Congo Watch: LRA's Kony spotted heading for Central African Republic

Saturday, December 20, 2008

LRA's Kony spotted heading for Central African Republic

Kony's wig

Photo: UPDF soldiers celebrate overrunning Kony’s camp in the Garamba Forest. One of them is wearing the LRA leader’s wig

LRA boss spotted heading for Central African Republic

Sunday Vision report by Barbara Among Saturday 20 Dec 2008:
KONY ON THE RUN

REBEL leader Joseph Kony has once again eluded the military dragnet and is said to be heading to the Central African Republic (CAR).

Intelligence information shows that Kony, who had left his centre of operations at Camp Swahili to go hunting shortly before the attack, never actually came back to his camp and could have just continued on to the CAR.

Last Sunday Kony’s bases were bombarded in an operation codenamed Lightning Thunder, jointly carried out by Uganda, Congo and South Sudan forces after Kony refused to sign the peace agreement that had been painstakingly reached in Juba in April.

According to SPLA sources based in Yambio, Kony is heading into the CAR. It’s a couple of days walk from Garamba to the southeastern CAR.

Along the way small groups of LRA were reported looting food and abducting people. They reportedly looked tired and were not heavily armed, confirming reports that they had abandoned their guns during Sunday’s surprise attack.

“Small bands of LRA looted and abducted people,” sources said.

However, because of the surprise attack and presence of allied forces at Dungu, the LRA rebels are this time heading westwards to an area that is extremely poor and sparsely populated.

This area has little attention from the CAR government.

The LRA’s spokesperson, David Matsanga, denied reports that Kony had crossed into the CAR. “If he has crossed, asked the CAR government to confirm,” he said.

“Slowly the military option will become elusive; like we said before, it wont yield peace."

The LRA have been moving between South Sudan, DR Congo and the Central African Republic via Dungu for the last two years. They were able to access fertile and populated areas of Haut Mbomou Prefecture, southeastern CAR.

Intelligence information from the UN indicates that the rebels previously, while in the CAR, were based in the villages of Obo Bambouti, Gbassigbiri and Ligoua.

The logistics base in Dungu is being used for surveillance and intelligence work by the allied forces, including the UN mission in DR Congo (MONUC). It was also aimed at preventing the LRA from crossing in and out of the CAR.

It is, however, still unclear whether the joint forces would track Kony inside CAR. Sources said a top Ugandan minister visited the country a week before the attack.

The CAR has expressed its willingness to help Uganda flush the LRA out of its territory. Foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa told journalists on Tuesday at his office that the CAR government had said it was ready to co-operate in the operation.

In his report on the status of the peace talks, chief mediator Riek Machar said that during the December 4 meeting with President Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa and December 8 meeting with President Yoweri Museveni, both expressed disappointment that Kony had not signed the final deal. They also pointed out that he was a threat to the security of the two countries.

It has also emerged that shortly before the attack last Sunday President Museveni called President Kabila and Sudan’s Salva Kiir to inform them that Operation Lightning Thunder was underway.

Operation spokesperson Chris Magezi said without weapons and food the rebels cannot put up a long fight. “We have achieved a lot and this has been a big blow to Kony. We are occupying all of the LRA camp and major food sources; Kony cannot survive on the food he carried away for long.”

He added, “Because of the pursuit, they have continued to drop valuable items such as mattresses and food. We shall get him.”

However, sources intimated to Sunday Vision that the Special Forces had been operating in the area gathering intelligence disguised as locals and hunters for the last two years.

“Through them the army was able to get the rebels’ routine, which were used in the planning and the attack was timed to take place during their parade,” said a source within Uganda’s security, who preferred anonymity, as he is not the official spokesperson.

“Plan B was given two and a half years. Why give the military two days?” asked Col. Walter Ochora.

He added: “The CAR is not on the moon, but in case they cross, we have the support from the French. They are putting an eye on the Central African Republic.”

Speaking to Sunday Vision during a security meeting in Kampala early this year, the MONUC head of regional relations unit, Gani Are, said: “We carried out intelligence work and know the group we are dealing with.”

He estimated that 1,573 Ugandan remnant combatants were holed up in eastern Congo, of which the LRA combatants and their families number around 1,200.

But Uganda security estimated the number of combatants and non-combatants to be 800. During the past two years of no fighting, some LRA reportedly escaped and the rebels’ fighting spirit had reportedly declined.

Operation Lightning Thunder is co-ordinated by the military intelligence chiefs of the three armies and MONUC.

Published on: Saturday, 20th December, 2008

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