The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) has dismissed as baseless, allegations that it is looting the natural resources and wealth of the Central African Republic (CAR) under the guise of hunting down elusive Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) warlord Joseph Kony. The army maintains it is in CAR for a cause and its fighters have not veered off course.
This follows sweeping claims by Seleka Coalition spokesperson Eric Massi on the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme last week that the UPDF is not after LRA but the country’s wealth.
When contacted by the Daily Monitor yesterday, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, the army spokesperson, first declined to comment on the allegations, saying he has no time to waste responding to “baseless claims”.
Pressed harder, he casually said: “We really don’t have time to respond to such baseless allegations. Can they prove it? Can they go to the areas where we have been operating? Seleka is a non-entity and we don’t have time to waste with them”.
Seleka not with LRA
Speaking in French through a translator, Mr Massi also denied links with the LRA, describing the rebel group as a bunch of criminals.
“We are not working with LRA. They came here and killed our people, many of them. How can we work with such criminals?” Mr Massi said.
In a rejoinder to this newspaper, Lt Col Ankuda retorted, “They need to prove that. Why are they operating in the same area with LRA? We know for a fact that LRA married women in Seleka-dominated areas and even paid bride price”.
The UPDF, whose man-hunt for Kony got a boost from the United States, has time and again clashed with Seleka rebels in CAR.
The allegations come against the back drop of an army with an already battered international reputation following the famous 2005 case in which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Uganda violated the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Congo, plundered its natural resources and was responsible for human rights abuses when it sent its troops there.
The case that lasted five years culminated into a 100 page ruling in which the ICJ, the highest judicial organ of the United Nations, agreed to Congo’s demand for $10b (about Shs26 trillion) compensation from Kampala. If the rebel group’s claims come true, skeptics fear Uganda, lauded for its military intervention in Somalia, could suffer a similar fate in CAR.