“The L.R.A has never attacked US interests, why do we care? I hear that even the Ugandans are looking to stop searching for him, since they no longer view him as a threat, so why do we?”--Donald Trump
GULU-UGANDA: There was a recent article about Uganda’s notorious rebel outfit, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony in The New York Times in addition to my own commentary on The Black Star News.
The New York Times reports that the Trump administration says the LRA is no longer seen as a “regional threat” and that the U.S. may scale down the number of its troops hunting for them in the jungles of Central African Republic (CAR).
“The L.R.A has never attacked US interests, why do we care? I hear that even the Ugandans are looking to stop searching for him, since they no longer view him as a threat, so why do we?”, The New York Times reports a Trump aide asking, in a letter to the State Department before the new president's inauguration
In my own commentart in The Black Star News, I argued that the Trump administration should consider removing the LRA from its list of terrorist organizations because supporting Museveni's dictatorship on account of Kony extends the sufferings of Ugandans.
“If the LRA is removed from the list of terrorist organizations, Museveni would find difficulties in maintaining a large and redundant army. By deploying a large section of his army in foreign peace keeping missions, where soldiers earn more than they would earn from the country, Museveni is keeping the army busy and diverting their attention away from the real hardship in Uganda economy”, I argued in my previous comment.
Several people in Gulu, the epicenter of the two-decades long insurgency in the Northern part of Uganda, gave diverse reactions to the reports of the Times article and Trump's position.
Retired Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Kitgum, Macleod Baker Ochola II contends that “as long as Kony is still at large, he remains a regional threat”. He says America and the International community cannot put a blind eye on the LRA.
He argues that the government of Sudan in Khartoum, which has so far resisted calls by the African Union (AU) to join forces in hunting for the LRA, should be brought in, in the search for lasting peace in the region.
“We should contact Khartoum so that Sudan is brought in to find lasting solutions to the LRA menace”, says Bishop Ocholla.
However, former leader of Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) party, Dr. Olara-Otunnu, says the LRA war cannot be resolved before the issue of accountability for war crimes committed by all sides to the conflict is resolved.
“I have documented crimes committed by the Museveni government forces and those who committed such crimes should also be brought to book; just like the LRA commanders are before the International Criminal Court (ICC)”, asserts Dr. Otunnu.
Otunnu says President Yoweri Museveni uses the LRA atrocities as a decoy to conceal crimes like putting an entire population in concentration camps, where more than one million people may have died --according to the documentary "A Brilliant Genocide," killings and rapes committed by Museveni's soldiers in the northern part of Uganda.
The chairman of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), Archbishop John Baptist Odama says he has no idea of a military assessment of the conflict but argues that the war must be put to an end at all costs.
“Let us say “No more war”. Any part engaged in war should stop now. We want peace”, says Archbishop Odama.
Odama appeals to the United Nations to execute its mandate of bringing peace to the world by demanding accountability from parties in conflicts
“The UN should not abandon its role of demanding for accountability from all those involved in conflict (wars) in any part of the world”, says Archbishop Odama.
According to the President of the Gulu based Northern Uganda Media Club, Mr. Moses Odokonyero, the Trump administration, is “inward looking” but warned that the LRA could still regroup in the future if not dealt with now.
He however says the most important thing now is the issue of accountability, justice and reparation.
The Prime Minister of Acholi cultural Institution, Mr. Ambrose Olaa says the hunt for LRA should not continue forever.
He warned that another cult leader like Joseph Kony may emerge after him, just like he emerged after the defeat of his predecessor, priestess Alice Auma Lakwena of the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM).
“Another cult leader may emerge after Kony. We should find comprehensive solutions to the conflict instead insisting on military solution”, says Olaa.
Several voices in Uganda are calling for the establishment of a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in order to heal the wounds inflicted on them since independence, especially the North-South divide, but President Museveni is dragging his feet on such important matters.
John Muto-ono P'Lajur is a Black Star News writer based in Gulu, Uganda.