LRA Revival Fears

Panic spreads as government says rebels may be regrouping.

LRA Revival Fears

Panic spreads as government says rebels may be regrouping.

Wednesday, 10 June, 2009

Recent statements by government officials that former rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, may be regrouping have reignited fears that Uganda’s two decades of war could start again.

Ugandan army spokesman Major Felix Kulayigye told IWPR that the military is investigating rumours that the LRA might return to northern Uganda from its current location in the area of Garamba National Park in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

“Our men are very busy … investigating whether the reports we are getting are true, and then we shall take immediate action,” said Kulayigye. “We don’t want anybody now to cause havoc in the north.”

Panic swept across the region after Walter Ochora, the resident district commissioner of Gulu, alleged that two former rebel commanders had been secretly trying to organise former LRA fighters. One has since been apprehended, said Ochora.

“[Our] security committee has got a report that two former senior LRA commanders have been meeting former rebels in Cerelendu, a suburb near Gulu town … with the aim [of causing] havoc,” said Ochora.

“[The two] who are behind this should surrender and report to my office before we hunt them.”

Those allegedly trying to regroup may want to help Kony and his fighters, who are still in the Garamba Park area after being pursued for three months by the Ugandan army which attacked LRA camps last December.

The attack came after LRA leader Joseph Kony failed for the third time in 2008 to sign a peace agreement with Uganda that had been two years in negotiations.

A former LRA fighter, who spoke to IWPR on condition of anonymity, confirmed that some former rebels are returning to the bush, despite having been granted amnesty, because they claim they are being persecuted by the government.

“Many of our colleagues are disappearing nearly every day,” he said, claiming that the Ugandan government was taking revenge against the former fighters.

“A sensible man cannot wait to be killed just like a hen. It is better for one to go back to the bush and fight.”

Kulayigye denied the charge that the government was hunting former rebels.

Resident district commissioner in the northern town of Pader, Santo Okot Lapolo, said thousands of ex-rebels were pardoned by the government – and some, he believed, are planning to rejoin LRA ranks.

“What we know is that these people are many. They can even be more that 100. They hold their meetings secretly,” said Lapolo. “We hear that they want to fulfill the LRA mission.”

Lapolo urged former rebels to resist calls for them to return to battle, “Northern Ugandans should not join the LRA to fight the government. Enough is enough. What people should dream about now is how to rebuild this region after the war.”

The possibility of an LRA revival worries Evelyn Okao from the Lira area. “You cannot now eat and [let] the food rest in your stomach,” she said. “The government should do something before the LRA regroups again to kill us.”

Alex Alobo, who lived through two decades of war with the LRA, said he and others would back the Ugandan army against the LRA.

“We shall not be allowed to be driven by the LRA anymore,” said Alobo. “We are going to [get] revenge against the LRA for raping and killing our people.”

Others in northern Uganda said they want the government to act quickly.

“The concerned authorities should understand that we are tired of this useless war,” said Sam Ayo. “We don’t want to go back to squalid refugee camps, where we have undergone traumatic experiences. This war, this killing must come to an end.”

Ayo said he and others in his community would back government troops against the rebels because of the devastation that the LRA brought before.

“We are ready to sacrifice our children for the sake of peace in this region,” he said, suggesting that young people would join the army. “We shall not wait to see our wives and children butchered like cows like it has been in the past.”

Bill Oketch is an IWPR-trained reporter.

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