under those conditions while those who came out were either maimed, castrated/impotent or disabled in one way or another.
Other worse atrocious and evil acts were committed against our people.
Our mothers, sisters and wives were raped in front of us and in some extreme cases men were sodomised in public and in front of their family members. This became infamously known as "Tek Gungu".
One of such incidents was the case of the sub-county chief of Patiko, Mze Owiny……who consequently committed suicide.
NRM soldiers went to the extent of cutting men's anuses with razor blades and pouring paraffin therein to enlarge them to fit their sex organs.
Evidence of all these abound, but common decency compels us to keep the victims anonymous as this phenomenon was hitherto unknown to the northern and eastern tribes of Uganda and remains anathema even to talk about it.
In such circumstances, able-bodied men were left with the devil's choice and used their survival instinct to form themselves into armed opposition against what they perceived as an occupation force that had come to kill and embarrass them and to destroy their properties. The second reason is that when NRM came to power, it made it clear that no soldier of the former armies had any chance of being considered for integration into the national army however well qualified and able one was.
When the NRM came to power, their soldiers raided our livestock in broad day light and took them away.
The government has tried to explain it away by blaming it on the Karimojong and the international community seems to have bought into this bogey, deception and escapism.
Much as the Karimojong may have participated, they could only have done so as proxies of the NRM. This was underlined by the sheer magnitude, ferocity and sophistication with which the raid was prosecuted.
We had hitherto lived with Karimojong cattle rustlers.
We know them. But we also know how they go about the business. The Karimojong have never owned nor operated a helicopter. But helicopters were used to identify our animals hidden in the deepest of forests.
The Karimojong never had army uniforms. But most of our animals were taken by men in NRM uniforms.
Your Excellency, more fundamentally, some of our people followed their animals to the army barracks where the NRM soldiers took them and found them there.
In one sad incident in Soroti, an old man by the name Oluka, who had more than 2,000 head of cattle, died of heart attack after loosing all his animals to NRM soldiers who took them in broad day light.
When his brother, Eraku followed the animals to the barracks and called some of the oxen by their pet names "Enyamolot", the animals came running towards him in a craze.
The old man never returned from the NRM barracks and was never seen again for causing embarrassment to the "new owners" of his animals.
Your Excellency, the unprecedented level of cattle rustling witnessed in the eastern and northern parts of the country meant abject poverty to the people of the two regions; school fees for their children and social amenities for the people could not be afforded.
The communities remained socially demoralised.
Parents could no longer afford bride price for their sons.
In frustration and annoyance, many took to armed rebellion.
Mutual respect is the bed rock of our society. Even if you hold a mean opinion about any person, family or society, you are not allowed to vent that out in public. Because of this, the Nilotics of the east and especially the north, were seriously revolted to hear of the NRM using certain words to describe their elders and whole tribes and ethnic groups.
When the NRM came to power, they did not show any respect for our elders without some of whose magnanimity and political naivety they might not have come to power.
The general hostile attitude the NRM/A leadership displayed and continue to display, left no doubt in our minds that northerners were a target for national hatred and humiliation. Northerners, some of whom had worked so hard to bring, not only independence to Uganda, but the liberation of Africa, were repeatedly insulted, ridiculed and variously referred to as "ghosts", "primitive idiots", "backward and politically bankrupt fools", "criminal gangs of the Obote clique", "Barbarians, killers, swine, rapists, etc".
It became the deliberate policy of the NRM/A to paint the whole of our ethnic group as evil and to erase our contribution to our nation building and to the cause of Pan Africanism.
How could people, who had for the better part of post colonial and part of post independence Uganda, been employed as our herdsmen begin calling us names? How could we accept to be insulted by people we know by their communal sexual and other habits to be most socially backward? And yet, because of the courtesy that forms the bed rock of our culture, we never openly despised nor reviled them, whatever level of indignation we felt against them!!
Against that backdrop, would any body in his sane mind say that the people of eastern and northern Uganda had no immediate cause to rebel against the present government?
B. The Consequential Causes of the Conflict
Your Excellency, the war in the north might have ended if the government in power had bothered to address their immediate causes.
However, the unfolding of events in the intervening years exacerbated and aggravated the situation. These are the events that are described here as consequential causes of the war.
They are events that led to the escalation and intensification of the war and the attendant ugly consequences.
Peace and security concerns and the IDP camps
Your Excellency, in the context of the conflict in northern and eastern Uganda and by extension, Southern Sudan, peace can only best be understood from the perspective of the suffering people now crammed together in the Internally Displaced Persons' (IDP) Camps. Upwards of 1.5 million people now live in squalid and sub-human conditions in the IDP Camps across the Acholi, Lango and Teso sub-regions.
lPeace and security.
By definition, peace is the absence of war or violence. The creation or the presence of conditions for war or violence is therefore the very anti-thesis of peace. War or violence itself directly results from conflict between or among persons or communities. Where conditions for conflict exist, war or violence is the unavoidable result.
The threshold for conflict that may result in war of course differs from community to community. Reasonability of the cause of any conflict should therefore not be a big deal in the recognition of the fact of a current war or conflict. What is important is the duty to address the conditions that have brought about the war or conflict.
Your Excellency, peace per se is not sufficient and meaningful. It must be a just and lasting peace. The concept of just and lasting peace comes into play when you consider the prevalence or provision of all conditions that will make all stakeholders in a state to voluntarily and willingly submit to the existence of peace.
Otherwise, peace which is procured through or by fraud is neither just nor lasting.
If it is procured through or by suppression and oppression, then it is not peace. For example, in a situation where, in the case of the NRM/A, the state uses its machinery of coercion rather than appealing to the subjects' sense of approval of its legitimacy, to create a state of absence of war or violence, no just and lasting peace can result from it. It is the same thing if the state uses its resources to bribe or exercise undue influence on some opinion leaders in society to hoodwink the community into a state of subservience and quiet.
The IDP camps
Your Excellency, the government of Uganda has been telling the world that the creation of the IDP camps was a voluntary and spontaneous response by the population to the threats posed by the atrocities of the LRA, so that they may get protection from the gracious government soldiers.
On the other hand, it is the case that the creation of the camps was a deliberate military strategy by the NRM government to deny the LRA access to a population that had common concerns with it about NRM's politics of marginilisation of the east and the north.
Your Excellency, the creation also afforded the NRM an opportunity to complete its long-term programme of completely destroying the socio-economic foundation of the "barbaric", "primitive", "backward" but "politically impudent" Nilotic tribes of the north and the east.
The first phase of this programme had been accomplished by the total annihilation of the livestock population and destruction of social and economic infrastructure and properties in the two regions.
Your Excellency, there is ample evidence to support this analysis and assertions. It is an open secret that there has been a long-term plan of the NRM leadership to bring an end to what was called the military and political dominance of the country by the northerners since independence.
When the NRA defeated the UNLA, they had succeeded in phase one of their long-term goal. In order to make a fine job of that and achieve the second goal, it was necessary to make the population socially and economically despondent and desperate. Since the economy of the north and the east was founded on livestock and the social mantle of the people gravitated around their animals, the elimination of animals would make them poor, dependent and demoralised.
The creation of the IDP camps had all hallmarks of achieving this because it would at the same time rapture the cultural fabrics, which made them especially the Acholi, so proud and confident.
So, Your Excellency, after his election victory in 1996, President Museveni made a public appeal to the international community to assist the government of Uganda to vacate the populations in northern and eastern Uganda to IDP camps in order to allow them space to fight and decisively defeat the LRA. The ugly head of the IDP camps and the evils associated with it stated to manifest itself with the first IDP camp in Bweyale, Masindi district.
In November 1996, after giving an ultimatum to the people of the region to vacate their villages and move to the camps, the government demonstrated its seriousness by removing the whole population of Anaka sub-county and herding them and their livestock across the Nile to Bweyale in Masindi district.
They were given strict orders not to take along with them any belongings such as foodstuffs and other valuables.
Later on, the NRA soldiers looted everything left behind. Even iron sheets were removed from rooftops and ferried away by the UPDF soldiers.
Your Excellency, to appreciate the magnitude and the gravity of the exodus, the testimony of the Bishop of northern Uganda, His Lordship Benon Ogwal, is most instructive.
By Devine providence, the Bishop happened to be on his way from Kampala to Gulu through the Karuma Bridge and had the rare opportunity of witnessing the movement of the population and their livestock.
According to him, he had to wait for close to five hours for the population to cross the bridge with over 1,000,000 animals - cattle, goats and sheep.
On arrival at Bweyale, the people were shown where to put up camps, but were not allowed to keep their animalswhich were taken away by the UPDF soldiers. Fervent reports to government authorities only attracted retributions.
On the other hand, in other parts of the region, villages were moved and concentrated in camps around military barracks and detaches.
In 2002, a tougher order was given for people to vacate.
A 48- hour ultimatum was given for every body to vacate the villages living every thing behind. However, even before the expiry of the ultimatum, the UPDF launched ferocious bombardment of the villages using helicopter gunship, killing several people and destroying several properties.
Examples abound. The camps encircled the military barracks and detaches and became human shields against LRA attacks.
Your Excellency, the development of the conflict to the level, intensity and complexity presented by the present state of affairs can be traced to this treacherous and cowardly scheme by the UPDF.
While the LRA does not deny that there were incidents of atrocities committed, it is not true that most of them were committed as a policy of the LRA and or with the approval of the high command.
First of all, because the enemy used the population as human shield, whenever the LRA attacked the UPDF positions death of civilians in cross fire was inevitable.
Secondly, it became a UPDF policy to manipulate and militate the population against the LRA. The people who were expected to support the cause of the LRA and some of whom had originally encouraged the LRA to go to the bush became allies and spies of the UPDF against the LRA. They betrayed and revealed LRA positions to the UPDF. Eventually they were armed with spears and arrows to fight the LRA. These local fighters were later organised into formal fighting groups called "Arrow Boys" and "Amuka" respectively.
In addition to the above, the frustrations and dehumanising effects of isolation from the population - without company, food and other forms of support - must be considered when assessing the reaction of the LRA to these new challenges.
Fighters in the field, who found themselves in these situations, reacted in proportion to what faced them without instruction from the high command. Some notorious allies and spies of the UPDF had to be eliminated. However, we know that many of the atrocities blamed on the LRA were committed by the UPDF, a typical strategy they used in the Luweero triangle when they fought the Obote government.
It will be remembered that one of the NRA generals one time boastfully said that during the Luweero triangle war, in order to discredit the Obote regime, they would dress in UPC and UNLA uniform, come and wreck havoc on a village and withdraw.
The next morning, they would come back to the same village dressed differently and tell the villagers that the atrocities had been committed by Obote's soldiers.
However, some of the atrocities were just done blatantly and blamed on the LRA. A clear example is the Barlonyo massacre. We understand that the soldiers who committed the same were dressed in brand new uniforms recently designed for the Arrow and Amuka Boys, not even known to us at the time.
How did the LRA get the uniforms? Since that time, has anybody proved that the LRA uses the same uniform? More investigations should be made into this one incident.
Insincerity and untrustworthiness
Your Excellency, the present government came to power with a dirty record of insincerity shrouded in the failed Nairobi Peace Agreement.
True to character, the NRM government has used the same method of insincerity to renege on so many agreements with so many other fighting forces, including with the LRA, when several times they have used peace initiatives to either kill the LRA leaders or lure them out of the bush as exemplified by the last Betty Bigombe peace initiative of 2004 when Brigadiers Banya, Onen Kamdulu, Sam Kolo and scores of others were lured out of the bush. In our culture, a man's true worth and honour is assessed by his ability to keep his word. We hope that this time around this peace talks is not going to turn into peace tricks again.
Partisan army and other forces
The UPDF has maintained all the characteristics of the NRA, the guerilla force it was molded out of. The Bush War High Command has remained intact.
In the command structure, besides General Museveni, all the top Generals - Lt. Gen. Elly Tumwine. Lt. Gen. Caleb Akandwanho, a.k.a Salim Saleh, Lt. Gen. David Tinyefuza and Lt. Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Lt. Gen. Ivan Koreta, all come from the small Bahima ethnic group of the Banyankole tribe, which constitutes less than 1% of the population of Uganda.
Apart from that, all the Major Generals, except a few, come from either Banyankole or Bakiga tribes of western Uganda. Again, most of the officer cops of the UPDF come from western Uganda.
This trend has not stopped with the army, but has transcended the forces like the police, intelligence organisations and the prisons.
For the record, the police is being headed by a Muhima -Maj. Gen. Kaale Kayihura, although theInternal Security Organisation and the External Security Organisation are headed by persons from other tribes,
Real power lies in the hands of their juniors who are from "the right ethnic group".
The Uganda armed Forces have now been clearly divided into two - the Presidential Guard Brigade (PGB), constituted mainly of the Bahima tribes men with the most modern and sophisticated arms and ammunitions and the ordinary armed forces.
Whereas the lowest rank of the former receives over Shs1,000,000 per month plus hefty allowances, the rest of the UPDF, including officers, receive far less than Shs100,000!
As a result, the army does not reflect a national character.
It is ethnic, partisan and pledges its loyalty to President Museveni personally and not to the nation. No wonder it has been used as an instrument of oppression and suppression, especially during election times.
National unity, culture of tolerance and protection of marginalised people
Your Excellency, time has come for Uganda to recommence the forward march towards national unity. Our immediate post-independence national political agenda was based on the rhetoric of one nation, one people under one leader.
This political theme proceeded on very well until the time bomb planted by the colonialists in the lost counties in 1900 and natured during the Lancaster Constitutional Conference in 1961, became full blown and exploded, triggering the 1966 crisis. But even so, apart from the problems with the secessionists in the central region of the country, the government of the day maintained the agenda for political unity until its overthrow in 1971.
When he took over the reigns of power, even with his fascist military dictatorship, Amin never pursued a deliberate policy to keep the country divided along ethnic, tribal or sectarian and parochial lines.
The clear emergence of a dichotomy between the Bantu and the Nilotics threatens the survival of Uganda as a country and must be arrested.
This has unfortunately been used as a gimmick to win political cohesiveness and capital to galvanise the political hold on to power by some politicians, not only in Uganda, but also to promote regional ambitions within the Great Lakes Region and Africa as a whole.
Not only the power sharing arrangement in government, but also appointments in all government departments, statutory authorities and commissions and parastatals, show clear disparity and bias against the Nilotics. Out of the 69 recent ministerial appointees, 26 (about 37%) are from western Uganda alone.
Never before in the history of Uganda has any government been so fervent about the theme of ethnic difference as a way of gaining cheap political popularity at the expense of national unity. The tendency has gotten worse over the years and has become the modus operandi and anchor of the present day politics in Uganda.
lPeace and reconciliation.
From the beginning, the leaders of NRM have never put any programme in place for national reconciliation and lasting peace. After the Luweero war that caused the death of over 300,000 people with massive destruction to properties, a much skewed account has been given for responsibility about it.
The atrocities have been wholly blamed on the UNLA in utter disregard of the role played in it by the NRA.
The bones of the victims of the war have been displayed to win international sympathy and to show seeds of hatred against northerners. What has been forgotten is to isolate the remains of the UNLA soldiers killed by NRA and the civilians who may have died in cross fire.
Although the UNLA had helicopter gunship during the war, helicopter gunship has been the main counter-insurgency weapon in the northern and eastern Uganda rebellion, unlike in the Luweero Triangle war, where President Obote forbade their use on the ground that it was a civil war, being fought within the civilian population. Whole villages were indiscriminately mowed down resulting into mass deaths and destruction of properties to civilian populations.
The use of such words as "we massacred them", "we butchered them"; etc has not helped the cause of reconciliation. It has only helped to show seeds of tribal and ethnic hatred among the people of Uganda. The government has turned into an agent provocateur, encouraging tribal hatred across the nation, especially against Nilotics. All this has not augured well with the spirit of national reconciliation and lasting peace.
This may serve the short term political interests of a few, but it is certainly a recipe for political catastrophe for the posterity of our nation.
We as Ugandans cannot allow this to continue with impunity. The nation must be called to order.
Rule of law and protection of the Constitution
The underlying principle behind the rule of law is that the rulers and the ruled shall be governed in all their conduct of affairs according to the laws of the country.
All these laws have their genesis in the Constitution, which is the Supreme law of the land.
The bed rock of this principle is the dictate of Separation of Power into the three arms of government; that is to say the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.
The Rule of Law recognises that the Constitution, being the Supreme Law of the land, as sacrosanct. This means it should be treated like and oracle which should not be tampered with without compunction. In regard to due process of the law, the rule of law enjoins every person, however majestic, to be equal before the law and to submit to it without exceptions.
The principle of the Rule of Law has been more of a song in Uganda than in practice.
Worst of all, the Constitution has not received the due respect envisaged by the people of Uganda at its promulgation.
The Legislature has been turned into a mere hand maiden and rubber stamp of the Executive. The work of the work of the Judiciary has been interfered with through intimidation.
International law and peaceful co-existence with other nations
Your Excellency, as citizens of Uganda, we view with absolute regret the incessant apparently western inspired destabilisation activities of neighbouring countries. Not only do we think that Uganda with its limited resources and donor funded budget cannot afford to indulge itself in such romantic political fantasies and reckless military.
Peace Talks or Peace Jokes- : A Gideon Analysis
OPENING STATEMENT OF THE LRA PEACE DELEGATION
GOVERNMENT OF UGANDA'S POSITION AT THE TALKS
more from author >>
First published: July 19, 2006
Gideon Munaabi is a journalist and public relations practitioner with Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. He has been and continues writing widely for different publication locally and internationally. He is a founding member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and is currently the chairman of the organisation.