UGANDA NEWS BRIEFS – 27 OCTOBER 2008

Juba Peace Process / ICC
Analysts fear Ugandan rebel chaos spreading (AFP)
Renewed brutal attacks and forced recruitment by Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have
raised fears that the rebels are destabilising terrain straddling three African nations, analysts say.

Since September, a series of raids in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and southern Sudan
has been blamed on the rebels, and analysts say their forces could also threaten areas of the Central
African Republic (CAR).

A UN report this month accused the northern Ugandan fighters of serious human rights abuses in
attacks in northeastern DRC that killed more than 200 people.

The rebels "conducted a campaign of killing, systematic abduction of children and burning of almost
all houses," the report said.

Fleeing refugees said the rebels have returned to their trademark pattern of surprise attacks and
abductions, after mostly minor raids during the last three years of peace talks.

"This time was different: they were killing, burning the huts, destroying the food, and they took the
children with them from the school into the bush," said Denangwa John, a Congolese farmer who fled
to Sudan.

Local officials say at least 100 children were snatched from southern Sudan and another 100 from
DRC, with thousands displaced. The attacks follow earlier raids along the eastern jungles of the CAR,
local authorities say.

LRA rebel chief Joseph Kony began his battle 20 years ago, claiming to fight against the
marginalisation of the people of northern Uganda.

But the LRA's ferocious attacks, in which rebels chopped off the limbs and lips of their victims, often
seemed more aimed at civilians than the military.

In the 1990s, the rebels began moving into neighbouring south Sudan, reportedly backed by
Khartoum as a proxy force against southern rebels.

Since 2005, when Sudan signed a peace deal to end its long-running north-south civil war, the rebels
slowly shifted to remote jungles in DRC.

"The LRA has gone from Uganda, but with this wave of abductions it is consolidating its forces in
isolated areas of south Sudan, CAR and the DR Congo," said Francois Grignon of the International
Crisis Group think-tank.

With oil-rich south Sudan due to vote on independence in 2011, some fear the LRA may reprise its
role as a proxy force for those keen to block the emergence of a fully autonomous south.

"They are a force that could be used in future against south Sudan," Grignon warned.

A renewed LRA campaign could have a major impact on the region, causing instability in nations still
trying to recover from their own civil wars.

"The LRA is seeking a role in the conflicts affecting the area, and has also sustained links with groups
in Sudan," said Tim Allen, an expert on the LRA at the London School of Economics.

"The LRA has long had a role in Sudan -- linked to the antipathy of groups in the far south towards the
Dinka," he added, referring to the ethnic group dominant in much of the southern leadership.

Despite three years of peace talks, Kony -- who is the subject of an International Criminal Court
warrant for massacres and the rape and mutilation of civilians -- has repeatedly failed to appear to
sign the final peace deal.

"The LRA has received various resources in the course of the peace negotiations from a variety of
actors," Allen said.

South Sudan provided food and basic supplies to the LRA during the talks to stop them raiding areas
around their bases.

However, many fear the potential involvement of Khartoum, although analysts admit there is no direct

"It has been able to re-arm and reorganise," Allen added. "It is also the case that it has always
retained a significant military capacity."

LRA spokesman David Nyekorach-Matsanga insists Kony remains "committed" to peace, blaming
recent attacks on other unnamed militias. "The LRA is not recruiting new soldiers or making a new
offensive," Matsanga told AFP.

But the refugees in southern Sudan say they know the fighters are LRA.

There is talk of military pressure mounting against the rebels, with troops from the DRC, backed by
UN peacekeepers, reported to be planning a crackdown.

Southern Sudan says it has beefed up forces along its stretch of the border, and raised the possibility
of offensive action against the rebels.

But a direct assault is unlikely on guerrillas with years of jungle experience who are able to slip across
borders with apparent ease.

Allen warned that current forces -- including those from south Sudan, Uganda, the DRC and the UN
peacekeepers -- would be "unlikely to achieve a military victory or solution without significant external

Those in affected areas are gloomy for the future.

"The peace talks never addressed the main point: what can anyone offer Kony so that he would want
to come out of the bush?" said John Patchanize, smalltime trader whose business between Sudan
and the DRC is blocked by fear of attacks on the border.

"The truth is that Kony is a warlord who understands one thing -- war."

The making of a monster (Globe & Mail)
From the time he was a tiny child, his parents coached him: Use a fake name. Say you are from the
west. Lie about your family.

If ever the rebels get you, they told him, make sure they don't know where your family is – or none of
us will ever be safe again.

The rebels did get him, when he was 10 years old. And when they snatched him, walking home from
school on a red dirt Ugandan road, green grass high above his head on either side, he did as he had
been told: He lied and said his name was Dominic Ongwen.

And so it is by that name that he now stands indicted for seven counts of crimes against humanity by
the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Dominic Ongwen is a senior commander in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla force that
has terrorized the civilians of northern Uganda for more than 20 years, waging its war against the
Ugandan government in the small farms and villages of the Acholi people. He is known as the most
courageous, loyal and brutal of the men who serve Joseph Kony, the LRA's charismatic and ruthless

Dozens of witnesses stand prepared to testify at the ICC that they saw Mr. Ongwen rape, beat, torture
and execute civilians, including hundreds of abducted children. Many people are determined to see
him in the dock in The Hague. But for every witness against him, there is one who could testify to the
savage process of violence and psychological intimidation through which he was turned from child to

Mr. Ongwen is the first person to be charged with the same war crimes that were committed against
him. But he is far from alone in his messy status: There are fighters in conflicts across Africa who
were born into rebel movements or abducted when very young. The principle that such children can't
be prosecuted for what they do, even if no one forces them to kill or loot, is enshrined in several
international agreements, including the one that created the ICC.

Yet no provision is made for those like Mr. Ongwen who grow up in the image of their oppressors: As
the law stands, if they carry out the same crimes after their 18th birthdays that they did the day before,
they are no longer victims, but criminals.

What is justice for these fighters? How much can they be held responsible for, having grown up in
environments of extreme brutality?

These are particularly relevant questions for Canada, which has been a champion of both
international justice and the rights of child soldiers. This country hosted the world's first multilateral
conference on war-affected children in Winnipeg in 2000. Then-foreign-minister Lloyd Axworthy
pushed aggressively for the ratification of the United Nations Protocol on Children and Armed Conflict
and the creation of the ICC to punish those who use child soldiers.

Now, eight years later, one of those very children stands indicted by the court that was established to
protect him.

Mr. Axworthy admits that he never saw it coming. International justice was still a new idea in 2000 and
the focus was entirely on setting up the institutions to protect the children, he said. “Where do you
draw the line, when the victim becomes a perpetrator?”

Brutal indoctrination

The man now known as Dominic Ongwen was born the fourth of eight children to two schoolteachers,
Alexy Acayo and Ronald Owiya, in the village of Awach Paibona Bolipii, in the summer of 1980.

When he was 6, war broke out in northern Uganda. Joseph Kony, a young spirit medium, had
gathered a few splintered rebel groups and to fight the newly installed government of Yoweri
Museveni, who in 1986 had ousted the first president ever to hail from Uganda's north.

Two of Dominic's siblings, younger sister Lucy Akello and older brother Norbert Kilama, recall him as
shy. They say he liked to make crafts and sell them to help to pay his school fees. When he was 10,
his parents transferred him to another school for a better edu-

cation – and it was while he was walking home from there one day that the rebels seized him. He
remembered to give a false name, knowing that the LRA keeps records of abductees' names, clans
and villages of birth, and often retaliates against the clans of children who escape.

Mr. Ongwen has never given an account of his first days with the rebels. But it is possible to
reconstruct a picture, based on more than 50 interviews that the Justice and Reconciliation Project, a
community-based initiative in the northern capital of Gulu, has conducted with Mr. Ongwen's family
and people who knew him in the LRA.

On the day of his abduction, according to others taken at the same time, Mr. Ongwen was “too small”
to hike and was carried on the backs of older fighters for several days as they travelled to their main
military base. When he reached the camp, he was ordered, like other children too young to fight, to
join the “home” of a senior commander. Under this lapwony (teacher) and his “wives” (pubescent girls
who have been abducted), he would be indoctrinated in the rebels' complex and vicious ways.

Mr. Ongwen's lapwony, fatefully, was Vincent Otti, who would soon be promoted to Mr. Kony's
second-in-command, a commander of legendary cruelty. In 1995, Mr. Otti personally oversaw the
slaughter of more than 300 people, including children, in his home village of Atiak.

Like all abducted children, Mr. Ongwen was ordered to forget his past life. He was told that escape
was impossible – his family would never take him back and the government would kill him if he tried to
return home. Later, he was told that his family had been rounded up into an internment camp and
killed. He was told lies about his whereabouts and forced into a harsh regimen of marches and
physical labour that left him exhausted and disoriented. There were constant beatings.

“When new people are brought, they have to make [them into] ‘soldiers,'” a girl abducted at 17
explained about their first days in the bush. “There was a boy right next to me. He was still young,
maybe 10 years old – 250 [cane] strokes had been too much for him. He was crying right next to me:
‘I am going to die.' I had much sympathy for him, but I couldn't help him. I was in so much pain myself.

“After some time, he was quiet. [The commander] came past and tried to wake him, but in vain. He
shouted: ‘Get up!' [The boy's] eyes were closed and his body had already gone stiff. He was only
three metres from me. At that moment … I started to fear for my own life.”

The children were lectured for hours on the arcane rules of the rebels. There were only certain times
that they could eat certain foods, such as pork, tamarind or honey. There were all manner of taboos –
cooking while menstruating, for example, was forbidden. Children could have social or physical
contact only with permission. Punishments for violations, real or perceived, were harsh: Rebels could
be killed for losing a gun or bullets – or for something as minor as dropping a piece of luggage on a
march, or eating more than their portion of food.

The price of disobedience was clear: They were forced to kill children who attempted escape by
beating them with a log or branch while the others stood and watched. Sometimes, after such a killing,
the young trainees were forced to taste the dead child's blood.

Twisted faith

Much of this was presented as “ritual,” part of the spiritual arsenal that Mr. Kony and his commanders
also use to inculcate loyalty. When Mr. Ongwen arrived at the rebel base, his body was smeared with
cream to “cleanse” him of the sins of his old life.

All new abductees are taught – and indeed much of the Acholi population believes – that Mr. Kony
has spiritual powers. They believe that he can predict the future, read the minds of his fighters and
even take the form of different animals to spy on those who contemplate escape. The children learn
very quickly to cloak their emotions, and never to give the impression they are sad and possibly
thinking of trying to run away. Above all, they learn never to cry.

The LRA also has a political ideology that appeals to some of the abducted children. They are told of
the grievances of the Acholi, who oppose Mr. Museveni's government because they have been
systematically excluded from the progress seen in other parts of Uganda. The children are told that
the government and its international allies are deliberately exterminating their people and the LRA is
fighting to free them.

Many ex-rebels say their senior commanders told them that the LRA would soon overthrow the
government, and then there would be jobs and material rewards for those who were loyal. It is a
heady message for children who have come from poor villages or squalid refugee camps.

“The LRA is very skilled at this,” says Michael Wessells, a professor of psychology at Columbia
University and an expert in child protection who has worked extensively in northern Uganda. “Children

do a number of things when they are subjected to all this, but the most frequent is a process of
splitting or dissociation: They literally cut themselves off from their past identity and construct a new
identity more appropriate to their new situation – and they do things that are appropriate in that world,
such as killing.”

At 10 years old, he adds, a boy like Dominic Ongwen “is very susceptible to this kind of transformation
– much more so than someone who was 16 and had their identity formation further along, and had
stronger skills of resistance.”

Very soon, the military training began. In long, repetitive drills held in clearings in the jungle, Mr.
Ongwen was taught to use a gun and to steal goods from trading centres or food from gardens or
storehouses. He showed remarkable ability and, within a year or two, was put in charge of small
raiding parties of younger children.

Jeannie Annan, a Yale University psychologist who heads the Survey for War-Affected Youth, says it
is not a surprise that Mr. Ongwen strove to excel: It is easy, she says, for a child's captors to subvert
his normal desire to please (getting good grades, for example) into an urge to do well at killing and

Mr. Ongwen was also quick, as the youngest abductees often are, to show his loyalty to Mr. Kony.
“For a 10-year-old, it's very easy for a military figure to become a father figure,” Prof. Wessells says.
“The bond between a young boy and an adult male figure – this kind of surrogate family – is much
stronger than just having a commander.”

Taking charge

When Mr. Ongwen was 14, the LRA moved into southern Sudan, where Mr. Kony had been offered
support by the Sudanese government, which saw the LRA as a useful proxy force against its own
rebel groups as well as the hostile government of Uganda. For a time, Mr. Ongwen and the other
rebels lived in relative safety on expansive compounds where they built schools and hospitals.

The teenager was put in charge of field operations, going on military training missions to Khartoum
and receiving transfers of arms and supplies from shadowy donors and other rebel groups. He also
honed his ability to deliver Mr. Kony's signature messages of cruelty – the LRA would sometimes line
roads with the severed heads of their enemies, and two of his former soldiers say Mr. Ongwen
ordered people to be boiled alive in large cooking pots.

But he was best known for leading abduction raids, just like the one that captured him. He would take
small bands of rebels into Uganda, drive children from their homes or fields at gunpoint and march
them back over the border to the camps in Sudan. None ever escaped on his watch. Mr. Kony took
note and publicly called Mr. Ongwen a “role model” among the child soldiers.

At about 18, he was promoted to his first command position, the rank of major, and rewarded with
“wives” of his own (he eventually had five). Soon, he was also a father.

Around this time, he apparently made contact with his family near Gulu. Former comrades-in-arms
say he sent messages and sometimes put on civilian clothes and sneaked into their village to visit,
even though one of his brothers was working for army intelligence. Another brother says Mr. Ongwen
sometimes called on a satellite phone from the bush.

Yet he either never tried or was never able to escape in the confusion of battle, as thousands of other
young rebels have done. As a skilled fighter, he was under heavy “protection” – actually guards and
spies to keep watch on him – and his wives and children were kept close to Mr. Kony as an additional

Filder Ajok, who spent 14 years in the bush as the wife of a commander who was an Ongwen
confidant, recalls that “he felt very bad because the rebels threatened to kill him if he escapes.” They
also told him his family home would be burnt down.

Another of his former soldiers says Mr. Ongwen believed that radio messages from escapees urging
others to come home were faked, and the former rebels were killed when they left the bush.

Mr. Ongwen also may have felt too implicated ever to return to civilian life. “Kony used to promote
those who do a lot of bad things because he knows that they will never go back home,” says a former
child soldier who spent five years with the rebels.

Mr. Ongwen himself spoke openly about this, according to Ms. Ajok: “Wherever he goes, people know
he is a killer, so he has to act accordingly.”

Iron Fist

In 2002, the war took a deadly turn. Uganda launched what it called Operation Iron Fist, crossing into
South Sudan to flush the rebels out of their strongholds. In retaliation, the LRA invaded northern and
eastern Uganda. It abducted 8,400 new “recruits” from June, 2002, to May, 2003, forcing them to
carry supplies between Sudan and Uganda and training them for battle.

The Ugandan government forced 1.7 million people into displaced-persons camps – allegedly to
protect them, but actually to ensure that no civilians supported the rebels. The LRA was undeterred:
Children were abducted by the hundreds – in one case, 40 children drowned when they were tied
together and forced to cross a fast-moving river.

Mr. Ongwen allegedly led most of these raids. He continued to rise in the ranks. Each step up brought
greater security, including essentials such as access to food and shelter as well as information,
escorts for protection, ting ting (prepubescent girls) for domestic service and forced “wives.”

In late 2003, President Museveni asked the International Criminal Court to consider indicting the LRA
leaders – ostensibly as a way of forcing the rebels into peace talks, although his critics say he knew
indictments would prolong the war, which helps sustain Uganda's large and profitable military-
industrial complex.

After investigations, the ICC issued indictments against five LRA commanders in July, 2005. Mr.
Ongwen was charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and four of war crimes, including
“widespread murder, enslavement, pillaging and attacks on civilian populations.”

He learned of the charges over shortwave radio – the rebel leaders are devoted listeners of the BBC
Africa service. Filled with alarm about his future, he began to contact civilians and local leaders to ask
about the possibility of returning from the bush.

One night, he sent troops to round up 30 civilians and bring them to a meeting point outside Gulu. He
quizzed them on the public's perception of him and what they believed would happen to him if he
returned. He asked about his parents and family, as he often did when in the area. He asked about
former LRA commanders who had taken government amnesty packages and were now said to be
living comfortably in Gulu.

He also asked whether they thought the government would hand him over to the foreign court. They
told him of a recent radio program in which a senior local official had said there was no way Mr.
Ongwen could escape the ICC. After the discussion, he let the group go.

Meanwhile, running out of havens, the LRA called a ceasefire and withdrew into a remote area of the
Democratic Republic of the Congo with hundreds of fighters, reportedly to assess it as a new base.
Isolated and now internationally hunted, the LRA agreed in 2006 to enter into formal peace talks with
Mr. Museveni's government. But that left large battalions of rebels cut off from the main group,
roaming northern Uganda. Mr. Ongwen was one of the commanders left behind. United Nations
officials who sighted the stray LRA detachments described small, bedraggled groups, wandering,
hungry and waiting for orders.

Ongwen's dilemma

Those who knew Mr. Ongwen in this period – his darkest with the rebels since he was first abducted –
said he swung back and forth about wanting to escape. They described him as quick to anger, with a
mercurial nature.

“It was not an easy task for one to try to assess Dominic's character because he changes his mind
and mood like the way a chameleon does to its skin colour,” says a young man who was with the LRA
from 1999 to 2004. “Dominic changes from good to bad and from bad to good at any moment.”

Loneliness may also have been pulling at him: At the height of the war, thousands of LRA wives and
children were injured or killed. Mr. Ongwen, like many commanders, released some of his family to
safety, while others were separated from him.

One wife says he frequently contacted her in 2006, sometimes sneaking at night into the displaced-
persons camp where she lived with their children, shedding his military fatigues to blend in with the
local population. She says he expressed a desire to return home.

After learning that one of their children had died, she recalls, “he said it was useless for him to stay in
the bush when his children were suffering [and] he could not bring anything home.” She approached
local officials, who organized a meeting with the army and former LRA commanders to plan his

Mr. Ongwen washed, shaved and changed into civilian clothing. But before they could leave for the
meeting, he suddenly began to beat his wife, asking if she had forgotten about the ICC indictments
and his fate if he gave himself up. He put his fatigues back on and left for the bush, she says. She has
not seen him since.

In September, 2006, Mr. Ongwen met with Ugandan army commanders and some religious leaders in
a remote area of the north, in an appointment apparently arranged by a civilian LRA collaborator. He
and his men were promised safe passage to a neutral area in Sudan – but instead, some time late in
2007, he crossed the border into Congo to rejoin Mr. Kony.

Although the peace talks have come close to reaching a settlement, they have repeatedly broken
down over the ICC indictments. So while the fighting has slowed, the war in northern Uganda goes
on. People linger in displaced-persons camps, not yet convinced they can go home.

Mr. Ongwen reportedly has been promoted to third (the ICC says) or fourth (Ugandans say) in the
LRA command. In part, he advanced simply because he outlived many of his superiors. His former
indoctrinator, Vincent Otti, who was also wanted by the ICC and had been a driving force in the peace
talks, was executed in October, 2007, after Mr. Kony suspected him of disloyalty.

At one point in 2005, it was widely reported that Mr. Ongwen had been killed himself. The Ugandan
army went to his family for DNA samples to try to match the body they had. It proved not to be his.

The LRA continues to snatch children from Sudan, the nearby Central African Republic and Congo as
well as Uganda. The rebels need young recruits to groom for their next high command, and are again
training them by forcing them to kill other children. This week, Mr. Kony and his men dumped 100
bodies into a river in Congo, intent on terrorizing local people into cooperation.

Cycles of violence

How, in 11 years, did Dominic Ongwen turn from a boy too small to walk to the rebels' camp into one
of their fiercest, most senior fighters?

It is precisely because they are malleable and amenable to indoctrination that children are recruited
by armed groups. Hauled into violent conflict before their own moral compass has developed, they
become unable to discern right from wrong.

Former LRA fighters describe how, not long after their abduction, they stopped thinking about home
and went into “auto pilot” – some describe “going outside of their bodies” when forced to kill.

Yet any trauma Mr. Ongwen endured ceased to be relevant when he turned 18. Today, the ICC
deems him one of those “most responsible” for the war.

“Our mandate is to go after those most responsible for the most serious crimes,” says Beatrice Le
Fraper Du Hellen, who is the court's Director of Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Co-operation. Mr.
Ongwen's rank in the LRA, she says, “gave him a very high responsibility for very serious crimes …
too much of a responsibility to exclude him from liability.”

His status as a former abducted child himself could certainly form part of his defence at trial, she says.
But the ICC cannot use it as a reason to look the other way.

People in Uganda, according to repeated surveys, agree almost unanimously that Mr. Ongwen and
other LRA leaders must pay for their actions. But few feel that international justice is the right way to
do it.

Some of the approximately one million Acholi people in Uganda believe that the best, quickest route
to peace is amnesty for the rebel leaders. But while government amnesty has lured many fighters and
even some commanders out of the bush, it has also engendered great anger among victims who see
their persecutors living well on resettlement packages or army jobs.

Some favour traditional Acholi justice mechanisms, which combine cleansing ceremonies with
atonement, community service and forgiveness. Others favour a criminal process, but one held in
Uganda, where they can attend and everyone involved will be intimately acquainted with the context.

There is more at stake in this than just one rebel's fate. “It hurts the credibility of the ICC if they take
such a simplistic view of human behaviour,” Prof. Wessells says. “Of course [Mr. Ongwen's] actions
are contemptible and should be condemned – but this hard-line, retributive justice sets things back

In the West as well, as Yale's Prof. Annan points out, debate goes on about how to factor cycles of
trauma and violence into the pursuit of justice. “For nearly every single criminal – if you look at their
background – every one would have abuse in background. Certainly this is almost universally true of
sexual offenders – they were themselves child victims.”

The Canadian system takes these kinds of facts into account for aboriginal offenders, who are
increasingly diverted from the criminal system to transitional justice initiatives and healing circles.

Many advocates also raise such questions about another well-known child soldier, Canadian citizen
Omar Khadr, who is being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay even though he was taken
by his father to fight with al-Qaeda when he was only 11.

A bitter choice

International justice is intended to contribute to sustainable peace after mass atrocities by punishing
wrongdoers and preventing victims from seeking vengeance.

Lloyd Axworthy, who is currently president of the University of Winnipeg, noted that Mr. Kony is
among those pushing for the use of traditional justice mechanisms in the hope of avoiding
international prosecution – which poses the risk that LRA leaders won't, in fact, face any real censure.
“Then that whole effort of accountability and impunity takes a huge step backwards.”

But Mr. Ongwen's wives, family and former comrades all say that the ICC indictment is the primary
reason that he remains in the bush, abducting more children.

In response to the standoff in the peace talks and pleas from traditional Acholi leaders, the Canadian
government has recently taken a controversial stand, asking the UN Security Council to seek a stay of
the ICC indictments in order to facilitate peace negotiations. Critics, including Mr. Axworthy, decried
the move, saying it would contribute to impunity.

Yet this bitter choice, between promoting peace and the appearance of injustice, might well have
been averted. At the 2000 conference in Winnipeg, Mr. Axworthy's government committed to take the
lead in negotiating the release of children held by the LRA. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
however, the LRA was placed on the U.S. terrorist list and Canada abandoned its initiative to rescue
the children.

“Canada dropped the ball,” says Kathy van der Grift of the Canadian Coalition on the Rights of
Children. “And had Canada not dropped it, something would have happened to change [Dominic
Ongwen's] life pattern much earlier.”

Meanwhile in Gulu, Mr. Ongwen's father died in 2005, shortly after hearing his son was named as a
war criminal. His mother still waits for him to come home. She does not know how much more than
his name has changed.

Northern Uganda
Truck impounded with hospital food (New Vision)
The Police have impounded a truck loaded with World Food Programme (WFP) food items. The
district police commander, Raymond Otim, said they impounded the truck with foodstuff meant for
HIV/AIDS patients at Alebtong hospital after seeing it heading to a different direction.

He said some of the items that included 50 bags of maize flour, 50 bags of beans, 18 cartons of
cooking oil and 160 bags of soya blend, had been off-loaded in Lira town.

“How can you load items at Lira Spinning Mill and move to Lira town yet the route to Alebtong is in the
opposite direction?” Otim asked journalists at Lira police station on Wednesday.

Jackson Opio, an official from COSBEL, a community-based organisation contracted to distribute the
items, was grilled for hours by the police. The trucks were later escorted by the police to Alebtong to
deliver the items.

Sh445b for Karamoja region (New Vision)
THE Government has allocated sh445b for Karamoga region development in the next three years.

The Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Aston Kajara, said part of the funds will be used in infrastructural
development, establishment of law and order and provision of basic services like schools and health

Some of the money will also be used to support alternative means of livelihood and economic
diversification, he said.

Kajara was speaking at the national dissemination of findings in a report done on protecting the rights
of children and women, in the conflict-ridden pastoral community of Pokot.

Kajara was flanked state ministers for children affairs and that of primary education; Rtd Maj. James
Kinobe and Peter Lokeris respectively.

The report, released at Hotel Africana on Wednesday, was done by the African Network for Preven-
tion and Protection of Children Against Abuse and Neglect and Trans-Psycho-cultural Organisation,
with support from Dan Church Aid.

Pokot County lies within the Karamoja cattle corridor, in north-eastern Uganda. It has a population of
about 83,000 and highly marginalised.

“We are also planning to intensify community sensitisation and enhance coordination between the
local and Central Govern-ment in Karamoja,” Kajara added.

Besides, the Netherlands government also donated sh24b for the establishment of school structures
in the region. The programme has already started in Nakapiripit district.

The report also stated: “Karamoja is still an insecure place to stay in,” something Kajara challenged.
He said there are about 50 policemen in every Karamoja sub-county.

Army holds LC3 chief (New Vision)
THE army on Wednesday apprehended the LC3 vice-chairman of Panyangara sub-county in Kotido

Paul Lora was held for attempting to bribe an army officer, so he could release a warrior under trial for
illegal possession of fire arms.

The UPDF 3rd Division combat intelligence officer, Capt. Abraham Mutabazi, said Lora took
sh500,000 to Lt. Arthur Timbanganye to try to rescue his nephew, Longole Abaliga, from facing the
court martial.

Abaliga was among the six suspects arrested in August for ambushing a Gateway Company bus in an
incident where one person died and six others were injured.

“Lora contacted our officer and pleaded with him to release the suspect. When he realised the officer
was not budging, he pulled out sh500,000 and gave it to him. The officer received the money but
arrested the vice-chairman,” Mutabazi narrated.

He said the court martial later found Abaliga guilty and sentenced him to nine years imprisonment for
illegal possession of fire arms. He said the army handed Lora to the police.

Health & HIV/AIDS
New suspected Hepatitis E cases reported in Yumbe (Daily Monitor)
Two new cases of suspected Hepatitis E have been reported in Yumbe District. The patients are
admitted at Yumbe Hospital with little signs of improvement.

The District Health officer, Dr Alfred Yayi, told Daily Monitor on Friday that there is poor sanitation and
water coverage in the district which perpetuates the disease. He said most people do not have
latrines. “We are waiting for results of their blood samples from the Uganda Virus Research Institute,”
Dr Yayi said. He said the water coverage in Yumbe is 30 per cent.

He said the district is sensitising people on ways of fighting the disease and that it has stocked health
centres with drugs and intravenous fluids. “Sanitation in households is still wanting but we need
collective efforts from communities to avert this situation,” he added. Hepatitis E is transmitted by
contaminated food and water.

According to latest statistics, Yumbe has recorded 23 cases with four deaths since the outbreak three
months ago. The first outbreak was reported in the internally displaced peoples camp.

The District Disease Surveillance Officer, Mr Mansur Dradriga said one of those suspected to be
suffering from the disease is a businessman from Mengo village in Drajini Sub-county. He said other
patient whose names could not be established, is a resident of Romogi Sub-county.

HIV/Aids worries in returnee villages (Daily Monitor)
It is feared that the infection rate of HIV/Aids will go up when people eventually leave camps and go
back to their homes. This has been attributed to lack of access to information on Aids in the returnee

NGOs and health agencies in northern Uganda estimate the scourge prevalence rate at 11 per cent
higher than the national figure which stands at 8.5 per cent. “There will be a lot of sexual activity when
people go home because the situation has normalised.

People will get married and want to have children but if there are no interventions, there will be
massive infections in the process,” the behavioural change approach Communications Officer at
American Refugee Committee (ARC) Mr Richard Kintu, said during a media forum recently. “We shall
promote prevention of HIV infection through the behavioural change approach,” he said.

Northern Uganda is in its third year of peace after two decades of conflict that forced people to
abandon homes and relocate to internally displaced peoples camps but health services are scarce.

Most health centres are not functional. Mr Kintu said: “Services are centred in urban areas more than
the villages.” “We shall set up mobile counselling centres focusing at the grassroot where there are
no services,” Mr Kintu added. The project that is funded by the Presidential Emergency Fund for Aids
Relief will operate in the districts of Gulu, Amuru and Pader.

Meanwhile Taso has embarked on setting up Youth Clubs to fight the spread of HIV/Aids among the
youth. The clubs dubbed “Aids Challenge Youth Clubs” have been introduced in schools.

“We have realised that the youth being the most vulnerable, should be involved in the fight against
Aids,” Taso field officer Godfrey Okiria told Daily Monitor on Tuesday. He urged youth to resist cross
generation sex which is on the increase in the region that is recovering from the war.

Anti-fungal drug fomeningitis in HIV-positive patients (New Vision)
EIGHTEEN years ago I lost a brother,” recalled Dr. Christine Nabiryo. “He had severe headache
before he died. Doctors diagnosed him with cryptococcal meningitis which comes with severe
headache,” said Nabiryo, the deputy executive director of programmes and strategic information at
The AIDS Support Organisation.

Then, in the 1990s, people living with HIV/AIDS had no drugs to fall back on. “You all know that when
an HIV-positive person starts complaining of severe headache we all start counting days, thinking it is
a death warrant,” she said.

Cryptococcal meningitis is the most common infection of the brain and spinal cord or the central
nervous system in patients with advanced HIV infection, says Dr. Anatoli Kamali a clinical
epidemiologist and head of the HIV prevention research programme of the Medical Research Council
unit in Masaka.

The disease is caused by a fungus found in the soil and affects people with low immunity. This type of
meningitis, Kamali says, is hard to treat compared to other types.

“It commonly presents with severe headache and is fatal, unless treated. The treatment is intensive,
costly and not always successful. Survivors are often left with disabilities,” Nabiryo said during the
launch of new findings that prove that fluconazole, an anti-fungal drug, can be used to prevent
cryptococcal disease.

“If one’s CD4 count has dropped to below 100, then one has a high chance of getting the disease,”
she said.

Treatment with antiretroviral therapy has led to a decrease in cryptococcal disease, says Dr. Alex
Opio, the assistant commissioner in charge of disease control at the health ministry.
The new research, Opio said, will help HIV/AIDS patients enjoy a longer life without fear of the

“We have had this epidemic for two decades. If we get new interventions like the one we are releasing
today, we will defeat it,” said Opio.

The research, funded by the Medical Research Council through the Liverpool School of Tropical
Medicine, was done in collaboration with the Uganda Research Unit on AIDS, The AIDS Support
Organisation and the health ministry.

It aimed at assessing whether routine use of fluconazole, can prevent cryptococcal disease in HIV-
infected patients.
One thousand five hundred nineteen HIV-positive patients were enrolled into the trial. Half of these
were put on fluconazole capsules and others on placebo between November 2004 and January 2008.
They were taking one capsule, three times a week.

One patient developed cryptococcal disease in the fluconazole group, while the number was 18 in the
placebo group.
“Therefore patients receiving fluconazole were less likely to develop the disease than those on
placebo,” said Dr Kamali.

Fluconazole was also found to reduce the occurrence of candida of the gullet, mouth, throat and

The research recommends that fluconazole therapy is safe and effective in preventing cryptococcal
disease and should be considered in patients with advanced HIV infection, before starting
antiretroviral drugs and in the early months of antiretroviral therapy until the immune system recovers.

Monitor drugs in health units (New Vision - EDITORIAL)
THE Government has started labelling drugs for free distribution in public health units to curb their
rampant theft and sale in private clinics. Each tablet or capsule bears the letters ‘UG’ while the
packaging has the phrase, “Government of Uganda. For public use only. Not for sale’.

Earlier this year, President Yoweri Museveni directed the health ministry to label drugs that are
supposed to be given out freely. He told the ministry to establish mechanisms of accountability for the
drugs in health facilities. The President further instructed that local councillors be informed about the
amount of drugs sent to their areas. This followed a public outcry on shortage of drugs in public health

There are many cases of drug theft and diversion of drugs from government health facilities to private
clinics. Health officials make off with tones of hospital drugs to run their own private clinics. Ironically,
drugs also expire in stores as health centres complain of lack of drugs and send patients to buy them
from private drug shops.

According to the anti-corruption Coalition Uganda, a local non-governmental organisation focusing on
public accountability, nearly 38.3% of the health centers lack essential drugs and other equipments
required in medical centres. There also exists serious problem with management of distribution of
medicines; lack of inspection to ensure that drugs reach the lower health centres and leakage rates of
up to 76% from the health centres.

The labeling of the drugs in public health units has therefore been long over due. Nevertheless,
labeling the drugs, per se, cannot eliminate their theft. For instance, when the ministry of Education
supplied books to primary schools they ended up in the Kampala bookstores even though they were
labelled: ‘Not for Sale’.

Consequently, the ministry of health must establish a tight system of monitoring of the distribution and
accountability of the drugs in public health units. The local leaders as well as the Members of
Parliament should be regularly informed about the supply of the drugs to the public health units in
their areas.

Uganda has one cancer machine (New Vision)

THERE is only one operational radiotherapy machine in Uganda. The one at Lacor Hospital in Gulu
broke down recently. Radiotherapy is used in cancer treatment to kill cancer cells, usually after

Dr. Edward Ddumba, the director of Mulago Hospital, says the machine costs about sh1b.

He says Mulago, the national referral hospital, received sh3b from the Government this financial year
to build and equip another cancer ward to reduce on the congestion at the Uganda Cancer Institute.

Dr. Vicky Walusansa of the Uganda Cancer Institute says cancer drugs are expensive worldwide. “No
one is making money from these drugs but the amount of research and time that goes into their
production is perhaps what pushes their price up,” she says.

Dr. Kenya Mugisha, the director of clinical services at the health ministry, says every hospital should
be able to diagnose and carry out surgery like mastectomies (cutting of the infected breast in cases of
breast cancer).

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Most patients are referred to the Cancer Institute when their
condition is serious.
This usually happens when doctors do not diagnose cancer in time or when patients are referred late.

Even Lacor which used to offer specialised cancer treatment and care, refers its patients to the
already overloaded Cancer Institute for radiotherapy.

Ddumba says Dr. Jackson Orem is the only consultant oncologist (a physician who treats cancer). At
least four oncologists are needed at the centre.

The other oncologists in the country are Dr. Edward Mbidde of the Uganda Virus Research Institute
and Prof. Mathew Olweny, the Chancellor of Uganda Martyrs University. Both of them are retired

Each regional referral hospital should have at least two oncologists, therefore, Uganda should have at
least 24 oncologists.

New strategic plan to reduce prevalence (New Vision)
THE Uganda Aids Commission recently launched the National HIV&AIDS Strategic Plan for the year
2007/8–2011/12. The plan, titled Moving Towards Universal Access, hopes to counter the escalating
HIV prevalence in the country.

It comes at a time when the HIV prevalence rate is on a decade high of 6.7%, according to the 2006
HIV/AIDS indicators. Data shows that after a quarter of a century of the epidemic, Uganda continues
to experience a severe epidemic.

Currently, the report notes, 6.4% of adults and 0.7% of children, are infected. Women still lead in HIV
prevalence rate at 7.3%, with men at 5.2%.

“The HIV prevalence rate has increased to 6.7, according to a recent survey,” said Dr. Wiltord Kirungi,
while presenting a paper on the status of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the response.

He said the number of infected people has reached the same proportions as those in 1994. It is also
estimated that the number of people being infected will continue rising.

“From now on, we will have the number of people infected expanding though the number of deaths as
a result of HIV has gone down compared to 1994,” said Kirungi.

He attributes the increase in infections to laxity among policy-makers and complacency among

The situation is worse for women who do not access care. “We are reaching less than half the
targeted number of mothers, but with the new plan, we hope we will be able to reach 80% of the
mothers,”Kirungi said.

A key driver for the new infections is the multiple sexual partners. This, according to the report,
accounts for 37% of all infections, while mother-to-child infection is still high at 18% of infections.
Transactional sex is another factor that points to laxity among people. Recent survey shows that 18%
of girls are involved in cross-generational sex for money or other needs.
But a bigger gap is in lack of consistency in condom use. More than half of the risky sexual acts are
not protected by condom use, the new status of HIV report notes.
Availability of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs)is also blamed for the rising HIV infections.
Rakai district chairman Vincent Semakula said: “In Rakai because of the emergence of ARVs, people
think the disease has gone. Those who are circumcised think it is a permit to engage in unprotected

The issue of discordant couples also emerged as a key driver of infections during the period in review.
Uganda’s 2005 sero-survey suggests that up to 65% of new infections are occurring among married
people and discordant couples may comprise up to 50% of the transmission.
The sexual behaviour of HIV-positive people is another worry in the escalating HIV prevalence.

“Some people know they are HIV-positive, but go ahead and have unprotected sex,” Dr. Kihumuro
Apuuli, the director of the Uganda Aids Commission, said.

According to the 2007/2008 status report, 62% of HIV-positive women admitted to having sex. The
same research shows that most of the HIV-positive men are having sex with their spouses.
The report shows that nearly half of the women and 33% of men who know their spouse is infected do
not use protection.

Condom use in casual sex, is minimal. Eighteen percent of men and 5% of women admit to having
extramarital sex.

New plan targets key areas
In the next five years, the plan aims at reducing new infections, prevent mother-to-child transmissions
and facilitate universal access to essential services.

It also aims at reducing the incidence levels of new HIV infections by 40% by 2012 through prioritising
resource allocations to fund the most cost-effective HIV prevention measures.

The report notes that increased funds and commitment to prevention-related interventions could
reduce the annual number of new infections from the current 135,000 to less than 100,000 by 2012.
This means that as many as 150,000 to 160,000 new infections could be prevented over the period of
the plan.

Care and treatment
Uganda has 360,000 people in need of antiretroviral therapy, but the current reach is 141,000. This
means less than half of the people in need of treatment can access it. If the new plan is implemented
well, it is hoped that the number will increase to 216,000 by 2012. The plan hopes to reduce AIDS-
related deaths by 60,000-90,000 in the next five years.

As the country braces for a five-year plan that aims at reducing the HIV infections, a call has been
made to fight the scourge. The report shows that only 10-12% of men and women between 15 and 49
years have been tested for HIV and received results. Are you one of them? It is the first step in cutting
infections rate.

New Vaccine Candidate May Better Protect HIV-Positive People from TB (VOA)
Human trials are being planned for a new tuberculosis vaccine that's designed to better protect HIV-
positive people from TB. People infected with the AIDS virus (HIV) are more susceptible to TB

because they have much weaker immune systems. As a result, health officials say both diseases are
now closely linked and must be addressed at the same time.

Dr. Marcus Horwitz is professor of medicine, microbiology and molecular genetics at the UCLA David
Geffen School of Medicine. From Los Angeles, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter
Joe De Capua about why a new vaccine against tuberculosis is needed.

"A new TB vaccine is needed for all people, not just HIV-positive people, because the current
vaccine, which is called BCG, is not very effective. It seems to prevent tuberculosis pretty well in
children, but, particularly in adults, it's only at most about 50 percent effective in various clinical trials.
So, there's a great need for a vaccine that's much more effective than that. And that would be true for
all people," he says.

He explains why a TB vaccine specifically targeted for HIV-positive people was engineered. "The
current vaccine is not recommended for HIV-positive people and that's because it can harm them. It
can multiply uncontrolled in some of these people and cause a very severe disease and even
death…. It (new vaccine) could be used by anyone and it is more potent than the current vaccine, but
it was designed with the HIV-positive person in mind," he says.

HIV-positive people could be more at risk of developing TB if they had been given the BCG vaccine,
according to Horwitz. "First of all, HIV is a progressive disease. Overall, patients with HIV are much,
much more susceptible to tuberculosis than persons who have a normal immune system. Patients
with AIDS have several hundred-fold-increased susceptibility to developing tuberculosis. The problem
is that if someone, who is HIV positive, is not treated and eventually their white blood cells decline,
then they become very susceptible to the vaccine, BCG, causing illness," he says.

Asked how the BCG TB vaccine could be responsible for an HIV person developing tuberculosis, he
says, "BCG is a live vaccine. It's a live bacterial vaccine and it will grow unchecked in people if the
immune system is not there to counter it."

However, the new vaccine candidate prevents the bacteria from uncontrolled reproduction. "We
designed a vaccine that would only multiply a few times…and the idea was simply this, that you need
to multiply a few times in order to induce a strong immune response to protect against tuberculosis.
But it turns out you only need to multiply a relatively few times to do that. So, we designed a vaccine
that was able to multiply two, three, four or five times in the host and then stop, " he says.

He says that was done by limiting the amount of iron available that bacteria need to reproduce.
Dr. Horwitz says, with some variation, the new vaccine should be effective against the new tougher
strains of TB, such as MDR and XDR. The human clinical trials, however, will take years, with
research being done in areas where there are many cases of TB.

KCC establishes cholera task force (New Vision)
KAMPALA City Council (KCC) has set up a task force to contain a cholera outbreak. A treatment
centre and ambulance have also been introduced at Mulago Hospital.

The team comprising of health officials from the five divisions will embark on a two-week tour of slums
and public places like markets, homes, hotels and restaurants to ensure hygiene.

The city was hit by cholera in September, with 60 cases reported and four deaths in Nakawa division.

Speaking during a briefing on Wednesday, the KCC Secretary for Health, Caesar Tokoma, said the
tour is to alert communities to maintain hygiene in their homes and areas of operation.

He said KCC has embarked on a clean-up exercise to ensure that all landlords and owners of
restaurants, hotels, shops and homes have proper sanitation.

He warned that KCC would close businesses which fail to meet the required standards.

With heavy rains around the country, the most affected areas are Bwaise- Kawempe, Katwe-Kinyoro,
Makindye, Mutungo and Banda in Nakawa.

KCC has arrested six people in Kawempe who were found transporting beef in an unhygienic way.

14 PLE candidates pregnant (New Vision)
FOURTEEN female candidates in Apac district are to miss their Primary Leaving Examinations after
dropping out of school due to pregnancy or being married off by their parents.

Peter Sirikye, the Apac district Police commander, yesterday said the girls were pupils of Ayomjeri
and Ayat primary schools.

He said they had arrested some of the parents.

“We shall arrest all parties involved in the marriage of the minors,” he said.

“This bad culture of greed for bride wealth must stop. The Police and all concerned parties must join
hands and fight without fear or favour.”

Martin Otuu, the district crime investigation officer, said seven pupils of Ayomjeri Primary School were
pregnant. Four others were reportedly married off and were staying with their ‘husbands.’

He said some of the pupils had recorded statements with the Police after doctors at Apac Hospital
confirmed they were pregnant. The girls are aged between 14 and 16, he said.

James Obura, the head teacher of Ayomjeri Primary School, said he had submitted the list of the
pupils who dropped out of school due to pregnancy to the Police.

Billy Okunyu, the district education officer, advised teachers to report such cases to the Police
promptly so that the culprits are charged.

He urged leaders to sensitise parents and pupils on the dangers of early sex and marriages, which he
said were common in village schools.

Worst UPE districts put on ‘drip’ (Daily Monitor)
The government has launched a Shs88.5 billion project to improve the quality of education in 12 pilot
districts that have been performing very poorly in the Universal Primary Education programme.

Education Minister Namirembe Bitamazire said the Quality Enhancement Initiative project (QEI) will
better the education quality in the 12 districts. “The QEI project will enhance funding, improve staffing,
upgrade physical infrastructure and increase learning materials,” Ms Bitamazire said last week while
launching the project in Bukedea District.

Besides Bukedea, the other beneficiaries are Amuru, Oyam, Bududa, Buliisa, Kyenjojo, Lyantonde,
Mubende, Kaabong and Nakapiripirit.

“We are going to apply oxygen, drips and extra care on them (districts) to improve their education
quality,”Ms Bitamazire said. The Netherlands government will contribute 22m Euros towards the


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