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Cablegate: Northern Uganda: Joint Regional Military

VZCZCXRO0328
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKM #1619/01 3540457
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190457Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KAMPALA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0999
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KAMPALA 001619

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL UG SU CG
SUBJECT: NORTHERN UGANDA: JOINT REGIONAL MILITARY
OPERATIONS AGAINST LRA CAMPS LAUNCHED

1. (SBU) Summary: On December 14, Uganda, the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC), and southern Sudan launched joint
military operations against Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
camps in eastern DRC. Ugandan Defense spokesmen said
airstrikes hit five LRA camps. Operations are continuing.
Cooperation between the governments and militaries of Uganda,
DRC, and southern Sudan has been strong. Ugandan Foreign
Minister Sam Kutesa told the diplomatic corps that the
military operations were not an end to the peace process, but
that the application of military pressure was necessary to
change the negative dynamic. He said that operations would
continue until the LRA assembles at Rikwangba. Government of
Southern Sudan Chief Mediator Riek Machar also called on the
LRA to assemble at Rikwangba. Public reaction in Uganda has
generally been supportive, with a few opposition
parliamentarians criticizing the attacks. End Summary.

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REGIONAL OPERATION ANNOUNCED
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2. (SBU) Joint operations against the LRA were announced in
a statement signed by Chiefs of Military Intelligence BG
James Mugira (Uganda), BG Deodenne Kitenge (DRC), and BG
Mutual Majok (SPLA) on December 14. The verbatim text of the
release is as follows: "The Armed Forces of Uganda (UPDF),
DRC (FARDC), and Southern Sudan (SPLA) in a joint
intelligence-led military operation this morning, the 14 Dec
2008 launched an attack on LRA hideouts of terrorist Joseph
Kony in Garamba, Democratic Republic of Congo. The three
Armed Forces successfully attacked the main body of bandits
and destroyed the main camp of Kony codenamed Camp Swahili
setting it on fire. Military operations against these
terrorists are continuing and more details about the
operation will be released as it progresses."

3. (SBU) Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa told the diplomatic
corps on December 16 that the joint operations were not an
end to the peace process, but a means to change the negative
status quo and to demonstrate to Kony that the alternative to
peace is worse. He stated that operations would continue
until the LRA assembled at Rikwangba. Kutesa's position was
echoed by Minister of Security Amama Mbabazi and Minister of
State for Defense Ruth Nankabirwa, who briefed Parliament on
the operation, and advised Kony that he would only be safe at
Rikwangba. They urged the LRA to release the women and
children it holds in captivity. The Juba Peace Process Chief
Mediator, Government of Southern Sudan Vice President Riek
Machar, also encouraged the LRA to assemble at Rikwangba and
make immediate arrangements to sign the peace agreement in
his report on the Status of the Juba Peace Process in the
Light of Renewed Military Action.

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OPERATION ENTERING NEW PHASES
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (SBU) Major Chris Magezi, the UPDF's spokesman at
operational headquarters, told reporters that phase one of
the operation had ended and that the second phase of assault,
cordon, search, and destroy had begun. He also said that
non-combatant women, children, and abductees will be rescued
and received at camps set up for them. Six abductees had
already been rescued; four were Congolese, one was Ugandan,
and one was a pregnant young girl from Central African
Republic (CAR). The UPDF dropped leaflets carrying messages
of peace and opportunity and directing those fleeing the
camps to surrender to any church, public institution, the
UPDF, SPLA, MONUC, or Conglese military. Similar messages
began transmission on local radio stations on December 16.
The leaflets and radio broadcasts also gave the locations of
reception centers.

5. (SBU) Magezi provided additional information about the
joint nature of the operation. He stated that the SPLA was
manning the northern axis of the area of operations, while
the UPDF and Congolese army were defending the southern
flank. MONUC pledged full support to the operation and its
overall commander, General Boubacar Gaye, flew into Dungu on
December 16 to coordinate MONUC assistance with the overall
UPDF commander, Brigadier General Patrick Kankirho.

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PUBLIC REACTION, POSITIVELY MIXED
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6. (SBU) Public reaction in Uganda has been mixed, but
broadly positive so far. Most Ugandans that expressed
support for the action believe that Kony was not serious
about the peace process. Leader of the Opposition in
Parliament Morris Latigo, a northerner who had participated
in some of the meetings with Kony, was vocal in his support

KAMPALA 00001619 002 OF 002


for the operation. Gulu District Chairman Norbert Mao is
adopting a wait-and-see attitude, but preparing for potential
returns of abductees and/or population movements. Vocal
government critics and Acholi members of the opposition,
Reagan Okumu and Livingston Okello Okello, made
emotionally-based, politically-motivated statements based on
inaccurate information to include "We are vehemently opposed
to joint military operations against the LRA because 99
percent of these rebels and their wives, not to mention the
the children born in the bush, were abducted. It's a double
crime for the state of Uganda to follow the abducted people
and destroy them in the bush." Both parliamentariants
described the operation as a "crime against humanity."

- - - -
COMMENT
- - - -

7. (SBU) Kony was not the only one surprised by this
regional military action. Intial public reaction to the news
of the operations on the LRA was also one of surprise, but
has been generally positive. However, the slow pace of the
operations has resulted in a lack of damage assessments,
which the Ugandan media are anxiously awaiting. How the
operation is viewed will ultimately be determined by what it
achieves.
BROWNING

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