Q&A: LRA’s Otti Speaks Part 2

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This is the second installment: Last week, The Black Star News published an exclusive interview with Vincent Otti, the No. 2 man in the Lord’s Resistance Army, covering a wide range of issues. Otti and other LRA commanders including Joseph Kony were indicted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. They are accused of killing civilians, abductions of children, mutilations and other crimes. Otti denied the allegations and says LRA commanders won’t surrender to the ICC.

Here, he discusses the impending peace talks with the Uganda government and he alleges that the ICC has ignored atrocities committed by Uganda government troops within Uganda and in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. [Congo President Joseph Kabila referred a complaint to the ICC which has since launched an investigation of Uganda’s alleged atrocities, The Wall Street Journal reported June 8, 2006]. Otti called The Black Star’s offices here in New York via satellite phone from East Africa. You may view Part 1 on the International Page here at BSN Online.

BSN: What do you have to say to the people suffering in the concentration camps (so-called IDPs)? They are dying in the camps. What do you tell them? The government says they are in the camps so the government can prevent the LRA from harming them.
OTTI: I tell you openly, those people in the concentration camps –the IDPs in northern Uganda, we did not send them there. Even you asking me the question even you know that! Even the entire world knows it is Museveni who gave 24 hours for everyone to go to those camps otherwise they would be shot. And those who delayed were shot from planes and bombed. People left without food, without their belongings. Instead, their sim sim (sesame), was taken away to Kampala, their millet was taken away to Kampala, their peas, taken away to Kampala. And then instead he [Museveni] says we were the ones who chased them to the camps. Museveni forced people into the camps—even you as you speak with me you know that people were given 24 hours to leave their villages and go into the camps.

When in 2000, Museveni came and launched an attack on us we entered Uganda—the first thing we did was to chase people from the camps back to their villages and we burnt the camps so people could return to their villages because we knew people were dying in the camps. But if they found people 1 mile away from the camp you would be accused of being a collaborator with the enemy (LRA). We knew people were dying in the camps particularly in Pabbo where the foodstock was being poisoned—that was in 1998. Food was being poisoned so people could go to the camps.

What Museveni wants is to take the land. Now I hear that he is distributing corrugated sheets [mabati]. That he will allocate 30 mabati to people and the rest of the land will become government land. That each homestead will get 30 mabati and 3 acres throughout northern Uganda. What Museveni wants is the land—our land.

BSN: What about the reports that the LRA want Ugandans to follow the 10 commandments—what is your response?
OTTI: I cannot deny that. These are the 10 commandments of God. Which one of them is bad? The first commandment? The second commandment? The third commandment? It is the truth because it is God’s truth. It is God’s commandments. They must be followed.

BSN: What about other faiths? What about Muslims in Uganda for example. They might say you are discriminating against them?
OTTI: Okay, Muslims in Uganda. If they believe in God, these 10 commandments are also in Islam. Islam also commands that thou shall not kill, thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s possessions, thou shall not steal.

BSN: What has the LRA’s fight against the Museveni government accomplished up to now? What benefits can you point to?
OTTI: The benefits—We have grown, we are strong. We are known around the entire world. The entire world knows that we are fighting to bring the 10 commandments as you asked. These are the benefits and we know that these 10 commandments of God that we are fighting for is true—the entire world now knows it. I don’t know if you can hear me because it is raining so much, it is raining so much.

BSN: I can hear you. The government says it has defeated the LRA.
OTTI: I personally know that there is no defeat. And the entire world knows that there is no defeat. That is why people are calling for talks. Because people see the suffering of the people, the deaths. People say if two elephants are fighting the suffering is what? Who is suffering? The grass. So as the combatants, the government of Yoweri Museveni and the rebels of the LRA, in this fight of two combatants where there is suffering, let’s see if we can talk. But about defeat—aaah! A defeated force does not have thousands.

BSN: How large is your army?
OTTI: We have soldiers. We have enough soldiers—in thousands.

BSN: Do you think Museveni is interested in peace?
OTTI: He is not interested in peace in northern Uganda because he has not yet accomplished his goal which is to take our land. If we are really to talk he knows we would defeat him—the issue of stealing our land, the issue of the 10 commandments, that is why he does not want to talk. That is why he wants to fight in order to exterminate. That is why he prefers warfare. He knows that in talks we will defeat him. With the land, he will not succeed in stealing it.

BSN: If you are asked, what was your original objective when you went to war how do you respond?
OTTI: First the issue of taking our land; the issue of exterminating our people; and the issue of the 10 commandments to rule Uganda. Because when we say ‘for God and my country’ but we don’t really follow the words of God. Even our national anthem it starts with the name of God. ‘Oh Uganda, may God uphold thee, We lay our future in thy hand..’ Yet some people don’t lay their future in the hands of God. They don’t follow the words of God. They kill people randomly. Museveni has even killed people praying in churches.

BSN: There was a newspaper report [Wall Street Journal] that the U.N. is also investigating alleged atrocities by Ugandan troops in the Congo and that Museveni asked Kofi Annan to stop the investigation? Do you believe that Museveni’s troops committed atrocities in the Congo?
OTTI: [Laughs] I know Museveni’s soldiers committed much atrocities in Congo. Museveni’s soldiers killed a lot of people in Congo. Secondly Museveni stole much resources from the Congo and killed President Laurent Kabila. Thirdly Museveni kidnapped women from the Congo, up to 50,000 are still in Uganda up to now. Many atrocities were committed and theft of timber, minerals and whatever—Museveni looted from Congo. Museveni cannot tell Kofi Annan, Museveni cannot tell the United Nations Secretary General not to do an investigation. He should be taken to court [If determined that atrocities were committed] or he should be removed because first of all he stole the elections [referring to Uganda’s Feb. 23, 2006 Presidential election in which leading candidates were Museveni and Dr. Kizza Besigye].

BSN: And what about you? The ICC has indicted you and said that you and Joseph Kony and two others should also be taken to the court on war crimes charges.
OTTI: My answer is that I will not go to the UN court. These things were done by Museveni. If they are saying that rebel commanders should be captured then they should start with Yoweri. Yoweri is the first person who went to the Bush—in 1974. I remember I was still young in Primary School. Museveni recruited people in Atiak [in Acholi region] and he was training in Owori. When Idi Amin heard of this Museveni fled to the home of Tor Rwom and Tor Rwom’s son, Amos Kibwona was arrested for that and shot by firing squad. Museveni escaped to the Sudan and then to Tanzania and later fought until they returned to Uganda with [Milton] Obote’s people. Obote said let’s have elections. There was elections—free and fair.

Museveni started his UPM—Museveni killed many people in Luwero and blamed Obote. Why is Museveni not indicted? After Museveni took over the government he killed many people in Atiak, Museveni killed many people in Anaka, Museveni killed many people in Soroti by suffocating some in railroad cars..he burned people alive. Yet they don’t want to indict Museveni—why? And what have we done? We are fighting. When there is war and shooting people get caught in the crossfire.

BSN: What are your conditions for peace
OTTI: Right now I cannot reveal it. It is our secret. If the word gets out prematurely it gives the government an upper hand. It is our secret.

BSN: Do you want peace in Uganda?
OTTI: Yes, we want to stop fighting—we want peace.

BSN: What else can you say to the people of Acholi region [the war zone]?
OTTI: The people should unite so that we can protect our land and prevent the Ankoles from taking it. This has been our land for hundreds of years.

BSN: You say Museveni’s soldiers committed atrocities, do you have evidence?
OTTI: Abundantly. These atrocities you see occurring that he says are committed by the LRA his soldiers are doing. We never had the means of communications before to tell our story.

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