KONY2012 Opens Pandora's Box: Uganda Government's Own Role in "Dirty War" Now Exposed

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Uganda "appears" as agents of peace and security notwithstanding role in Uganda and DRC


 [The Big Picture]
Background To The Conflict 
is that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has not stated, at least
publicly, that the Ugandan army and its leadership are currently under
investigation for crimes committed in Uganda as well as in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)? 
I am not the first
person to call for such an investigation. Other scholars, including Dr.
Sverker Finnström, the author of the award winning book, Living with Bad
Surroundings (SF 2008)) have argued that all sides to the armed
conflict must be investigated if only to give appearance of
impartiality. Kony2012 provides an opportunity for the ICC to reconsider
its decision and commence investigating alleged crimes committed by the
Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) formerly the National Resistance
Army (NRA) under the leadership of its commander-in-chief, and long time
serving army general Yoweri K. Museveni. 
The armed conflict in
northern Uganda took a "ethnic" dimension and fed on Uganda’s
north-south historical divide. Organized and systemic violence based on
ethnicity tend to result in genocide as witnessed in Rwanda. The NRM/NRA
government failed to provide leadership in order to defuse the ethnic
divide and usher in national unity. Instead, the NRM/NRA leader, Gen.
Museveni continued to peddle allegations that the Acholi and Langi were
the "enemies of Uganda" because they are responsible for killing
civilians in the Luwero triangle and looting their properties; Luwero
was a nexus area for the war between Museveni's NRA and President Milton
Obote's government.

Significantly, besides Museveni’s allegations,
there are no reports from a judicial inquiry determining who, or which
armed groups, are responsible for the Luwero tragedy. President Museveni
has consistently refused calls to establish a judicial inquiry to all
matters concerning the killings in Luwero yet he continues to hold the
Langi and Acholi ethnic communities responsible. 
Overall, the
purpose of the Museveni propaganda is not to identify those most
responsible, but to mobilize Ugandans from central and western part of
the country against people from the northern part of Uganda. Museveni
justifies the use of ethnic chauvinism in his book, Sowing the Mustard
Seed, (YKM 1997:177-178) as follows: 
“Under previous regimes,
the soldiers, most of whom came from the north, had been free to loot
civilian property. Whenever they looted such things, for example
corrugated iron roofing sheets, they would take them to their homes, and
their parents would not ask where they obtained them, in spite of the
fact that one could easily tell the difference between a new iron sheet
and one that had been previously nailed on someone else’ roof. In this
way, the whole community in Acholi and Lango had become involved in the
plundering of Uganda for themselves. In other words, the reason why
those rebels in the north, organized on a tribal basis, were fighting
for control of the national government, was that the NRM as a government
had stopped them from looting.” 
As a mobilization tactic it
was very effective. Over the years, Museveni has continued propagating
his "tribal" views by asserting that people from northern Uganda bear
collective criminal responsibility for "crimes committed by their sons
and daughters" against the people of central and western Uganda. He
further argues that the cause of armed conflict in northern Uganda is
because Acholi and Langi have been stopped from looting government and
private property (JKM 1997:178). Museveni’s ridiculous racist comments
that Acholi and Langi went to war because they have been stopped from
looting, while incorrect, has taken on a new life of its own as foreign
and local press peddle the false statements and present the causes of
armed conflict in northern Uganda is disagreement over looting. This
false premise underpins the NRM policy on the dehumanization of Acholi
and Langi. 
Connected At Hips: Museveni And Ocampo 
referral for investigation of the Uganda conflict is a positive step
and must be supported by all persons of good will. However, it is
imperative that all parties to the armed conflict are investigated. The
concern of many legal scholars and experts on the failure of the
International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate all sides is
justified. Some experts in international criminal law have suggested a
number of reasons for the failure to investigate the Ugandan army, the
First, it is suggested that because the ICC has relied
on Museveni for the referral of the situation in Uganda to the court,
the Museveni regime effectively assisted the Prosecutor in circumventing
a difficult process which would have required seeking referral through
the unpredictable political process in the United Nations Security
Council. Alternatively, the Prosecutor would have tried to, propio motu,
initiate investigation, but with the approval of the pre-trial chamber.
On the other hand, a pre-trial chamber approval is not necessarily a
done deal as such application can easily be rejected. The Prosecutor
therefore owes a debt of gratitude to Museveni for making his work easy,
particularly at a time when the OTP had almost no cases to work on.  
the Museveni regime provided, and continues to provide, security for
the ICC investigators. The regime’s support  for the ICC include
providing assistance to the investigators in identifying prosecution
witnesses, particularly witnesses who are more likely to corroborate
government  narrative and not implicate the UPDF in the commission of
crimes under investigation.  

Further, the regime assists the
ICC in gathering evidence including protection of witnesses within
Uganda. Overall, if the ICC Prosecutor decides to investigate or indict
members of the UPDF including members of its leadership, the Office of
the Prosecutor (OTP) may have problems in getting continued cooperation,
protection and support from President Museveni and the UPDF.  
the ICC justifies its working arrangement with the Uganda government on
the ground that it does not have its own enforcement mechanism and must
therefore rely on State cooperation, in this case, the Ugandan army and
police. The Ugandan military escorts ICC investigators to "protected
camps" and are present when witnesses are being interviewed.  
UPDF men and officers double as translators for the ICC investigators.
It would therefore be foolish and extremely risky for the witnesses to
implicate members of the UPDF in the crimes under investigation. The ICC
argument on State cooperation is valid but needs to balance its
independence in the conduct of investigations by putting distance
between its members and state officials.  
It is unfortunate
when cooperation between Uganda army and the ICC in the course of
investigations is used as a cover to protect members of the UPDF and its
leadership from investigations. The Court's bias in favor of the
Ugandan army was particularly manifested in January 2004 when the ICC
Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo appeared side-by-side with Museveni – a
potential suspect – in a London conference to announce the opening of
the investigations in the Uganda situation. In a judicial setting,
appearance is as important as substantive justice. 
"War On Terror:" Museveni Ingratiates Himself to U.S.
Additionally, Gen. Museveni has also proved himself indispensable to the United States.   
strategic reasons, Museveni fully embraced the idea of "war on terror".
He used it to gain favor with the United States, its western allies and
simultaneously destroy his internal political opponents.   

To the
United States, Gen. Museveni demonstrated his loyalty by sending troops
to Somalia. The United States has appreciated Museveni’s contribution to
the "war on terror" and, as a reward, deployed US military "advisors"
to Uganda plus  sending millions of US dollars to Uganda in support of
the UPDF.  

Thus, the international community’s unquestioning
cooperation with Uganda has allowed the NRM/NRA government to appear as
agents of peace and security notwithstanding its role in the armed
conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the fact that
he continues to direct his soldiers and police force to commit crimes
inside and outside Uganda.  

The ICC is silent on Museveni’s
recruitment and use of child soldiers and his cooperation with convicted
war criminal Thomas Lubanga of the DRC. Gen. Museveni has also
supported Jean Pierre Bemba, also of the DRC, currently on trial before
the ICC. The ICC Prosecutor Ocampo has demonstrated no interests in the
UPDF who trained, financed and fought alongside Bemba’s soldiers.  

Uganda, the "war on terror" is directed against the internal political
opposition and has nothing to do with terrorism. During the 2006 and
2011 national elections, the UPDF alongside the national police
violently attacked members and supporters of the opposition parties,
killing some and detaining their leaders. Other opposition members were
later charged with treason, a crime that on conviction carries the death
penalty. It is significant that the ICC was not concerned and issued no
statement condemning the practice. Yet, the ICC was quick to act on the
electoral disputes in Kenya and the Ivory Coast.  
The So-called "Protected" Camps 
war against the LRA would have ended much earlier; the Museveni regime
milked it for internal political reasons. At the start of the 1990s, the
Museveni regime introduced a scorched earth policy in its war against
the LRA. The NRM's northern Uganda policy was to destroy food by burning
food stores and crops ready for harvest. The objective for destroying
food was purportedly to deny LRA sustenance. It was also to dehumanize
and pauperize the local population.

The Museveni regime made no
arrangement to feed the civilian population after their food and food
crops were destroyed, provided no sanitary facilities or adequate
lodgings of the inmates. The government knowingly failed, neglected or
willingly refused to protect its citizens as required by law. 

second prong of the NRM northern policy was to destroy homes by burning
the houses and to place the civilian population in "protected" camps.
There were between 1.4 and 1.6 million civilians packed in squalid
compounds with no sanitary facilities, clinics or schools. Due to, among
other things, poor sanitary conditions, lack of medicine, food and
proper shelter, and consistent with government policy of dehumanizing
the civilian population, at least 1,000 people, mainly women and
children were dying every week in the "protected" camps.

The government
knew or had reason to know about the mass murder of civilians in the
"protected" camps. It did nothing, and even denied there were civilian

The camps served the strategic interests of the UPDF, LRA
and NGOs. This human zoo provided a unique opportunity for NGOs to
conduct research on humans living under squalid conditions. Gulu
district alone was host to close to 100 NGOs. In many respects, the
assortment of NGOs assisted the NRM government in prolonging the war:
focusing on ameliorating the catastrophe rather than exposing the policy
of planned neglect. Overall, the concentration camps became cash cow--
rolling out money to the NGOs, medical supply to the LRA and confining
the civilian population while leaving the vast Acholi land to the UPDF.  

land became war booty as the government parceled it out to its favorite
soldiers and "investors". Each of the three major players – the NGOs,
LRA and UPDF - benefited from maintaining "protected" camps for as long
as it lasted.  
The ICC's Moral And Judicial Responsibility 
some of the criminal acts committed by the UPDF fall outside the ICC
temporal jurisdiction, the manner and methods of the commission of the
crimes do provide evidence of a consistent pattern of conduct by the
UPDF, a conduct that continued after July 1, 2002 when the Rome Treaty
establishing the ICC became operational. To that extent, they provide
background information on the conduct and behavior of the UPDF soldiers
and its leadership during the 20-year war in northern Uganda.

The death
toll of civilians in "protected" camps, estimated at 1,000 persons per
week, needs to be investigated by the ICC. Confining men, women,
children, the old, sick and the infirm in camps without adequate food,
sanitation or medical assistance is not only criminal but immoral and
evil. Political philosopher Hannah Arendt would have described the
"concentration camps" in northern Uganda as radical evil.  

evil, according to Emmanuel Kant, is the type of evil that is rooted in
an evil motivation, an intention to do evil, a person’s evil heart.  

held radical evil to be rare and quite different from evil that is done
out of ignorance or an intention to do well that has gone awry. Arendt,
in The Life of the Mind (HA 1978), explains that an intention to
establish "concentration camps" during the second world war could have
come only from an intention to do evil, to achieve some end outside of
commonsense reasoning.  

In Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on
the Banality of Evil (HA 1968) what Arendt tried to capture with that
phrase, banality of evil, was the kind of radical evil that results from
a particular capacity to stop thinking inherent in people like
Eichmann, whose thoughtlessness was fostered by the fact that everyone
around him went along unquestioningly with Hitler’s extermination order
and his vision of the glorious Thousand Year Reich. 
There are
some people in the UPDF who think and behave like Eichmann. Their
responsibility is to terrorize and torture inmates of the "protected"
camps. In some cases, the victims are buried alive, and left to die, as
was the case at Bucoro in Gulu District. 
It is in this context
that the Kony’s indictment and the allegations therein, must be
assessed. The Kony indictment is also interesting because allegations
against kony are closely related to acts or omissions of the UPDF. It is
not surprising that the UPDF prefer to have Kony dead. If he ever
appears before the ICC, Kony’s testimony would probably disclose the
Ugandan army's close cooperation and collaboration with the UPDF and its
leadership in the conduct of war in northern Uganda. 
Kony is charged with 33 counts. The public version of the Indictment is
extensively redacted.  Of the 33 counts, 28 relate to crimes allegedly
committed within the IDP camps; camps that were guarded by the Ugandan
army at the relevant times. The remaining five counts relate to crimes
allegedly committed outside the premises of the IDP camps but within
Uganda. The Uganda government has always insisted that the LRA has no
control over any part of the territory of Uganda. The crimes allegedly
committed by the LRA were in areas controlled by the Ugandan government.
Uganda Army's Complicity In Crimes? 
A careful reading of
the Kony indictment leaves a lot of questions unanswered. What was, for
example, the relationship between the LRA and the UPDF? How was it
possible for a group of untrained fighters, barely literate, poorly
organized as
well as poorly armed could over-power the UPDF guards at
not only one, but all "protected" camps in northern Uganda?  

did not only over-power the UPDF, but had time to loot food and
medicine, rape and sexually assault many women and girls in the camp,
and finally abduct as many children as they wanted without being
confronted by the UPDF?   

The impression given is that the LRA was
such a powerful military force, and far superior to the UPDF that it
could enter and leave any camp and at a time as it pleases. This
scenario is hard to fathom. On the other hand, what was the UPDF
objective in protecting the civilians in the camps?

The impression
one gets is that either the UPDF are extremely incompetent; or they are
complicit in the crimes. One may infer from the conduct of the UPDF that
it aided and abetted the LRA in the commission of the alleged crimes.  

the UPDF leadership must bear criminal responsibility for omission in
that, through its military and political structure, the NRM/NRA and its
leadership failed to prevent the deaths of 1,000 civilians every week
over several years; failed to protect women and girls in the camps from
rape and sexual assault; and failed to prevent the abduction of

It is these and other crimes committed in northern
Uganda that the ICC Prosecutor has a duty and responsibility to
investigate. Kony is the tip of the iceberg.  

Dr. Obote Odora, Consultant in International Criminal Law alex.odora@gmail.com

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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