Sunday, December 21, 2008



Friday, 19th December, 2008

UGANDA this week changed direction in its dealing with Kony; and not before time. That lunatic (worse than lunatic) mass murderer and his rabid “Lord’s Resistance Army” had been shown other routes to peace but ignored them all. Still the Uganda leadership kept on waiting for the day when Joseph Kony, latterly self-proclaimed General, would decide to append his signature to the Peace Accord worked out in the Juba Talks.

From the intrepid Betty Bigombe’s first tentative peace attempts way back in ’94, to more formal arrangements when those failed, Kony shifted and turned, promising often and delivering nothing. Yes, he would sign, but first this or that had to be done; always playing for time when he was in most need of it, to re-arm or move positions. Government was almost conciliatory at times, but also firm: first sign what had already been agreed through torturous negotiations by the two sides, and then to that can be added other considerations.

To some, including this column, this was bending over backwards until the government back was breaking! Firstly, the two sides were far from equal, by the simple reason that Government was elected by Ugandans, while the LRA was a renegade organ without authority, save perhaps the spurious support given to it by some few elements of the Acholi people.

Second, there was absolutely no way the LRA could ever win, whereas the government had every expectation to do so, and is doing it stage by stage. Its mature game was agreeing to the continuation of Juba, while periodically taking measures to throw the LRA pestilence out of northern Uganda militarily. The latter it conclusively accomplished, and continued the process in South Sudan, in combination with the government there.

Who can forget the bleats from various directions (including, of course, The Donors) that this two-handed policy was being effected, while Kony had never stopped his bloodthirsty attack on fellow citizens!

It is greatly to Uganda’s credit that its sensible approach never wavered. In time, neutral people worldwide appreciated the correctness of the government policy, to the point that when Kony, yet again, refused to sign (three times just this year) it was widely agreed, including by most Acholi and by the Donors too, interestingly, that enough was enough.

The UN Security Council itself has now given its approval, so urged by UN special envoy, former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano, who had put so much effort into the peace process. Uganda went in appropriately hard, to finish off the Kony 20-year plague once and for all.

Crucially, two other governments, the home one of the DR Congo, and neighbouring South Sudan, joined in the successful enterprise. Just because Kony’s head was not found on a spike beside his burning hut, some think the attack failed. This is wide of the mark: his whole surprisingly well-organised Garamba camp has been wiped out. All the food and all the security lie in tatters.

He and his dwindling bandits have become scavengers, at the mercy of the united forces at their back. What a job well done! Those who wishfully dream that nothing has changed, that Kony will rise again, phoenix-like, are living in prize cuckoo-land. This is the scale of the stunning victory achieved in Garamba, under the command of Brig Kankiriho deputised by Col Rwakitarate, son of my old friends (Jane Kentembwe sat next to me back in the ‘50s at Budo), and Lt Col Kainerugaba.

Apart from those usual suspects who have nothing better to do than whine, most people of real substance and seriousness were agreed that the course taken was for the best.

If I single out three: Prof Ogenga Latigo, Leader of FDC in parliament, my colleague columnist Canada-based Opiyo Oloya, and Walter Ochora the combative Gulu RDC (he wants Kony killed or captured) it is because they have never been even remotely yes-men.

Thus the Ugandan action has served to unite this country, backed up by the international community, as almost never before. Many, your columnist very much included, walk proudly the taller for it. Conversely, others, such as the ever-diminishing FDC spokesman, Wafula Oguttu, castigated Government for not first consulting parliament before attacking Garamba: the better to warn off Kony, it must be supposed.

And some Acholi MPs, notable for their total confusion (how tragic for their electorates) said the Uganda attack on camps had killed civilians there, whom in the same breath they said had run away days earlier! Why bother Logic? Of course if they had run away, this is the cream atop the cake: nobody would have wanted them killed.

Other Acholi MPs said that since the LRA were long distances away in Congo and could not harm Uganda, then why bother to chase after them? This morally indefensible stand points to a major flaw in the MPs’ attitude: you forget what the LRA has done in the past because it is no longer able to repeat it now! What about justice and retribution? There is something truly revolting in these MPs’ thinking. Why should they not now confess that they are closet Kony supporters?

With all this, for me a warmly poignant detail was of the mobiles strewn across the battlefield, abandoned by fleeing owners frightened to be traced by them, as per my veiled warning last week. Had they read the column all that far in Garamba? But let them know that even if they flee without their phones they will, as Muhammad Ali famously said, run but they cannot hide. The end is nigh!