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.