West Nile Bank Front

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The West Nile Bank Front (WNBF) was a rebel armed force in Uganda under the command of Juma Oris. The WNBF began a campaign against President Yoweri Museveni in 1995. It appears to have been a West Nile offshoot of the Uganda People's Democratic Army and recruited primarily in Koboko County, Arua and Obongi, Moyo.

It was active up through the end of the First Congo War in 1997, fighting from Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo against the Uganda People's Defense Force. The WNBF worked at destabilizing northern Uganda. It was responsible for many kidnappings and violent raids, and had similar goals and tactics to the Lord's Resistance Army. While it had initially recruited with promises of generous pay, which proved to be false, it eventually turned to forced recruitment to replenish its ranks. The brutal tactics of the WNBF, including the laying of landmines, made it lose popular support in the region. They were in competition for popular support with the rebel Uganda National Rescue Front II that was operating in the same region simultaneously.

The fortunes of the WNBF did not really change until UPDF Major General Katumba Wamala arrived in 1996 and initiated a policy of civil-military cooperation. He has stated:

Seeing that the people didn’t support the war, my approach was to reach out to them and deny the enemy fertile ground to work on. So I had to combine a military approach with a political strategy... Rather than just sitting in the barracks, I decided to go out and spend time with the communities to work on calling the rebels back. It was very important that we never mistreated reporters (people who reported on rebel activity), so we built up trust.1

By working through local and traditional authority structures and enforcing a measured approach to the counter-insurgency, Wamala earned the trust of much of the populace and was able to arrange for numerous rebels to return to their former lives. This diplomatic initiative was coupled by military pressure upon WNBF bases in Southern Sudan by the Ugandan-backed Sudan People's Liberation Army. The last WNBF bases in Sudan were destroyed at a major battle at Kaya in which the SPLA, UPDF and several Congolese armed groups took part, though some former members joined small rebel movements based in the DRC. By 1998 the WNBF as a group was no longer capable of significant activity.

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