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Khartoum and the LRA: What’s Behind the Rumors?

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Khartoum and the LRA: What’s Behind the Rumors?

Posted by Amanda Hsiao on September 15, 2009

It seems that many people are beginning to wonder, “Are resurgent Ugandan rebels backed by Khartoum?” AlertNet recently examined the question, providing some interesting insights about the potential links between the Sudanese regime in Khartoum and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the northern Ugandan rebel group led by the messianic indicted war criminal Joseph Kony. The LRA has terrorized civilians for more than two decades initially in northern Uganda, and now throughout central Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and southern Sudan.

 Quoting Ugandan officials who are in hot pursuit of the LRA, the article provides new suggestions that this unsavory alliance may be starting up once again. A Ugandan intelligence official cited by AlertNet said that the LRA is operating in two languages, Acholi and Arabic. The former is unsurprising as Kony himself comes from Acholiland in northern Uganda, where Acholi is the spoken language. It is also the region where the LRA kidnapped and forcibly conscripted many of its fighters during its heyday. The use of Arabic, on the other hand, suggests the involvement of another party, and intelligence sources point to Khartoum.

An LRA-Khartoum alliance would not come out of left field. The two forces became partners when, during parallel wars in northern Uganda and southern Sudan in the 1990s, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni began supporting the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA, the main rebel group in southern Sudan. In retaliation, Khartoum provided the LRA with intelligence, arms, and training, and allowed the LRA to use southern Sudan as a rear base of operations for the epicenter of the conflict in northern Uganda.

No concrete evidence has shown that Khartoum is once again using the LRA as a proxy, but a resumption of this destructive partnership would be consistent with the ruling National Congress Party’s consistent use of proxy militias to commit atrocities and destabilize Sudan’s restive peripheral regions. A policy of destabilization would further undermine the faltering Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA and paint the South as ungovernable. These efforts are a direct threat to the 2011 self-determination referendum, a cornerstone of the CPA, and they feed into a dangerous rhetoric that may be emerging in certain capitals (see Colin Thomas-Jensen’s post on Solana’s foot in mouth comment).

Bottom line: with Khartoum poised to benefit from increasing instability in southern Sudan, the conditions seem ripe for the renewal of an LRA-Khartoum union.