Hunted Ugandan soldier accuses Ugandan Army of atrocities in Northern Uganda

>> Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Editor's Note: Andrew Mwenda is currently in jail. It is suspected that the raid on the Independent's offices was spurred by this upcoming story on alleged atrocities by the Ugandan military, which had previously been attributed to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Read more here.

"Two weeks ago, 24-year-old UPDF Lance Corporal Godfrey Masaba was the target of a botched raid by security operatives on the offices of The Independent. More than 40 plain-clothed security operatives and policemen descended on the paper’s compound acting on a tip that Masaba was in the office. But rather than nab Masaba, the security operatives bundled the paper’s gatekeeper, Herbert Labeja, in the back of their Land Cruiser, giving Masaba a chance to escape..."

[Who is Masaba and Why is he important? Excerpt from Story]

Masaba ran to exile in Central Africa Republic (CAR) in May of 2007. He was arrested there and detained without trial for two months. Then on August 20th 2007, that country’s president, Francois Bozize, put Masaba on the presidential jet and personally flew with him to Uganda. He handed him over to President Yoweri Museveni at Sheraton Hotel, a fact confirmed by interior minister, Ruhakana Rugunda. It is not known what deal Museveni gave Bozize to perform this role; but it suggests that there is something big about Masaba.

Masaba’s story begins in June of 2003, with an order crackling out of his army commander’s receiver. “Get your men ready,” the order, according to Masaba, said. “We have intelligence that the LRA will be passing through Corner Kilak in about an hour’s time.” As Masaba tells it, the commander of his battalion didn’t hesitate. He ordered his men to form the aquifer. Masaba, then 19, hid with his soldiers behind bushes and trees, gun cocked.

The men marching down the road were caught unaware. By the time the ceasefire signal was brought down to the line, Masaba says that hundreds of soldiers were killed. “It took 30 minutes for the ceasefire to get across. I brought down my gun and I went out and looked at them,” Masaba recalls. “And I realized, these were the boys we used to eat with.”

The men who walked themselves straight into a UPDF ambush were not the LRA at all, Masaba says. They were UPDF soldiers, members of the 77th Battalion. Just months earlier, the two battalions, both part of the same 401 Brigade, had been training together. As Masaba stepped over the men, finally seeing past the cover of darkness that had been shielding their faces, he looked into the frozen eyes of Private James, a soldier who had brought him food and medicine when he had malaria.

According to Masaba, the friendly fire incident, which he says occurred in June of 2003, was planned. The ill-fated 77 battalion, he says, was made up of former LRA soldiers who, after being incorporated into the UPDF, were sent to the Congo to flush out Allied Democratic Forces rebels. After the massacre, rumour spread around Masaba’s battalion that the LRA-turned-UPDF soldiers were demanding huge salary arrears which they had not been paid while in Congo. Rather than pay the arrears, the higher ups decided to kill the soldiers and eat their salaries. The commander of 401 brigade, who brought down the order, was taken to the Court Martial, but, Masaba says, nothing ever came of it.

The incident wasn’t reported in the press and the army spokesperson, Paddy Ankunda, says he’s not aware of it. But there’s no doubt that Masaba – who says he was tortured in two separate CMI “safe houses”, both of which he escaped from – has information the government doesn’t want out.

Read more at: The Independent


About This Blog

The X.U.G (Xpose Uganda's Genocide) Coalition was created to bring to light the truth about Yoweri Museveni's woefully undemocratic regime and the ongoing secret genocide in northern Uganda, with the aim of the restoration of human rights and peace.

The coalition's secondary goal is to ensure accountability for reconstruction and development funds slated for war-torn N. Uganda by the US and other donors.

A crisis of epic proportions, the genocide being carried out against the Acoli for the last two decades has produced devastating consequences.

For the sake of current and future generations in Uganda, the world must recognize and end the genocide in Uganda. All Ugandans have a right to basic human rights, including the right to health, protection and education.

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