BY PETER CLOTTEY – An official of Uganda’s government says military support from the U.S. will help Kampala combat the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the sub-region.
Minister of the presidency in the Ugandan cabinet, Kabakumba Masiko, says Washington has always supported her government’s efforts to defeat rebel insurgencies.
“It is going to be in the area of intelligence gathering and sharing and liaison,” said Masiko.
President Barack Obama told Congress in a letter Friday that he was authorizing a contingent of U.S. combat forces to help remove Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA rebels, from the battlefield.
The soldiers will not engage the rebels directly, except in self-defense.
“We have always said to anybody who will listen that this [LRA] is a terrorist organization,” said Masiko. “If everybody could come with us to firmly deal with [them] and finally finish it, it will be a good thing.”
Meanwhile, Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement’s (NRM) week-long retreat is scheduled to begin today (Monday). The retreat, Masiko said, will enable members of parliament of the party to discuss ways of resolving the country’s economic challenges.
“There are many interventions that we are looking at like the agricultural sector. We want to see how best we can increase agricultural productivity both for food crops [and] for export,” said Masiko. “Value addition is key, so [we are looking at] agro-processing and also diversification of our export.”
Several months ago, opposition groups and critics embarked on walk-to-work protests, or campaigns, to demonstrate against sharp price increases in petrol and food.
The groups have planned another round of protests beginning Monday. But, Masiko said the accusations are misplaced, insisting that the rising fuel and food prices are due to what she said are “external shocks.”
“Of course, what they are saying is not true. They have lost touch of the realities,” said Masiko. “And we are aware that their walk-to-work campaigns [were] not about the increase in prices, but about trying to overthrow government using unlawful means.”
She acknowledged that Ugandans are facing difficulties with current economic hardships.
“What is happening is [that] the prices are going up, inflation is increasing, and people are increasingly finding it hard to live,” said Masiko. “But as a country, we want to see how [we] can increase the supply of goods and services so as to meet much the demand.