Kony wants federo

By Henry Mukasa

THE Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has demanded federalism and self determination for the north and east as a solution to political marginalisation. The rebel group, at the ongoing talks in Juba, Southern Sudan, came short to calling for secession.

The LRA yesterday demanded in its position paper on “Participation in National Politics and Institutions; Economic and Social Development of Northern and Eastern Uganda” that the Uganda Constitution be amended to provide for federal states. “Since we are ‘primitive’, ‘backward’ and ‘uncivilised’, and nobody within the present political dispensation wants to civilise us, we opt for self determination so that we are free to civilise ourselves and develop our own institutions within our capabilities in partnership with any nations of the world,” the LRA stated.

Led by Joseph Kony, the LRA which has been fighting to establish a government run on the basis of the Biblical commandments seems to have abandoned the spiritual path and is making real political demands. Kony claims to operate on the directives of the ‘Holy Spirit’. Last year, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Kony and four of his commanders for crimes against humanity. This is the second statement the LRA is issuing attacking the Government since the talks opened on July 5.

However, the Government delegation has said it will not be diverted from the talks by unfounded allegations. “Since the Government seems to be so unapologetic about its bad politics of marginalisation of the north and the east, LRA’s demand in respect of participation in our national politics and institutions is an overhaul of the Constitution to provide for, among others, federalism,” the rebel group stated in its paper.

Every federal state, they said, may cultivate its best energies and synergies for its own development. They argued that the states would exploit resources within their boundaries for the good of its people first, and only contribute to the central government as a secondary beneficiary. They said donors shall deal directly with the federal states “to avoid dissipation of funds by corrupt central government officials covered by State immunity”.

The rebels also demanded the re-introduction of presidential term limits lifted by Parliament during the amendment of the Constitution last year. They said they wanted a political dispensation that guarantees the unity and stability of the country through fair sharing of the national cake.

“The north and the east should not be politically persecuted and marginalised for any perceived wrong committed by any past regime. We demand a proportionate power sharing arrangement that takes care of regional and population balance of the country,” they said. Each delegation is supposed to present a stand on participation in national politics and tackle matters to do with political marginalisation, imbalance in participation in national institutions, inequitable and unbalanced economic development and disparity in the provision of social infrastructure. Sources say that while presenting the LRA paper at a closed meeting at Juba Raha Hotel, Obonyo Olweny, the spokesman for the LRA team, told chief mediator Dr. Riek Machar, the Southern Sudan Vice President, that his team was concerned that the Government team seemed not to have “mandate to negotiate with us but to demand terms of surrender”. He reportedly added, “Nevertheless we wish to reaffirm our firm commitment and that of our principals, to quick, expeditious but fair and just resolutions of the causes of the conflict.”

The LRA maintained its claims that Nilotics were being persecuted, adding that even with his military dictatorship, Idi Amin never pursued such a deliberate policy to keep the country divided “as it is today in Uganda”. “It is regrettable that, upon assumption of state power, the NRM embarked on a deliberate policy to divide the country, firstly between the Bantu and the Nilotics; and secondly to ethnic group and lineage kinship and marriage relationships,” the LRA said. The rebels said a cursory look at appointments in all government statutory authorities and commissions, parastatals and departments pointed to favouritism. The LRA also bashed the Government for what they called “rampant corruption and abuse of office” that “has no comparison in the history of post-Independence Uganda.” They pointed a finger at the agreement for the exploration and production of the recently discovered oil deposit on the shores of Lake Albert as one that “smacks of the usual outrage Ugandans are now accustomed to”.

“Can you countenance the fact that the nation shall only end up getting less than 26% of this natural resource? Considering that nearly all the people involved in the negotiation of the deal are from one region of the country, it is irresistible to hazard the suggestion of a possibility of foul play somewhere,” they stated. “If the world does not intervene and come to our aid, catastrophe looms over the north and the east of the country. The Government should not be allowed to hide behind the veil of insecurity,” the rebels said, inviting the UN and other humanitarian agencies to investigate “all the allegations of persecution of genocidal proportions.”

Meanwhile the Government delegation, which is led by Internal Affairs Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, has decided it will not be responding to LRA statements in the media any more, because they are diversionary. Capt. Paddy Ankunda, the delegation’s spokesman, said this will not change unless it is found that a response is absolutely necessary and in the spirit of the talks.

“These statements from their face value seem to be meant to make us lose focus from tackling more meaningful issues that pertain to the success of the peace talks. We will not engage in this ping pong,” Ankunda said. He advised the LRA team to grab the chance to negotiate for a soft landing. He said the LRA attacks and sentimental allegations with no requests for reconciliation were not in the spirit of peace talks. Ankunda noted that the LRA delegation was attempting to articulate some semblance of a political agenda for LRA and give it a political face.

“One wonders why nothing has so far been mention about Kony’s agenda of wanting to rule Uganda using the ten commandments,” he observed He was, however, optimistic that the talks would succeed.

“There is more hope today than ever before that peace for northern Uganda and Southern Sudan is just around the corner,” he said. Ends

Published on: Saturday, 22nd July, 2006
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