Why did President Museveni halt the search for rebels?

Papers in Uganda today are reporting that President Museveni has given a directive that the army stops the ongoing arrests of suspected rebel collaborators in northern Uganda. Since  late last year, the army has carried out a series of arrests but it wasn’t until late last month that they arraigned 10 suspects in Kampala including a Gulu based journalist Patrick Otim.

Elders in Odek Village, Gulu gather remains of people killed in the LRA war for reburrial. Rosebell Kagumire/2009
Elders in Odek Village, Gulu gather remains of people killed in the LRA war for reburrial. Rosebell Kagumire/2009

But up to now the army doesn’t say who was heading this group. They have pointed at a document supposedly found on Gulu LCV chairman Mao’s flash disk. But if the army thinks Mao is guilty as they have put it in the media, you expect that he would have been the first to be arrested. And Museveni’s directive sends mixed signals. The army spokesperson Maj. Felix Kulayigye said the reason for halting the arrest was “the nucleus of the emerging rebellion was crushed and those concerned have received the information.”

Some questions need to be answered. Can people who have spent the last 20 years in camps be the ones seeking to elongate their suffering? Is this another move by government to alienate people of northern Uganda? And if the rebel group was real why are govt officials trying to release the arrested suspects? If they are indeed rebels why don’t they go through a trial or be given a chance for amnesty rather than just releasing them? Why would a president halt genuine moves to protect the country even if the so called nucleus of the movement has been crushed? Isn’t this what many thought when Lakwena was crushed only for Joseph Kony to emerge?

As long as government doesn’t give a reason for these arrests beyond the ‘nucleus crushed’ many Ugandans will continue to believe that the rebel group threat was imaginary.

Will AMISOM new mandate complicate the Somali situation?

The African Union once again pledged to send more troops to Somalia adding onto the 4,300 force in Mogadishu. For the last two years African countries except for Uganda and Burundi have been silent despite pledging to contribute troops for the peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Whether the countries will finally meet the pledge reiterated at the AU summit that ended at the weekend in Sirte Libya is what will be awaited. But more important the leaders agreed to amend the current AMISOM mandate that prevents peacekeepers from attacking the insurgents except for in self-defence.

Under the new mandate which is yet to be fully explained, the AU troops will be allowed to “fight along government soldiers” according to Somalia’s Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke.

AU troops in Somalia

The question is will this new mandate AU troops more of targets by Al Shabab? And will this mandate further complicate the situation in Somalia?

And are African countries prepared to pay the price – both in money and life- as the new mandate comes into force?