Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Uganda: LRA deny desertion reports

Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels have categorically denied there has been a mass desertion by some of its members stationed in the jungle of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This came amidst reports that a group of the rebels is holding talks with the United Nations peacekeeping force in the DRC to surrender. But the LRA said the decision by some of its members to leave shows the rebel movement is not only a voluntary movement, but also practices democracy among its rank and file.

Meanwhile, it was reported in Uganda that a group of about 30 LRA fighters, including three commanders, had deserted following a split among the movement's military leadership.

David Matsanga is the technical advisor to the rebels on International Criminal Court matters. From Kenya’s capital, Nairobi he tells reporter Peter Clottey that the LRA is committed to finding a lasting peace to the northern Uganda conflict.

“First of all I would like to tell the international community that the LRA is a big organization if there are 10 or five or 20 people leaving they are free to leave. It is a democratic decision for one to leave and join. And that shows the spirit of democracy that exists in the LRA that people have decided to leave,” Matsanga noted.

He denied there is a split in the LRA, but added that those who wanted to leave could do so.

“As you know very well, we have said time and time again that there are those who are not willing to stay until we finish the peace process, which is very sorry for them. But the bulk of the LRA men and women and the high command are united and fully behind the peace process, to make sure that they find long lasting peace for our people in northern Uganda. And as far as I know there is no split, nothing is like that in the LRA camp,” he said.

Matsanga said the rebels are not bothered by what he described as negative speculation about the LRA.

“Even Americans who are in Iraq some are deserting. Any army, people desert, any institution, people reach a point where you have worked enough and you leave, and you walk away. It shows that people were not forced to come into this organization; it shows that all the people who came came voluntarily. But when they reach a time that they want to go the LRA leadership has nothing against those who want to leave. The bulk of the LRA high command and everybody in the high command are fully behind the peace process,” Matsanga pointed out.

He criticized those he said are elements within Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s administration who he said are trying to undermine the peace process.

“Let me add that there are people who are speculating and who want this peace process to collapse. Wishful thinkers who think that once peace return to northern Uganda they would have no job. These are the people who are speculating on quite a lot of things. They are enemies of peace in this world and we know them. They are plenty in the government of Uganda they do exist there, we know them and at a certain stage we shall name them to shame them,” he said.