Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Ugandan rebels desert over ‘treason’ probe

A commander and several fighters from Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have deserted the movement to escape a treason probe for allegedly collaborating with the government, a spokesperson said on Monday.

Captain Sunday Otto and fewer than 30 fighters fled in October from the LRA’s hideout along the Sudan-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border after they were put under investigation, said LRA spokesperson Godfrey Ayoo.

”While still in active service, with the support of Uganda’s Kampala regime, Captain Sunday Otto and others worked with external hostile forces to destabilise and cause the disintegration of the LRA,” Ayoo said. ”They deserted the movement to escape treason investigations and were subsequently dismissed … but I have to say that movement is still strong enough.”

Officials said the dissidents are still in the vast Garamba National Park planning to surrender to the United Nations mission in the DRC (Monuc).

Last month, Monuc announced that LRA chief of military operations Patrick Opiyo Makasi and his wife had surrendered and were subsequently repatriated to Uganda, a key setback to the insurgents.

In recent years, Uganda has granted total amnesty to surrendering rebels.

Ayoo said that neither Makasi nor Otto had been a ”member of the military high command of LRA, nor privy to information from the military high command”.

The pair fled as a rebel team currently visiting war-affected regions of Uganda is collecting public views on issues of accountability and reconciliation in ongoing peace talks.

The LRA is still committed to the peace process despite the developments, Ayoo explained.

The Ugandan army welcomed the desertions and urged others to quit, saying the movement was weakening.

”If some rebels renounce violence and decide to return home, we welcome them home. This is what we have always been telling them,” army spokesperson Felix Kulaigje said.

”With these desertions the rebel strength has been reduced. Whether the peace talks succeed or not, the rebellion in the north has ended and peace has returned,” he added.

Talks between Kampala and LRA members in the southern Sudanese capital, Juba, are considered the best chance to end a nearly three-decade-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced 1,8-million.

A ceasefire signed in August last year has helped to restore stability in the war-torn areas, allowing some displaced civilians to return to their villages and farm.

Also on Monday, Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon visited northern Gulu township and opened a centre that would offer vocational training to 4 000 youth recovering from war.

McKinnon described the centre as ”triumph of hope over despair”. He is in the country to attend a November 23 to 25 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which will bring together dozens of world leaders.

”There are hundreds and hundreds of young people who have lost their future. Lives here have to be rebuilt to ensure that northern Uganda can be rebuilt,” said Ugandan Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Henry Oryem-Okello.

Rebel chief Joseph Kony took over a two-year-old rebellion in northern Uganda in 1988 and has been fighting to establish a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments.

In 2005, the Hague-based International Criminal Court indicted five LRA leaders, including Kony and his deputy Vincent Otti, on a raft of charges such as murder, rape and enslavement of children.

But Kony has vowed never to sign the peace agreement until the charges are withdrawn.

Mediators are yet to fix a new date for the resumption of the peace talks that opened in July last year. — Sapa-AFP

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Eastern Cape premier Mabuyane lives large amid province’s poverty

Oscar Mabuyane and MEC Babalo Madikizela allegedly used a portion of state funds for struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s commemoration for their own benefit

Constitutional court confirms warrantless searches in cordoned off areas unconstitutional

The law was challenged in response to raids in inner Johannesburg seemingly targeting illegal immigrants and the highest court has pronounced itself 10 days before an election in which then mayor Herman Mashaba has campaigned on an anti-foreigner ticket

A blunt Mantashe makes no promises during election campaigning

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe told people in Daveyton to stop expecting handouts from the government

Mbeki: Social compact the answer to promises made in ANC...

Former president Thabo Mbeki urged business and government and society to work together to tackle issues such as poverty, unemployment and poor services and infrastructure
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×