Army Fights Rebels in Mt Elgon
The Monitor (Kampala)
11 March 2008
David Mafabi, Bernard Kwalia & Kennedy Masibo
HUNDREDS of Kenyans have crossed into Uganda fleeing heavy
fighting in the Mt. Elgon area, where the Kenya Airforce is
battling rebel militiamen armed with modern and archaic weapons.
In Mount Elgon and Trans-Nzoia districts, the military has been
flushing out rebel militia groups that have been causing endless
havoc. The operation is seen as the government's first step to
boost the police in dealing with outlawed groups in the country.
The rebel groups include; Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF),
Mooreland Forces (MF) and the newly formed Political Revenge
Movement (PRM). Reports at Lwakhakha border post indicate that the
fighting started at about 9.00pm on Sunday and has so far seen
many Kenyans who were trying to settle after the recent
post-election violence run back to Uganda for refuge.
About 11 people have been killed in the violence and many others
have been injured. About 600 more have been displaced. Sources
said that the SLDF are armed with guns, spears, arrows and bows.
Mr Paul Nangoli, the Resident District Commissioner of Uganda's
eastern district of Manafwa told Daily Monitor yesterday that over
800 Kenyans had illegally entered Uganda and are now camped in
various places in Bumbo, Bubutu and Buwabwala sub-counties and
Lwakhakha border post.
"Yes, there is fighting between Saboat rebels and the government
airforce with a lot of violence that is now spreading towards the
border. Apparently there is continuous crossing of Kenyans into
seeking refuge," said Mr Nangoli.
He revealed that although people at the border in Bumbo have
information that Kenyan rebels have been training around Mt Elgon
area near Sono parish in Uganda, the Kenyan government had
downplayed the fighting as an operation to end the SLDF's violence
on the local population.
"This war is not about land in Chebuyuk settlement scheme but it
is against a rebel group that has been recruiting in Mt Elgon area.
These rebels have been there and we thought it was going to end
with the signing of the peace pact on February 28," Mr Charles
Mutsungu, a refugee who lives in Lwakhakha said. The rebels
allegedly began recruiting during the post election violence,
according to Mr Lwakhakha. Mr Nangoli said the Kenyan air force
illegally crossed into Sono parish in Bumbo sub-county in Uganda
sending fears that the violence could spread to Uganda.
"These people crossed illegally with their arms into our
territorial boundary thereby violating our independence in Ugandan
air space and I am already preparing a report to send to the
headquarters about this illegal crossing into the country with
arms," he said.
He revealed that the 3rd Division garrison commander Maj. J. S.
Muralo has gone to the border with soldiers to monitor the
situation in the sub-counties that border Kenya. The Uganda
Peoples Defense Forces spokesman, Maj. Paddy Ankunda, confirmed
there was fighting in the Mt Elgon area that borders Uganda but
downplayed it as an issue that concerns only Kenya.
"Yes, there is heavy fighting in Mt Elgon area in Kenya sending a
lot of fear that it could spread anytime to Uganda as Kenyans
continue crossing to Uganda for refuge but this does not concern
us, until it crosses into Uganda. We are assessing the situation
and its impact," said Ankunda.
When Daily Monitor reached Lwakhakha border post, the town seemed
abandoned apart from a few people who kept crossing in small
numbers into Uganda with their luggage. Many shops were closed.
The operation is likely to move to other places like Kuresoi,
Sotik-Borabu and Laikipia.
The Bumbo LC5 councillor Mr Jotham Walwema Bukaniya confirmed that
there have been persistent reports about rebel recruitment in Mt
Elgon area and that several people at the border have been
monitoring the developments until yesterday when the fighting
He revealed that since the fighting broke out, Kenyan refugees
were increasingly streaming in posing a security concern to
Manafwa district authorities. The Kenyan military, teaming up with
the General Service Unit (GSU), regular police, Anti-Stock Theft
Unit and Administration Police (AP) has been dispatched to the
larger Mt Elgon forest and Cheptais area to crack-down on the
militia. The military personnel arrived in five helicopters and
several armored vehicles and tanks. They camped at Kapkoto area in
Cheptais division and Malakisi in Teso district before the
They bombed a number of caves used by the militia as their
armories. Western Provincial Commissioner Abdul Mwasera confirmed
that the operation was on but said it was too early to comment on