Uganda


It is not only at the US Embassy in Afghanistan that there are problems with the ArmorGroup/Wackenhut security guards, particularly the supervisors, as has been recently documented by POGO. And ArmorGroup/Wackenhut are not the only contractors to operate without serious and adequate supervision, or who fail to fulfill their US contracts in a safe and ethical manner.

Godwin and Barnabas, Ugandan security guards in Iraq

Godwin and Barnabas, Ugandan security guards in Iraq

Looking for opportunity: Ugandan recruits hoping to work as private security guards in Iraq undergo basic firearms training in Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 15 2008, Max Delany

Looking for opportunity: Ugandan recruits hoping to work as private security guards in Iraq undergo basic firearms training in Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 15 2008, Max Delany

After extensive interviews with eyewitnesses, and examination of documents, photographs, videos, and emails, POGO [Project on Government Oversight] believes that the management of the contract to protect the U.S. Embassy Kabul is grossly deficient, posing a significant threat to the security of the Embassy and its personnel—and thereby to the diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

State has repeatedly warned AGNA [ArmorGroup North America] about its performance on this security contract, but its threats have been empty. As a result, violations of the contract continue.

the State Department has failed in its oversight of its security contractor.

The State Department should consider whether the security of an embassy in a combat zone is an inherently governmental function, and therefore not subject to contracting out. The language in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act could be strengthened to prohibit the reliance on private security contractors for inherently governmental functions, and to include protection of the diplomatic mission in a combat zone as being inherently governmental. If embassy security in combat zones is determined not to be an inherently governmental function, the State Department should consider requiring military supervision of its private security contractors guarding U.S. embassies in combat zones.

By now most people have seen the grotesque pictures of the lewd and abusive games played by the ArmorGroup contractors in Afghanistan. It appears primarily the supervisors who are out of control. The State Department has neglected to supervise or hold anyone to account for grievous violations of their contracts. State has remained intentionally blind to the problems of contractor negligence and abuse.

The the Concerned Foreign Service Officers have issued a statement:

Concerned Foreign Service Officers has for years lamented that the internal corporate culture of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security promotes the concept that all things are allowable in defense of the nation’s security, and that employees who perform illegal acts in the name of security will be protected. The directors of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s security infrastructure promote an all-for-one team mentality which encourages agents to view themselves as being above the law. Complaints of improprieties in investigations and other activities are routinely ignored. Internal oversight is a joke and external oversight is blocked. The ugly photos currently making the news are a particularly ugly manifestation of that culture.

CFSO believes however that such aberrations do not occur when organizations promote a culture of accountability. Large-scale improprieties occur only when perpetrators feel secure that their actions will be either tolerated or ignored. …

Concerned Foreign Service Officers hopes that the search for explanations for the events at the American Embassy in Kabul will not stop at the front lines, but will also target the culture in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security that allowed these activities to occur, and those directors of State’s security infrastructure who promote that culture.

There are many security guards from Uganda in Iraq, and by now there are probably some in Afghanistan as well. US PMCs have hired many of their security personnel from Uganda, including guards at the US Embassy in Uganda:

Uganda: Guards Petition American Embassy Over Mistreatment

by Al Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, August 27th, 2009

At least 200 security guards protecting various American facilities in and around Kampala have petitioned the embassy protesting what they describe as unfair treatment by their bosses.

The guards were contracted by the American Embassy through a local private security, Armor Group. However, Armor Group recently sold its interests to Group 4 Securicor which currently provides security at US offices and residences in the country -a development vehemently opposed by the guards .Group 4 Securicor runs the contract through the US Defence Systems -Uganda arrangement.

According to the guards, the May 22, 2008 takeover by Group 4 Securicor flouted various clauses that govern their contract under the Federal Acquisition Regulations. “The presumed acceptance of the terms and conditions of services of G4S by the members of the Local Guard Force and the subsequent transfer of our earned fringe benefits amounted to abduction, forced labour and human trafficking which are all forbidden not only by the laws of Uganda but also by other international conventions that govern and protect the rights and dignity of the human person,” reads part of the petition addressed to the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy.

In their petition dated August 6, the guards also accuse their employer of failure to compensate colleagues who sustain injuries while on duty. “Under the Defence Base Act it is a requirement by the employer to provide adequate compensation to the employees but no member of LGF has been compensated for injuries while on duty,” the statement reads.

The American Embassy Assistant Regional Security Officer Mr Daniel Glick declined to comment on the petition but another official at the embassy who requested to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak to the media said they had rejected the petition on grounds that the petitioners never followed the proper procedures.

“Under normal circumstances it is the contracted firm (G4S) to petition the embassy so that we can take action but not the employees as it is in their case,” said an official at the Embassy.

The guards also accuse their employers of frustrating their efforts to join a trade union as a way of boosting their bargaining power. “This has led to the Court Martial and subsequent dismissal of the chairman/spokesperson of the guard’s committee (Mr Opige Elyau) who championed the same course,” the petition said.

In a separate interview, Mr Elyau said he was dismissed on allegations that he was inciting the guard force against management. He promised to challenge his dismissal.

In the comments Feral Jundi writes:

The customer receiving these guard services has some responsibility too. These men are protecting you with their lives, the honorable thing to do is to step up and listen to what they have to say. The unethical thing to do, is look the other way and hope it just fixes itself. pfft

And Bravo2 writes:

For example if the company was still ArmorGroup, a UK Company, they would most likely had been carrying some type of workmans comp on these employees as required by local or UK Law, but when it changed to a local Ugandan company, the Ugandan company only needs to follow Ugandan employment laws.

While I can understand they are pissed off to no end, such as the locals we employ here in Africa and other places I have worked, they have every right to be. This is the art of contracting…squeezing every possible penny out of everyone. These local companies such as the Ugandan one is little more than a broker only…. someone who makes money on another person, while doing absolutely nothing. The contract I work here in Africa…AfriCom was forced into this brokering agreement thru the Djiboutian Govt, and there is nothing they can do about it. The Brokers take 2/3 of the locals pay the US pays them. Suxs ass but thats life.

And in another article Eeben Barlow writes:

… the same company that are acting out their Ramboesque dreams whilst getting paid for it in Afghanistan are treating their staff in Uganda as though they own Africa.

I am aware of similar practices by some companies working in East Africa and the locals are viewing them with increasing contempt. Maybe they are unaware of just how offending their behaviour has become, but it has not gone unnoticed. It is very possibly also proving to be a great recruiting campaign for the insurgents.

The US State Department and the Africa Command are working with numerous mercenaries, PMCs, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Africa, particularly East Africa. The practices revealed in Afghanistan, and those described above, damage the US irreparably with potential friends, and strengthen potential foes.

The top picture above, from apple.jack on Flikr, comes courtesy of tumwijuke, who writes:

My 23-year-old cousin, Benji, is serving as a Ugandan guard in Iraq.

Benji is a tiny man with a big heart. He dreams of active service, fighting for peace and heroism. He’s not content with hearing about the exploits of the military. He wants to be there at the frontline in the midst of action. He says he has understood his place in the world and he needs to fulfill his destiny.

I think of Benji every morning at 5:00 a.m. when a gang of scraggly men and women jog past my house singing part-nonsensical, part-nostalgic, part-motivational war songs penned by Brig. Gen. Chefe Ali and the NRA. I think of Benji when I hear the instructors yelling at the hapless gang, calling them idiots and children and insulting their mothers. I think of Benji when I hear in the distance, the solitary shot of a trainee firing from an AK-47. I think of Benji when after a month, the guards are deemed ready for service, congratulated at a colorful ceremony in a dusty playground and shipped off to war.

Today I read this:

Security Issues Discovered at U.S. Bases in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — A commission investigating waste and fraud in wartime spending has found serious deficiencies in training and equipment for hundreds of Ugandan guards hired to protect U.S. military bases in Iraq, The Associated Press has learned.

The problems at Forward Operating Bases Delta and Hammer include a lack of vehicles used to properly protect the two posts, a shortage of weapons and night vision gear, and poorly trained guards. Both bases house several thousand U.S. military personnel.

Concerned the shortages leave the bases vulnerable, the Commission on Wartime Contracting alerted military officials in Iraq and at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

“Incidents such as this are a concern in their own right, but they are a particular concern to the commission if they prove to be indicators of broader, systemic problems that impede the delivery of critical services to American military forces in a war zone,” said Bob Dickson, the commission’s executive director.

I think about Benji and I weep.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the training of potential guards in Uganda:

As President Barack Obama announces plans to withdraw US troops from Iraq, thousands of young Ugandans are increasingly desperate to be sent to the war-torn country. Already, the Ugandan government says there are more than 10,000 men and women from this poverty-stricken East African nation working as private security guards in Iraq. Hired out to multibillion-dollar companies for hundreds of dollars a month, they risk their lives seeking fortunes protecting US Army bases, airports, and oil firms.

The war in Iraq is the most privatized conflict in history. Since the invasion in 2003, the US Department of Defense has doled out contracts worth an estimated $100 billion to private firms. Covering a vast range of services from catering to dry cleaning to security, one in every five dollars the US spends in Iraq ends up in the pockets of the contractors, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office. Increasingly these jobs have been outsourced to developing countries.

hiring Ugandans is cheap. Since the first Ugandans were sent to Iraq in late 2005, competition from other developing countries in Africa and the Indian subcontinent has seen the government cut the minimum wage from $1,300 to $600 a month. That compares with the $15,000 that one industry insider estimated an American guard could make each month. Nevertheless, competition is fierce, and for those Ugandans who land a job, Iraq can prove a bonanza.

Discussing one Ugandan guard, who has built himself businesses back in Uganda from his Iraq pay:

the fact that he is putting his life on the line to help US companies make massive profits is not lost on him. “If I am earning $600 a month and these companies are making billions, it is not fair,” he says.

For Uganda, however, another country’s war on a continent far away has proved to be lucrative. “The Iraq opportunity brings in about $90 million dollars, whereas our chief export, which is coffee, brings in around $60 or $70 million a year,” says the former state minister for labor, employment, and industrial relations, Mwesigwa Rukutana, now minister of higher education. That figure is mostly made up of remittances.

But domestic criticism has been fierce, with some equating the system to human trafficking or slavery. Reports of abuse, ranging from poor conditions and changeable contracts to sexual assault, have appeared in the media
.

And what will happen to Uganda when all these experienced soldiers bring their battle hardened expectations back to Uganda. The country may be sitting on a time bomb, as Charles Onyango Obbo wrote about in Iraq war could end up on Museveni’s doorsteps. And the potential for political conflagrations is far greater with the recent discovery of oil.

It is smarter to make friends than enemies, it gives you more options. If the US wants to make friends, and to keep the friends it has in Africa and elsewhere, it needs to examine its policies with care. An ethic of squeezing every possible penny out of everyone is very short term thinking for the long term interests of a country. A culture that encourages agents to view themselves as being above the law is guaranteed to make enemies. If the State Department wishes to engage in credible diplomacy, it needs to clean its own house, and practice some oversight and accountability at home.

The US has poured arms and military training on Uganda. Now that Uganda has found oil, the Ugandan military is getting busy displacing the people who live on the land where the oil is located, and seizing those lands for themselves.

CAMP KASENYI, Uganda – Staff Sergeant Andre Amantine of the 2-18 Field Artillery Regiment out of Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, salutes Sergeant First Class Cary Adams-course Sergeant Major, during a 15-week Counter Terrorism Course, June 16, 2009, at Camp Kasenyi, Uganda. More than 100 Ugandan soldiers graduated from this CJTF-HOA-supported course, which covered topics such as individual movement techniques, troop landing procedures, land navigation, first aid, identifying improvised explosive devises, and more. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser)

CAMP KASENYI, Uganda – Staff Sergeant Andre Amantine of the 2-18 Field Artillery Regiment out of Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, salutes Sergeant First Class Cary Adams-course Sergeant Major, during a 15-week Counter Terrorism Course, June 16, 2009, at Camp Kasenyi, Uganda. More than 100 Ugandan soldiers graduated from this CJTF-HOA-supported course, which covered topics such as individual movement techniques, troop landing procedures, land navigation, first aid, identifying improvised explosive devises, and more. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser)

Army to displace villages in Hoima

OVER 4,000 residents in seven villages of Kyangwali sub-county in Hoima district face eviction. The land will be used to establish an army base for the protection of the oil reserves in the region.

The residents, led by their local leaders and the MP for Buhaguzi, Tomson Abwooli Kyahurwenda, have vowed to resist the eviction saying the land was inhabited by their ancestors.

The land in question measures about 15 square miles and covers the villages of Katikara 1, Katikara 2, Kituti Kasonga, Kabenena, Ngurwe and Ngoma.

Kyahurwenda has written to the defence minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, protesting the army’s ‘illegal’ demarcation of the disputed land.

He said officials from the prime minister’s office had demarcated the land.

Kyahurwenda said the officers led by a man only identified as Bataali, had marked the land.

“I seek your urgent intervention. Change your decision to grab the land whose owners have had it customarily since time immemorial,” the letter, also copied to the Prime Minister said.

The Kitakara LC I chairman, Mugenyi Tibamwenda, said army officers had planted mark-stones claiming they had acquired the land.

He said residents had abandoned agriculture because of fear that they would be evicted from their land soon.

Tom Muhe Bigabwenkya, a sub-county councillor warned of serious consequences for the National Resistance Movement during the 2011 general elections.

The mid-western regional Police commander, Marcellino Wanitto, has promised to take up the matter to ensure that it is resolved amicably.

And from June 24:

Reports: Army officers grabbing Amuru oil land

High ranking army officers are forcefully grabbing land in the oil rich belt of Amuru District, the security coordinator in-charge of oil exploration in the area, Lt. Col. David Kagoyo, has said.

“I have reliable information from some sources that some army officers are forcefully grabbing people’s land in Amuru,” Lt. Col. Kagoyo said during Nebbi District’s oil exploration stakeholders meeting last week.

Amuru lies in the oil belt licenced to Heritage Gas company stretching from south of Panyimur to North of Wadlai along the Nile river.

The LC5 Chairman Nebbi, Mr John Pascal Wapokra, was non-committal on the land grabbing question, saying the matter is before court.

Lt. Col. Kagoyo demanded that before anything is done, the land ownership issue should be settled first before the oil drilling takes place since it could jeopardise the gains that the government and development partners have made.

The discovery of the oil wells in Amuru, which was created out of Gulu District, has created anxiety over land ownership in the area.

Area residents who spoke to this newspaper said the incident has created fear that they might lose their land.
Similarly, due to its oil potential, land grabbing is at a high level in Buliisa District.

The US continues to train and supply the Ugandan military, the UPDF. Uganda is a favored partner of the US Africa Command. Pictured above is just one of many training programs. If people are pushed off their traditional lands, the lands they live on and the lands they farm, where are they going to go, and what are they going to do?  If the soldiers evicting them are armed and trained by the United States, how will they feel about the United States?   Evicting these people creates a growing pool of internally displaced persons who have a legitimate grievance against their government, and against all those involved in extracting, in fact stealing, their resources. They will be able to see, but not to share wealth some of which should be legitimately theirs.   That some of these displaced people may be lured into terrorism as a response is something that can be predicted and avoided. To date, no one seems interested in preventing the problem before it starts. So far the approach is first create the problem, then waste lives and resources fighting it.

If there is oil in Uganda, there must be bad people there who need the Pentagon to bring them democracy, a colleague observed. And indeed this is in part correct, there are some very bad people there. The Lords Resistance Army has plagued Uganda for 20 years, committing murders and atrocities, and kidnapping children to be child soldiers and sex slaves. The map below shows the historical areas in which the LRA operated. Much of the time the problem was ignored. But it has been a huge problem, creating hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, especially children.

Ugandan districts affected by Lords Resistance Army, map created by Mark Dingemanse for Wikimedia.

Ugandan districts affected by Lords Resistance Army, map created by Mark Dingemanse for Wikimedia.

The US has not taken much notice of this until very recently. The Ugandan Army has stepped up its battle against the LRA in recent years, and the LRA has moved and expanded its operations into the DRC, as well as Sudan and the Central African Republic. In December 2008, the US Africa Command, AFRICOM, helped plan and arm a badly botched raid on the LRA, including contributing $1 million worth of fuel. Without the money for fuel, the raid could not have taken place. No effort was made to warn or defend the civilian population. The raid failed, the raiders came up empty handed, but the LRA attacked the civilian population in reprisal. It carried on a reign of terror throughout areas of the DRC that went on for weeks and months. Hundreds have been killed and maimed, children were kidnapped, and are still being kidnapped, and hundreds of thousands displaced. I wrote about it earlier, with links to accounts of what happened, Stability operations cause 900 civilian deaths, 100,000 displaced, miss target and Botched raid. Here is a map of LRA attacks outside Uganda, mostly in the DRC:

Map of LRA attacks in the DRC,  Number of villages attacked: 74,  Attacked once: 47, Attacked twice: 9, Attacked three times: 5, Attacked eight times: 1 (Duru)

Map of LRA attacks in the DRC, December 2007 - January 2009. Total number of villages attacked: 74, Attacked once: 47, Attacked twice: 9, Attacked three times: 5, Attacked eight times: 1 (Duru)

Now there are oil discoveries in the neighborhood. With the oil discoveries there is a lot more US interest in doing something about the LRA.

US Senate wants Obama to crush LRA for good

The East African, June 1 2009
Republicans as well as Demo-crats are pressing President Barack Obama to help the Ugandan military destroy the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Legislation introduced last week in the US Senate would require the Obama administration to move towards “eliminating the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.”

The proposal calls for military and other forms of US support for multilateral efforts to “apprehend or otherwise remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield and to disarm and demobilise Lord’s Resistance Army fighters.”

Introduced by key members of both major US political parties, the legislation would also provide $20 million in the coming year for humanitarian aid to civilians in Central Africa affected by LRA actions and for efforts to promote recovery and reconciliation in northern Uganda.

“The introduction of this Bill demonstrates the growing consensus on the need for greater US leadership to disarm top LRA leaders and permanently end this violence,” said Democratic Congressman James McGovern.

Republican Congressman Ed Royce said the bill “rightly targets” LRA leader Joseph Kony.

“Kony’s removal is essential to peace in the region,” Royce declared.

It is fashionable to blame conflict in Africa on poverty and other environmental factors,” Royce wrote in a blog he posts on his congressional website.

“But sometimes just getting rid of one person does make a big difference. History is full of captivating leaders with bad ideas who do great damage. It’s a lesson I learned from West Africa, where Liberian president Charles Taylor, ran a gangster regime that brought havoc to neighbouring Sierra Leone. After his hard-fought removal, the region is peaceful. Kony’s removal won’t guarantee peace — but it will make it possible.”

That approach is being endorsed by Human Rights Watch and 21 other non-governmental organisations in the US that are jointly backing the legislation known officially as the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.

Thousands of young Americans have also taken up the cause of pushing the US government to help put an end to the atrocities that Kony’s forces have inflicted on civilians in Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic as well as in Uganda.

This co-ordinated campaign by the US president’s political allies is likely to influence the Obama administration thinking. It increases the likelihood that the US Africa Command (Africom) will be ordered to help plan and execute a new Uganda-led offensive against the LRA.

Senator Russell Feingold said in introducing the anti-LRA legislation that the earlier “botched operation does not mean that we should just give up on the goal of ending the massacres and the threat to regional stability posed by this small rebel group.

Moreover, given that the US provided assistance and support for this operation at the request of the regional governments, we have a responsibility to help see this rebel war to its end.”

The LRA is an entirely appropriate target for the Ugandan government. I think everybody would be glad to see the last of the LRA. However, the presence of oil in Uganda and probably the DRC, plus the multitude of other minerals in the DRC makes any incursions there more complex. I doubt the Pentagon’s Africa Command will improve the democracy situation. You can see some some of the problem in this map of the DRC. It includes mineral resources, and the areas where both Rwanda and Uganda operate inside the DRC, ostensibly to go after the various militias originating in their countries, that now include the LRA. Though both Uganda and Rwanda rake in big profits from minerals mined in the DRC.

DRC map, coltan, minerals, and areas of Ugandan and Rwandan activity marked

DRC map, coltan, minerals, with areas of Ugandan and Rwandan military activity marked

[Added March 3, 2010:  For more, and more detailed maps of the location of coltan and other minerals in the DRC, see this post:  Trading Congo Contraband – Maps – 3T Minerals, Coltan, Gold.]

There is also the possibility of major oil finds in northwestern Kenya, bordering on northern Uganda and southeastern Sudan. So the LRA is very much in the way, wherever it is holed up or active. This more than any humanitarian concern is making it more urgent and important to get rid of them. AFRICOM is still wearing its humanitarian makeup in Northern Uganda. If you look at the map of Northern Uganda at the top of this post, Pader, Gulu, and Lira are all featured in the photos at the africom.mil photo gallery photos from Uganda. The one following is of US soldiers grading the road for a bridge crossing that will, among other things, help get goods to market at Lira. I so not wish to minimize the value of this and similar projects. They are a boon and blessing for the local people, until and unless they may be used against the local people. But humanitarian assistance is not the reason for AFRICOM. It would be better for development and democracy if such projects were funded and undertaken by civilian agencies. And the funding for these projects is peanuts compared to the military spending.

AROMA, Uganda - Local residents of Aroma, Uganda look on as service members from the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion-11, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, grade the area surrounding the Walela Cultvert Bridge on May 5, 2009. This was the final construction phase of a bridge that connects the main Lira road to the Aroma sub-county. Funded by Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the Walela Bridge was constructed by 25 U.S. Navy construction engineers in partnership with their counterparts from the Uganda People’s Defense force. It will improve the lives of more than 60,000 people from three villages by enhancing their transportation ability, providing them with year-round access to the Lira market, and aiding in the delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Dawn Price, CJTF-HOA)

AROMA, Uganda - Local residents of Aroma, Uganda look on as service members from the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion-11, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, grade the area surrounding the Walela Cultvert Bridge on May 5, 2009. This was the final construction phase of a bridge that connects the main Lira road to the Aroma sub-county. Funded by Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the Walela Bridge was constructed by 25 U.S. Navy construction engineers in partnership with their counterparts from the Uganda People’s Defense force. It will improve the lives of more than 60,000 people from three villages by enhancing their transportation ability, providing them with year-round access to the Lira market, and aiding in the delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Dawn Price, CJTF-HOA)

There is another danger from US militarism in Uganda’s path. Back in February Charles Onyango Obbo wrote in Uganda’s Daily Monitor:

Iraq war could end up on Museveni’s doorsteps

Two weeks ago The Sunday Times (of London) magazine had a striking photograph of Ugandan guards in Iraq. But even more telling was the short text that accompanied it. It reported that while Britain and America are planning on withdrawing their troops from Iraq, “the Ugandans are coming”.

The Ugandans, said The Sunday Times, were ‘desperate’ to be sent to Iraq, and already almost 10,000 of them are working as private security guards in Iraq, risking their lives to guard various American installations. We know this already, but then it gets quite interesting. It describes the war in Iraq as the ‘most privatised’ in history.

Over the last five years, America has dished out contracts worth about $100 billion. More and more of the 230,000 private-sector jobs related to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, it said, have been outsourced to the Third World, what it called “the military equivalent of installing call centres in India”.

It discussed why American and British contractors moved into Uganda to hire guards for Iraq (we speak English, have surplus veterans from our many wars) but, ultimately they came because Uganda “is cheap”. Since the first lot of guards was sent in 2005, the paper reports, competition has driven wages down from $1,300 a month to around $600 today.

To understand how cheap our lives are, the $6000 compares with the $15,000 a British and American guard could make.
It would take a Ugandan two years to earn what a Brit or American makes in a month
. It becomes very ironical: The Uganda government backs Zimbabwe President Robert Zimbabwe in his insane drive to destroy his once prosperous country, and Kampala officials and security officers own the firms that have a monopoly on exporting Ugandan guards to Iraq. However, most of the chaps who train the Ugandan Iraq guards are white instructors from Zimbabwe. Some of them, probably, were officers in the white supremacist army against which Mugabe and his guerrillas fought!

The story of Ugandan Iraq guards, however, is just in the first chapter of its telling. Even at $600 (before the Ugandan firm deducts its njawulo), these guards are already making more than they possibly could at home. Now that the American presence is winding down, by the end of next year, there might be little work for Third World guards in Iraq. If there is, the salaries could be so low, it would no longer be worth it.

When these 10,000 guards return home, then the reckoning will start. Their story might be much like that of the African veterans of World War II. The unintended effect of that war was that when the Africans returned home, they were inspired to join the struggle for independence. Their fear of the colonialist had gone. They had killed the mzungu in war, seen them wail in pain, and flee hot battles, and their allies. They realised that; ‘Hey, these guys are just like us’, and decided that there was nothing special that gave them the right to colonise us.

The Ugandans who are serving in Iraq have seen even a more dramatic humbling of the world’s sole superpower, America. If America can be brought to its knees by a rag tag bunch of dissidents, the UPDF – a comparatively rudimentary and unsophisticated force (its notable bush credentials notwithstanding) – must look very ordinary to them now.

President Yoweri Museveni is a not a fool, one reason he has been able to cling to power as long as he has. He realises that the guards are probably better trained than the average UPDF soldier. And, farther, that having so many people with their skills who are not intimidated by the UPDF returning home and not being within the control of the security services, is dangerous.

Just like the government has done with many LRA former rebels, it will incorporate the guards into the UPDF. That, however, has its risks. Even when they were badly treated, the Uganda guards in Iraq lived better, were paid more and more promptly, than many rank and file UPDF soldiers, some of whom still live in manyattas, and make do with tired sandals for boots. They could spread discontent, and that is hazardous. Also, UPDF cannot possibly absorb 10,000 guards, some of whom might not necessarily have the “correct” political and ethnic profile for the army.

The best option, therefore, would to create a Reserve Foreign Force in which all the former guards are placed, and get a trusted general who is on kateebe, to head it. That will partially solve the problem of control, but it won’t help in ensuring loyalty to the “Museveni way”, as the bulk of the Iraqi guards are unlikely to ever be dyed-in-the-wool NRM cadres.

The private need by the regime to reward insiders by letting them corner the Iraqi guards supply contracts could one day clash with its public need to keep power by monopolising the means and skills of war. Will the Museveni government avoid the fate of the British colonialists after WW II? Only time will tell.

Charles Onyango Obbo is an astute observer and journalist. As he points out, we only know the opening chapters of this story. The comments that follow the original text at the link are worth reading as well, and lend credence to Obbo’s observations. The oil discoveries, and competition for oil money will further complicate the tale. The presence of AFRICOM, which is already on quite friendly terms with Museveni, and the US habit of picking favorites and interfering with domestic politics, as it has been doing in Kenya and Somalia, is likely to play a part in the unfolding story.

________

Map links:
LRA in Northern Uganda
LRA attacks in the DRC
DRC, coltan, and military activity

________

Added June 20:

It looks like Uganda is in for a bunch more partnering with AFRICOM. Obama just appointed/nominated the ambassador to Uganda, from the White House:

Jerry P. Lanier, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Uganda

Jerry P. Lanier is a career diplomat with 26 years of service in the Department of State. He is currently the Foreign Policy Advisor for U.S. Africa Command headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.
Prior to that, he was the Director of the Office of Regional and Security Affairs in the Africa Bureau at the State Department. Mr. Lanier has also served in the Philippines, Kenya, Thailand, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Ghana. At State he has served as the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, country officer for the Republic of Korea, Legislative Management Officer for Africa, Deputy Director for the Office of West African Affairs, and Deputy Director for the Office Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh Affairs. He received his B.A. at Pembroke State University, his M.A. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served three years as lecturer in the history department of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Mr. Lanier’s employment history looks like he has experience interfering with the internal affairs of other nations.

Huge deposits of oil have been identified in Uganda along the shore of Lake Albert:
Uganda’s oil reserves rival Saudi Arabia’s, says US expert

map of Uganda showing the Bunyoro kingdom in green

map of Uganda showing the Bunyoro kingdom in green, located along the side of Lake Albert, where much of the oil is located

Uganda along lake Albert.  The white line in the lake is the border between Uganda and DRC.  On the Unganda side you can see the places Tonyo, Hoima, and Butiaba marked on the map.  These are of particular interest to the oil business.

Uganda along lake Albert, the white line in the lake is the border between Uganda and DRC. On the Uganda side you can see the places Tonyo, Hoima, and Butiaba marked on the map. These are locations of oil discoveries.

The southern portion of Lake Albert in Uganda including most of oil Block 3A (map added 4/2010)

These are the oil blocks around Lake Albert, with Uganda on the east/right, and the DRC on the west/left.

These are the oil blocks around Lake Albert, with Uganda on the east/right, and the DRC on the west/left

KAMPALA, UGANDA – Uganda’s oil reserves could be as much as that of the Gulf countries, a senior official at the US Department of Energy has said.

Based on the test flow results encountered at the wells so far drilled and other oil numbers, Ms. Sally Kornfeld, a senior analyst in the office of fossil energy went ahead to talk about Uganda’s oil reservoirs in the same sentence as Saudi Arabia.”You are blessed with amazing reservoirs. Your reservoirs are incredible. I am amazed by what I have seen, you might rival Saudi Arabia,” Kornfeld told a visiting delegation from Uganda in Washington DC.

The group of Ugandans was in Washington on an international visitor programme and looked at the efficient use of natural energy resources.

The group comprised Ministry of Energy officials, a Member of Parliament, members from the civil society and one journalist.

At present, Uganda has four oil prospectors on the ground including Heritage Oil, Tullow Oil, Tower Oil and Dominion Oil.

Of the four prospectors, Tullow and Heritage have registered success at wells in two blocks in the Albertine basin, which lies in the upper-most part of the western arm of the Great Rift Valley.

According to data so far aggregated since the first discovery was made by Australian prospector Hardman Resources (now taken over by Tullow) in June 2006, Uganda has established reserves at 3.5 million barrels of oil per day.

Experts in oil exploration say this could be just a tip of the iceberg.

In April last year, Tullow embarked on what it termed as a major drilling campaign in the Butiaba area around Lake Albert targeting an overall reserve potential in excess of a billion barrels.

The Butiaba campaign was preceded by successes in two drilling campaigns in the Kaiso-Tonya area and the Kingfisher field and all these have been 100% successes so far.

The Butiaba campaign has thrown up successes but the two biggest so far have been the Buffalo-Giraffe wells – described as “one of the largest recent onshore oil discoveries in Africa“.

“Combined with our other finds in the region, we have now clearly exceeded the thresholds for basin development,” the chief executive of Tullow commented then.

The Giraffe-1 exploration well, which is located in the Butiaba region, came up with over 38 metres of net oil pay within an 89-metre gross oil bearing interval.

The data from the Giraffe discovery indicate a net reservoir thickness of 38 metres, the largest encountered in the area to date.

The Buffalo-1 exploration well in Block 1 encountered 15 metres of net gas pay and over 28 metres of net oil pay.

The gas and oil columns encountered are 48 metres and 75 metres respectively with the potential to be even larger.

As Kornfeld marveled at Uganda’s oil finds, she was quick to add that for the country to benefit from the oil and gas resources but also avoid the pitfalls of oil producing countries like Nigeria, it is extremely important to set up strong governance structures.

Kornfeld and the other United States officials said they are ready to help Uganda’s nascent oil and gas sector with anything including the key environmental issues that are crucial to the efficient management of oil and gas.

Anything you might want us to help you with we will and we have a lot of expertise in environmental issues relating to oil and gas,” Kornfeld said.

And in a quote from the article written a year ago, with the oil blocks pictured above:

“The Albert Basin now looks increasingly like it has the elements to make it a world-class petroleum basin. The flow rates, even constrained by available completion and test facilities, far exceeded our expectations,” Tony Buckingham says.

It is certainly true the the US has a lot of experience, and one might say expertise, in environmental issues relating to oil and gas. Unfortunately much of that expertise and experience is involved in circumventing and evading environmental law and responsible environmental management.

Then, as Ms. Kornfeld said, there is the issue of avoiding the pitfalls of other oil producing countries like Nigeria. In general, the US has supported the policies and governments in Nigeria that have engineered these pitfalls, into seemingly bottomless pits, working along with the US based oil corporations operating in Nigeria. So although they might know what to avoid in order to be socially and environmentally responsible, there is no indication that the US government or the oil corporations have any intention of acting in socially or environmentally responsible ways. Uganda does not have much history of environmentalism it can point to with pride either. So far the US response to African oil issues has been almost entirely military, hence AFRICOM, the US Africa Command.

The Uganda government may be strong in the sense of using muscle to insure compliance. It employs muscle internally against dissent, and externally to assist in exploiting the resources of its neighbors, particularly in the DRC. However its democratic history is weak, and employment of any form of participatory democracy in decision making is sadly lacking. The US has been an enthusiastic supporter of Uganda’s “strength”. Mahmood Mamdani points out that Museveni has been a US proxy in Rwanda, and is still a US proxy in the DRC. AMISOM soldiers from Uganda are in Somalia acting as US proxies, and the underlying issue there too is oil.

Musevenis name means son of a man of the seventh, meaning from the Seventh Battalion of the Kings Africa Rifles. That seems ironically appropriate, as Uganda is acting as a US proxy in the DRC, Somalia, and Ugandan mercenaries have played a prominent role in Iraq. US proxy warriors in Africa have been referred to as Bush’s Africa Rifles, now Obama’s Africa Rifles, not too different from the colonial proxy war tradition of the King’s Africa Rifles.

Museveni has shown no interest in allowing any democratic opposition to his presidency. In May he declared: I see no successor in NRM.

He may have ruled Uganda for the past twenty three years but President Yoweri Museveni is still hesitant to hand over power, not even to members of the National Resistance Movement, of which he is the leader.

On Thursday the president told NRM Members of Parliament that while he would be “happy” to hand over power, he saw “nobody” ready to take on the daunting responsibility of leading Uganda.

So the Uganda government will continue to run along lines that Museveni sees as in his/Uganda’s interest. I don’t know if this is the “strong governance structures” to which Kornfeld refers. It may well be. She and her cronies may see this as the most convenient way for the US to access Ugandan oil. But it cannot be described as democratic, or in any way resembling participatory democracy. Unless people who live where the resources are can benefit from those resources, and have some say in how they are disposed, there will be conflict. And problems are already brewing. In April 2009 Uganda Bunyoro Kingdom Threatens Lawsuit over Oil Exploration:

Cultural leaders of Uganda’s Bunyoro kingdom, located on the Ugandan side of the oil-rich Albertine rift, have threatened legal action against the central government over oil exploration and production activities there, a kingdom official said Monday, but the government has promised talks to resolve the issue.

Yolamu Nsamba, the principal private secretary of the king of Bunyoro, said the government has breached the pre-independence agreement of 1955, which provides that Bunyoro is entitled to substantial amounts of revenue from mineral exploration in its kingdom.

“For years now, the central government has been dealing with oil exploration companies secretly yet the law has never been changed,” he said, adding that kingdom officials have already informed the central government of its intentions.

A government official told Dow Jones Newswires separately Monday that the central government would soon start talks with kingdom officials to resolve the issue. Uganda is expected to embark on an early oil production scheme in the first quarter of 2010.

The 1955 agreement was signed between the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and the U.K. protectorate government and stipulates that in the event of mineral development taking place in Bunyoro, a substantial part of the mineral royalties and revenue from mining leases would be paid to the native government of Bunyoro Kitara.

Bunyoro remains influential in Uganda although its cultural leaders are prohibited from engaging in national politics.

It will be interesting to see how Bunyoro fares in maintaining some control over its riches. And there are troubles with the neighbors too. In May 2009 Uganda beefs up marine surveillance on its waters.

Uganda has stepped up security on its waterways and is quietly revamping its marine police in anticipation of tensions with its neighbours over the country’s natural resources.

Apparently, the discovery of high-value natural resources such as oil and gas under and near Uganda’s lakes and the need to protect fisheries resources are the imperative behind moves to improve security on the country’s waters.

The Police Marine Unit has acquired four specialised boats at a cost of $8.6 million to be paid over a period of five years.

The acquisitions and keen interest in marine security come in the wake of an incident in August 2007, when Congolese troops on the disputed Rukwanzi island in Lake Albert shot and killed oil prospectors who were carrying out surveys on the Ugandan side of the lake.

Officials say terror threats have also underscored the need for improving security on the country’s lakes because Uganda’s main Entebbe airport — the kind of key infrastructure usually targeted by terrorists — is located on a peninsula in Lake Victoria.

Much as the boats are up and running and have recently been seen around Migingo island, over which Kenya and Uganda are squabbling, questions are being raised over the capacity of the police to take on and maintain such infrastructure both financially and technically.

Uganda is landlocked, so issues of how and where the oil will be refined and transported are still up in the air. Tullow, Heritage Face Tough Choices on Uganda Oil Devt.

After remarkable exploration success in Uganda, Tullow Oil PLC (TLW.LN) and Heritage Oil Ltd. (HOIL.LN) face tough choices over how to develop the oil they’ve discovered.

Both companies face immense infrastructure challenges bringing the oil from its remote region to world markets. They have to walk a fine line between their commercial goals and the sometimes conflicting ambitions of the Ugandan government. Tullow and Heritage also have to handle overtures from much larger rivals that want in on the substantial quantities of oil they have discovered.

“Lake Albert is a multibillion-barrel basin,” with great potential to expand reserves even further once problems with licenses on the Congolese side of the lake are resolved and exploration begins there, said Paul Atherton, chief financial officer of Heritage.

Tullow and Heritage have long talked of exporting the Lake Albert oil to world markets via Kenya, initially by rail to the port of Mombassa and eventually through a large enough pipeline to carry the 150,000 barrels of oil per day the basin is thought to be capable of producing.

The government has clashed recently with Tullow over the pipeline, said an official at the energy and minerals ministry.

And Uganda’s energy minister recently said no unrefined oil should be exported from Uganda and instead the country should build a refinery to process all domestic crude and supply oil products to the whole region.

As talks on the development move slowly forward, one voice that has been heard little so far is that of the local communities, said Dickens Kamugisha, chief executive of the African Institute for Energy Governance, a non-governmental organization based in the Ugandan capital.

Local people are worried about the problems caused in Nigeria, Angola and Chad by the exploitation of oil resources and unchecked flows of petrodollars to governments with a reputation for corruption, he said. “The process has been secretive,” with insufficient public discussion over the competing development plans and no publication of the production-sharing contracts between the Ugandan government and the companies, he said.

Tullow and Heritage stressed that they have maintained good relationships with local communities. Tullow said it has shown local people around their drill sites to explain what they are doing and both companies are contributing to local development by funding schools, health clinics and even lifeboat training on the lake. Employment of local people “would be an integral part of any development plan,” along the lines of work the company has done in Ghana, said McDade.

Kamugisha acknowledged the local work of the companies, but expressed concern about the lack of transparency from the government. He said he wants the Ugandan government to follow the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and declare all oil revenues openly in order to prevent corruption. Both Tullow and Heritage said they are happy to disclose the terms of their contracts — which they described as containing good terms for Uganda — if the government allows it.

Whether this is enough is unclear. A dispute is already brewing over who controls rights to minerals in the Lake Albert area and how revenues will be distributed between the government and leaders of the Bunyoro Kingdom — the ethnic grouping that occupies districts on the lake’s eastern shore . Local communities “say they have been completely left out of the process and are not satisfied,” said Kamugisha.

It looks like some rough roads ahead.

__________

Note:
h/t to b real whose research identified many of the links above
Bunyoro map from Face Music – History of Uganda
Oil blocks pictured above blocks from this article .

__________

October 15 2011:

For more on this topic see:
If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy including the documents in the comments.

For more on the first attempt of the Pentagon to go after Kony and the LRA see:
Stability operations cause 900 civilian deaths, 100,000 displaced, miss target
and
Botched raid.

The New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur.  Graph: John Emerson (backspace.com)

Two graphs, the New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur. Graphs: John Emerson (backspace.com)

Julie Hollar has written a superb analysis of why the conflict in the Congo is ignored by the media; Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten, When 5 million dead aren’t worth two stories a year. She covers when and why coverage was better, and what is going on now. I won’t repeat all she writes, it is well worth reading. Near the end she includes this paragraph:

Paying attention to the Congo would also mean reporting on the main factor fueling the conflict: the plunder of the country’s resources, which primarily benefits multinational corporations. The conflict areas of the Congo are rich with minerals like copper, tin, gold, diamonds, cobalt and coltan, a mineral used for cell phones and other common electronic devices. Rebel groups who hold these areas sell off the minerals at cut-rate prices, using the profits to maintain power as big companies look the other way. As happened with conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone and Angola, activists are pushing for a mechanism to make corporations verify that they aren’t buying the Congo’s conflict minerals.

The GDP of both Rwanda and Uganda include minerals stolen from the Congo. So far both countries are rewarded for this theft by praise for their economic progress, and of course by the money these minerals bring. Too many people in too many countries are profiting from Congo’s wealth. Canada is the largest mining interest in the Congo, and funds a lot of the conflict. Mostly all parties are perfectly willing to see the conflict continue. Despite the massive number of deaths, the use of rape as a form of terrorism, used along with murder and dismemberment to threaten and depopulate areas, and the conscription of children as soldiers by all sides, most of the media coverage of the Congo conflict involves endangered gorillas or Angelina Jolie. Media coverage discounts and ignores the people of the Congo.

The Congo conflict is sometimes known as Africa’s world war. Here is a list from 2001 of many of the parties involved, from Natalie Ware at American University.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):
    * Hutu Interhamwe militia – mostly from Rwanda and responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Former Hutu members of the Rwandan military – also responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Mai Mai – group of traditional Congolese local security forces
    These groups operate inside the DRC supporting the government “often as guerillas operating inside territory held by antigovernment forces” (U.S. State 2001)
  • Libya – provides arms and logistical support but no troops
  • North Korea – sent advisors to train government troops
  • Rwanda – supports Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Goma (RCD/Goma) and Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Bunia (RCD/Goma); majority Tutsi
  • Uganda – supports the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC); mainly non-Tutsi
  • Burundi – fights against various Hutu groups based in the DRC that are against the Tutsi-led Burundi government
  • Angola – supports the government of the DRC
  • Namibia – supports the government of the DRC
  • Zimbabwe – supports the government of the DRC
  • Sudan – supports the Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF); Ugandan expatriates against the government of Uganda

The conflict in the DRC is often characterized as an ethnic conflict. It is a resource war. The various sides exploit ethnicity when it works to their advantage in the pursuit of mineral and other natural resources. All the groups engaged in fighting in the Congo engage in terrorism and conscript children.

China is missing from the above list, its presence has expanded greatly since 2001. The west is entirely missing from the list. Canada, the United States, the UK, countries of the EU, are all players in one form or another, and have been for some time. They are a huge market for the stolen mineral wealth of the Congo, and home base for the multinational corporations who fuel the plunder. Canada is the biggest player in mining. China is also heavily involved in mining in the Congo. The US is supplying a great deal of military training and arms transfers to Rwanda and Uganda, which extend their reach and power into the Congo.

wreckage from the plane

wreckage from the Ilyushin 76, photo/Reuters

On March 9 an Ilyushin cargo plane, S9-SAB, Soviet era plane, owned by Aerolift, known gunrunners, and chartered by Dyncorp, one of the largest suppliers of mercenaries, burst into flames and crashed into Lake Victoria. Supposedly it was carrying tents and water purification equipment to the AMISOM, African Union Mission in Somalia, soldiers in Somalia. Reports say 11 people on the plane were killed. Dyncorp is currently under contract with the US Department of State.

From Uganda’s New Vision, a description of the crash:
Entebbe place crash kills eleven

The accident occurred moments after the Ilyushin cargo plane, S9-SAB, operated by Aerolift left the airport. Dynacorp, an American company, had chartered the plane.

The aircraft plunged into the water at a place referred to as Magombe, loosely translated as graveyard, owing to the disasters that have occurred there in the past. Several boats have reportedly capsized in the area, fishermen disclosed.

Magombe, according to a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority, is about 5.5 nautical miles (9.9km) south of the airport. The plane burst into flames before it hurtled into the water and got submerged, witnesses said.

“It left the airport after a Kenya Airways flight but it made an awkward sound. It caught fire soon after it got off the ground,” an officer at Kigungu Police post said.

A policeman, Gerald Ssesanga, who resides near the airport, said he saw the blaze but thought it was a fire lit along the shore. Juma Kalanzi, a fisherman, also saw the fire but initially thought it was on the nearby Nsaze Island.

“I realised it was a plane when the fire started spreading on the lake,” he stated.

So big was the blaze that it caught the attention of the early risers along the shores of the lake.

A search and rescue team comprising the army, the Police and CAA staff rescued two tired fishermen, Karim Mubajje, and another only identified as Deo. Mubajje and Deo narrowly survived after their boat capsized as the blazing plane plunged into the lake where they were fishing.

Mubajje recounted hearing a loud explosion as they drew nets out of the water. “In a few seconds, the plane spun several times and tumbled into the water, capsizing our boat,” he said.

They held onto the wooden pieces of their boat for four hours until they were rescued.

Responding to a question on whether the crash was the work of terrorists, Masiko remarked: “I am not ruling out anything and I am not including anything. Don’t speculate. Let us wait for the investigations.”

On the plane’s airworthiness, the minister disclosed that it was okay, adding that it flew to Somalia 20 times in February.

There are only 28 days in February, that means this plane, chartered by Dyncorp, was making almost daily flights to Somalia during February. What was it carrying? Who was paying for the cargo? Was it in violation of the UN Arms Embargo? And was it only flying these trips in February, did it start before that? Does Dyncorp continue to charter Soviet era Aerolift planes registered in Sao Tome for flights back and forth to Somalia?

Further description of the crash from Uganda’s Daily Monitor:

Mr Yusuf Buga, a fisherman, said he heard an explosion first and then about 10 miles away from where he was winding up his fishing, a fireball fell from the sky into the lake.
“It was not a plane that plunged into the water; by the time it hit the water, it was a fireball that continued to burn on the water surface for about an hour,” Mr Buga says.
Mr Charles Kiwanuka, 19, seems to have seen even more action than Mr Buga.

“By 5:00am, we were all packing up because we fish at night. From our boat we heard an explosion and, on looking up, saw a fireball headed for the waters where two other fishermen dozed on their canoe. The aircraft exploded from the air before falling into the lake as a fire.”

The two fishermen Mr Kiwanuka refers to, who survived by holding onto a piece of crap from the shattered aircraft …

Also from Uganda’s Daily Monitor: Crashed plane ‘not inspected’

The Illyushin-76 cargo plane carrying 16 tonnes of supplies including tents and water-purification equipment for Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers in Somalia plunged into Lake Victoria soon after take-off from Entebbe Airport.

The aircraft was on a support flight carrying water purifiers and other equipment for ugandan peacekeeping troops in Somalia.” It seems unlikely that the plane was carrying 16 tonnes of just tents and water purification equipment for the 3700 AMISOM troops. So what else was on the plane? Additionally, three high ranking Burundian officers were in the plane, including a brigadier general and a colonel.

SA plane crash victim identified

Duncan Rykaart, a former special forces operator and colonel, was one of 11 people aboard a Ilyushin 76 cargo plane that crashed into Lake Victoria on Monday.

He had been working for Bancroft Global Development, an American company specialising in research on explosive devices and landmines, since January. The company advises the African Union’s peacekeeping troops in Somalia.

Regarding Mr. Rykaart’s history:

November 2001: Guns for hire again

A born-again Executive Outcomes operation is at the centre of allegations of a military contract between ex-South African Defence Force soldiers and the Sudanese army.

We hear South African security has established a link between a local company known as NFD and the Sudan contract.

NFD’s directors include Duncan Rykaart (ex- colonel in the SA Defence Force’s Five Recce Brigade)

NFD Operations Manager Rykaart denies any knowledge of the Sudan contract, though SA military sources pinpoint him as taking the lead role in the negotiations with Khartoum. … Rykaart insists his company has no foreign security contracts currently, although the NFD website boasts a client base in Egypt, Congo-Brazzaville, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Angola and Bulgaria.

As b real points out:

all of the training & arming of somalis on all sides continues in violation of the arms embargo. that’s part of what makes the 20 flights into mogadishu so interesting. and the u.s. sponsored training by the ugandans, rwandans, and kenyans (and possibly even south africans)

He adds some relevant background material on Dyncorp, and its contract with the Department of State:

US hires military contractor to support peacekeeping mission in Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya: The United States has hired a major military contractor to provide equipment and logistical support to the peacekeeping mission in Somalia, bringing U.S. dependence on private military companies in several hot spots to a particularly troubled corner of Africa. The DynCorp International contract is the latest in a series of deals that allow the United States to play a greater role in African military matters, without having to use uniformed troops…

The company is on standby to provide services anywhere on the continent to include “support of peacekeeping missions by training specific countries’ armed services to enhance their ability to deploy through air and sea, provide logistics supports to mission and work with regional organization to prevent and resolve conflict,” according to bid documents.

If everything was legit, why was Dyncorp using an uninspected Aerolift plane? The old Russian planes were supposed to be banned in Uganda in 2005, plus, the crew of the plane may have been drunk:

Queries raised over ‘condemned’ aircraft that plunged into Lake Victoria

..as efforts to recover the wreckage and the bodies continued into the weekend, reports were emerging that the aircraft should not have been in Ugandan airspace in the first place because the Civil Aviation Authority had banned aged Russian-type planes from operating in the country in 2005.

Even more intriguing were reports from patrons of a popular pub in Entebbe that the crew drank well into the night before their 5.14 am departure on the flight.

Conceding that the authority suffers from political interference that limits its capacity for safety oversight over ad-hoc operators, highly placed sources in the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority told The EastAfrican that the flying coffins were back in force, operating on the authority of powerful political figures who exert considerable pressure on the regulator.

So far AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, has not been named in this story. But it officially enters the picture in the efforts to recover the wreckage from the lake:

US Army to help Uganda in plane crash recovery
The US government is scheduled to assist the government of Uganda in conducting search and recovery operations of human remains and the flight data recorder from the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 aircraft that crashed in Lake Victoria recently.

Service members from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a US body based in Djibouti are expected in Uganda to help in the rescue mission, according to a press statement from the body.

This follows a request by the U.S. Embassy in Uganda and the government of Uganda for U.S. military assistance in recovery operations at the crash site. …

AFRICOM and the Ugandans work on recovering the wreckage:

Ugandan, US divers recover plane wreckage

The Americans have been tasked to retrieve the remains of the dead, recover the black box and advise the investigation team based at the Civil Aviation Authority offices in Entebbe. “US service members are in the Horn of Africa to build relationships with partner nations,” Anthony Kurta, a US commander, said.

“We have deployed a team to support Ugandans in the operations. We work beside Ugandan military forces on a regular basis as part of our efforts to strengthen their own security capacity,” he added.

Two Russians; a captain and the co-pilot, two Ukrainians, three senior Burundian army officers, two Ugandans, a South African and an Indian died in the March 9 incident.

The remains of the Ugandans, Burundians and Ukrainians have been buried.

And the nature of the plane’s cargo, and the recovery efforts take an even odder turn in this press release, with explanatory comments from b real:

From a press release by CJTF-HOA’s public affairs outfit: U.S. Horn of Africa Personnel Dive for Aircraft Wreckage in Lake Victoria

U.S. Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa have located the wreckage of an Ilyshin II 76 aircraft that crashed in Lake Victoria and are conducting diving operations to retrieve information.

The divers have found the aircraft tail.

“It was very tall, and it was in the flight path, so we splashed divers on it and there it was,” said Lieutenant Junior Grade Scott Bryant, the on-scene diving operations officer. “We also located portions of the fuselage, that are not enclosed, they are cracked open like an egg.”

According to Bryant, divers have also located both wings, landing gear with four tires and what they believe to be one of the engines. However they believe the other engines are sunk and will confirm over the next few days.

“Most of the heavy stuff is underneath the silt. We found parts of the tail that are sunk and the divers had to dig five feet under,” he said. “This is very difficult diving and potentially very hazardous. Probably some of the most difficult I’ve seen in 19 years of service. There is no visibility, especially once you touch the bottom; a powder, like talcum powder, floats up everywhere and you can’t see at all. Because of the wreckage, there are very sharp medal objects pointing everywhere and we have fishing nets to deal with.”

Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh water lake in the world. The wreckage is 80 feet under water, buried in approximately 15 feet of silt and 6.8 miles from the closest pier.

CJTF-HOA brought personnel and equipment to Uganda from Bahrain, Italy and Djibouti. Equipment includes sonar systems, self contained under water breathing apparatus (SCUBA) gear, surface-supply diving equipment, a hyperbaric chamber for emergencies and three boats. CJTF-HOA is part of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

As b real points out:

of course the pr piece omits any mention of dyncorp or its contract w/ DoS so that it can portray (“shape” is the popular term these days) the operation as assisting the ugandan govt.

that’s alot of expensive equipment to bring in for the recovery operations. fortunately for them nobody really is asking any important questions

Note the captions of the following pictures of the recovery operation taken from the CJTF-HOA photo gallery:

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Lieutenant (junior grade) Scott Bryant, assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 (EODMU 2), directs a team member to approach a safety boat provided by the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority on Africa's Lake Victoria March 27, 2009. Bryant is the diving officer-in-charge of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Lieutenant (junior grade) Scott Bryant, assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 (EODMU 2), directs a team member to approach a safety boat provided by the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority on Africa's Lake Victoria March 27, 2009. Bryant is the diving officer-in-charge of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Petty Officer 2nd Class John Handrahan, assigned to the forward-deployed U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11), dives into Lake Victoria in Africa March 28, 2009 as part of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Petty Officer 2nd Class John Handrahan, assigned to the forward-deployed U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11), dives into Lake Victoria in Africa March 28, 2009 as part of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Sailors assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 reflect upon a day of completed dives into Africa's Lake Victoria April 1, 2009. The units are diving as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) mission to locate the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 cargo aircraft which crashed into the lake on March 9 and retrieve information for the Ugandan government's investigation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dustin Q. Diaz)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Sailors assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 reflect upon a day of completed dives into Africa's Lake Victoria April 1, 2009. The units are diving as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) mission to locate the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 cargo aircraft which crashed into the lake on March 9 and retrieve information for the Ugandan government's investigation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dustin Q. Diaz)

Recovery operations include U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, and U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11). Again from b real:

at least 3 EODMU units on the scene?

according to the website global security, this represents both “Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1” (EODGRU 1) and “Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two” (EODGRU 2)

on the former,

The mission of EODGRU 1 is to provide the Pacific Fleet with the capability to detect, identify, render safe, recover, evaluate, and dispose of explosive ordnance which has been fired, dropped, launched, projected, or placed in such a manner as to constitute a hazard to operations, installations, personnel, or material.

on the latter,

EODGRU 2’s mission is to provide combat ready EOD and Diving & Salvage forces to the Fleet per unit ROC & POEs. Eliminate ordnance hazards that jeopardize operations conducted in support of the national military strategy. Clear harbors and approaches of obstacles. Salvage/recover ships, aircraft and weapons lost or damaged in peacetime or combat.

nothing in either of those missions about recovering tents & water purifiers

which is more likely –

1. the EODMU’s are looking for evidence of sabotage
2. the EODMU’s are looking to recover ordnance

After this there is not much more information. At least two accounts say the black box was found, although there was one denial that it was found.  No statements about any information from the black box have been forthcoming.

no mention of dyncorp, dos, dyncorp, amisom, africom, the eodmu teams, ordnance disposal, etc…

okay, hold on a moment.

“The wreckage is still 80ft under the water and 15ft under silt in Lake Victoria that cannot enable the divers get the black box out of the wreckage,” The Air Force spokesperson Captain Tabaro Kiconco has said.

yet

Capt. Kiconco said that the divers had successfully mapped the area w[h]ere the wreckage was found and also retrieved the cracked open portion of the fuselage, plane wings, one of the engines and landing gear with four tyres.

what do you wanna bet that’s not all those divers from the different explosive ordnance disposal mobile units retrieved from the lake?

And that is where the story ends, or at least where the telling of the story ends. There are no serious answers on what caused the crash, or what the plane was carrying that required explosive ordnance disposal units to recover. There are no further questions asked or explanations given. There is no clue as to what those multiple Aerolift flights back and forth to Somalia were (perhaps are) carrying. In fact, no one has posed serious questions to the parties involved, and they are not volunteering any answers.

So all we get is: move along there, nothing to see here, move along, just keep moving. Everything is under control. And it certainly looks like everyone concerned is under very heavy manners. Unless someone with some clout asks some questions, and that does not seem likely, we are unlikely to learn AFRICOM’s Lake Victoria secret.

Note:
I am indebted to the extensive research on this incident by b real, and posted in the comment threads on these articles:
A Carrier Group to Attack Somalia
Somalia Thread
Africa Comments

b real continues these topics and more at his newer location
africa comments blog. 
If you want to follow events in Somalia and East Africa, I suggest you visit.

cjtf-hoa-djibouti

Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, seen from space, view it in Google Maps.

It looks like Camp Lemonier is on its way to becomming a permanent base. From the Stars and Stripes (you can see more photos in the article):

Camp Lemonier grows to support AFRICOM

… Increasing American activity in the Horn of Africa has propelled Lemonier from a sleepy 97-acre post to a 500-acre base that’s become one of the military’s major installations on the continent. Last year’s stand-up of U.S. Africa Command means the base is only going to get busier.

“As AFRICOM matures, Camp Lemonier will transition to supporting long-term [theater security cooperation] efforts and establishing strong and enduring regional relationships,” Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the AFRICOM commander, said during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in March 2008. “Camp Lemonier will be a part of supporting and developing regional African capability and capacity; thus, its funding support must continue.”

… Congress has set aside more than $100 million for camp improvements between fiscal 2007 and 2010 …

… the most telling indicators of the camp’s larger role may be the new infrastructure that will allow it to serve as a support hub for Africa Command. Crews have already broken ground on new taxiways to increase its ability to manage aircraft. Leaders are considering putting in a “hot pad” that will allow planes to refuel, rearm and get back on their way quickly.

Lemonier is now set to be an enduring base of operations for Africa Command. Navy Capt. Patrick Gibbons, the base commander, envisions the camp as a forward staging base for troops making last minute preparations before a mission. It is already a logistics hub that supports ships working in the Gulf of Aden and aircraft flying counterpiracy missions there. Other teams are tasked to pick up anyone who needs to be rescued. Lemonier’s mission even extends beyond the Horn of Africa region where Djibouti lies.

“The camp is becoming an enduring mission” …

Unfortunately, to date, and aside from the development photo ops in Djibouti, Camp Lemonier has contributed to destabilizing both Somalia, and Kenya, and facilitated the invasion and occupation of one country by another, the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia, and involved in planning and funding the disastrous raid on the Lord’s Resistance Army by Uganda in December. These are all the actions of AFRICOM in East Africa. AFRICOM and Camp Lemonier contribute to propping up the dictator Meles in Ethiopia, as the US cozies up to Meles, funding his ambitions and excesses in the way that has discredited American good intentions and foreign policy around the world. It does not matter how real your politik, deeds tell the story. Mary Carlin Yates was just in Ethiopia planning further cooperation. The effect will be to destabilize, exploit, and oppress in Ethiopia and its neighbors:

March 25, 2009 (ENA) – Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday received and held talks with US Africa Command Civilian Deputy (AFRICOM), Ambassador Mary Yates.

Ambassador Yates said as Ethiopia is AFRICOM’s partner in security, the visit is intended to further scale up the relation.

Meles said Ethiopia and AFRICOM have been cooperating to ensure peace and security.

Accordingly, he said encouraging activities are being carried out in the area of military cooperation and capacity building.

The two parties have also discussed as to how to maintain the prevailing peace and security in Somalia, according to a senior government official who attended the discussion.

Of course step one to increase and maintain peace and security in Somalia would be to end Ethiopian involvement. There is nothing good Ethiopia can do in Somalia. It has no credibility. The history is so bad, that even if Ethiopians had good intentions, they would not be believed. That Ambassador Yates was discussing continued involvement in Somalia with Meles signals just how bad are US intentions, and how poorly informed is US planning.

AFRICOM is still looking for a permanent base in Africa. I doubt Camp Lemonier is seen as the permanent HQ, but it obviously is becoming permanent. Judging from a number of signals, including the very minor one, which parts of the archive of this blog are getting traffic, Ghana and Botswana are both under pressure and being seriously considered as potential home bases for AFRICOM. I surely hope Ghana can resist. The idea of hosting AFRICOM is not popular with any Ghanaians I know.

The US GAO, General Accounting Office, released a February report. From the New York Times

A report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the command had taken steps recently to win the trust of American diplomats and development experts, as well as African leaders. But it said the command must do a better job explaining what it does to build credibility among its United States government partners and with the African nations it is seeking to help.

“The military’s large size brings the promise of increased resources,” the report said, but that size also stirs concerns among African nations “about potential encroachment into civilian responsibilities like development and diplomacy.”

In an interview here on Monday, before the G.A.O. issued its report, Gen. William E. Ward, the head of the command, said many of the misperceptions about the command had been dispelled.

If General Ward believes the “misperceptions”, the products of realistic skepticism and knowledge of history, have been dispelled, he is living in a dream world. More likely he is continuing the same mistake AFRICOM planners have made all along, only listening to themselves, and those they have selected to agree with them.

The GAO report (PDF) on Africom makes clear that AFRICOM headquarters is still planned for the continent. It is one of the three main recommendations of the report:

• Include all appropriate audiences, encourage two-way communication, and ensure consistency of message related to AFRICOM’s mission and goals as it develops and implements its communications strategy.

• Seek formal commitments from contributing agencies to provide personnel as part of the command’s efforts to determine interagency personnel requirements, and develop alternative ways for AFRICOM to obtain interagency perspectives in the event that interagency personnel cannot be provided due to resource limitations.

• To determine the long-term fiscal investment for AFRICOM’s infrastructure, we recommend the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, as appropriate, conduct an assessment of possible locations for AFRICOM’s permanent headquarters and any supporting offices in Africa.

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