When the summit of the O.I.C (Organization for Islamic Conference) met in Cairo recently it was to a spurring between Uganda and its long time enemy the Sudan. Accusations between the two countries are nothing unusual. For many years while the south of Sudan fought a brutal war of independence, Uganda supported its army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement that now runs the new government of Southern Sudan. In turn the Khartoum offered sanctuary and then arms and training to the Lord’s Resistance Army still led by the Ugandan “war lord” Joseph Kony.
The diplomatic spurring between Uganda and Sudan is likely to escalate. Relations between the two Sudans are still problematic and there is violence scattered around the old battle lines of their borders.
However Khartoum likely treats Kampala has the surrogate parent of the breakaway south- behind Juba’s desire for a clean severance from the north. South Sudan is East African-looking. It’s applied to join the regional block where Uganda wields some influence. In reported filings with the African Union, Sudan says Uganda has a policy of regime change in Khartoum. It may well be true. The same guys still run the show there that have been opponents on the battlefield.
What transpired in Cairo (while the new protests in Tahrir were going on) was relayed by the Ugandan Prime Minister in some detail during the periodic “tweet-ups” he conducts at which journalists and other techies sit through a no-holds barred conversation with him and then tweet his responses.
According to Amama Mbabazi when the Sudan brought the accusations of support to the OIC it was meant to torpedo the chances of Uganda’s candidate for the OIC General Secretaryship. “ They meant to frustrate our candidate [Isaac Isanga Musumba]” he said. OIC has a rotational leadership and it was Africa’s turn however the Saudi authorities have been shuttling to capitals of countries with candidates in a bid to convince them to cede to Saudi leadership. Musumba had told me months ago that the Ugandans would accommodate the Saudi’s in return for “something else”. It turns out Uganda through Mr.Mbabazi proposed an amendment to the OIC rules to create a new position that of “Deputy Secretary General in charge of Africa”. “ I told the Council of Ministers where Sudan brought its accusations that we were not supporting any rebels. Instead it is the Sudan that is supporting the Lords Resistance Army in South Darfur” Amama said. It gets more interesting. According to the PM who must have been expecting some action by the Sudan, he then presented evidence [or offered to] of Sudan’s continuing support for Mr. Kony but in response his Sudanese counterpart instead complained that the claims Uganda was making were in the “wrong forum”. “ They did not deny that they were supporting Kony,” he said.
The trial on the hunt for Kony is not cold but lukewarm. Reading the current LRA crisis tracker suggests that the rebel group is lying low and far away. Numbers of its Ugandan forces are reducing. Given its location and strategy if the group remains sequestered in Sudan it will likely morph into something other than a Ugandan rebel group. This happened with the ADF, which effectively became more Congolese with time retaining just a number of its original Ugandan talent. Which begs the question however what happens to Mr. Kony eventually?
LRA’s strengths have always been subject to the alliance making around it. While Sudan relies on the OIC as its primary diplomatic constituency its unlikely that save for extreme circumstances involving a full return to its policy of supporting rebels to destabilize the South that LRA can be in action like it used to. However change is coming very slowly to Khartoum that has to deal with the South as a government nowadays. It’s the same with Juba. A mending of fences with the past may really be in order to dispense with this policy of aggression.
If Musumba does become an OIC Secretary General in charge of Africa one wonders if this should not be a major part of Ugandan diplomacy- to move things forward beyond rebel coalitions and conflict. Uganda is presently undergoing a foreign policy review. We promise to comment on it fully here soon.
To review the rest of the tweetup see #AskthePM