Ugandan troops accused of plundering trees in Sudan

Ugandan troops looted truckloads of valuable trees from south Sudan when they were pursuing Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels who were hiding in the region, a research group said on Friday.

The Swiss-based Small Arms Survey said the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) cut teak trees in southern Sudan’s Equatoria region during Operation Iron Fist, which had been approved by the Khartoum government.

Local officials cited in the new report said the Ugandan forces failed to confront the LRA insurgents during the operation in southern Sudan and were instead involved in logging.


“From an economic perspective, keeping the war alive has become part of the lucrative economy for the army. Locals regularly reported that the UPDF cuts down teak trees to take them to Uganda,” the group said in a report titled The Lord’s Resistance Army in Sudan: A History and Overview.

Even during the withdrawal of the UPDF from southern Sudan under the terms of a government-LRA truce agreement signed in August 2006, “the UPDF cut down about 200 trees in Palataka and carried them across the border before they were reported to authorities,” it said.

The Palataka area in Eastern Equatoria is heavily forested with teak, a tropical hardwood used mainly in building ships and manufacturing outdoor furniture. The wood is valuable because it has natural oils that make it water resistant.

A local southern Sudan administrator quoted in the report said: “The UPDF are business-minded people, they are logging timber in the Acholi area. Who gives them permission?”

Uganda signed an agreement with Khartoum in 2002, allowing the country to deploy forces to pursue and flush out LRA insurgents from the heavily forested region.

“Since the UPDF came to Sudan, they have never had a face-to-face confrontation with the LRA. It is like the LRA have given them safe passage,” the report quoted a local Sudan official in Magwi county.

“People wonder why the UPDF is here … the UPDF should be asked politely to leave,” the official added.

But the Ugandan army flatly rejected the claims and said the Small Arms Survey had strayed from its primary focus.

“That is incorrect,” army spokesperson Major Felix Kulaigye said in Kampala.

“The research was meant for small arms. How did it stray out and go to the teak tree. I think this is just to speak out so that they can attract funding,” Kulaigye added.

“Our duties are to look for rebels in southern Sudan to maintain law and order along the road. How can we look for timber?” the report quoted a UPDF officer as saying.

Human rights groups and aid workers have accused the Ugandan army and LRA rebels — at war since 1988 — of attacking villages in southern Sudan.

In 2005, the United Nations accused Rwanda and Uganda of siphoning off profits from an illicit trade in gold, diamond and timber from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where they had deployed troops supporting rebels during the 1998 to 2003 war in the DRC.

Experts accused 54 people — including more than 20 senior military and political officials in Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the DRC itself — of leading “elite networks” that exploited DRC natural resources. — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Trouble brewing for Kenya’s coffee growers

Kenyan farmers say theft of their crop is endemic – and they suspect collusion

Women are entitled to own land

Too many laws and customs in too many African countries still treat women as minors

The challenges of delivering a Covid-19 vaccine in Africa requires a new approach

It is imperative that we train healthcare workers and participate in continent-wide collaboration

Why we must fight to secure places for more women and young people in politics

Too often, governments talk the talk on gender equality, but fail to walk the walk

US ‘brokered’ agreements on Israel: Wind of change or toxic blast of extortion?

The United States is negotiating with African countries that will see them exchange Palestinian people’s rights for improved economic and trade conditions

Disaster as climate crisis, tectonic shift swell Rift Valley lakes

The current tectonic cycle squeezes out water from the Earth’s aquifers; the previous cycle caused water to drain out of thelakes into the Earth’s aquifers
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Baby Awa: The miracle baby born on a boat fleeing...

More than 300 000 people in the north of the country have been displaced by militants who ransack villages and then burn them down.

Five suspects arrested in Senzo Meyiwa case

Police minister Bheki Cela announced on Monday that his team has arrested five suspects who were allegedly involved in the killing of former Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa.

EFF eyes municipalities ahead of 2021 local government elections

EFF leader Julius Malema says the party is preparing to govern in many municipalities from next year. It is also launching a programme to defend the rights of farm workers

WSU suspends classes and exams to avoid the spread of...

The university says it has to take the precautionary measures because 26 students have tested positive on its East London campus
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday