Congo Watch: December 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

“If Kony says he is ready to sign, that arrangement can be made but only if he is going to assemble at Ri-kwangba”

From The New Vision, Uganda Wed 31 Dec. 2008 by Henry Mukasa and Barbara Among:
Rebel chief Kony pleads for ceasefire

UNDER pressure, the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, has appealed to President Yoweri Museveni to declare a ceasefire in the on-going military offensive against his fighters.

The Lord’s Resistance Army envoy, Dr. David Nyekorach Matsanga, said yesterday that he had talked to Kony, who asked him to appeal for a ceasefire.

“Kony called me and told me he wants to talk peace. I am calling upon President Museveni to call for a ceasefire. We should re-open the negotiations,” Matsanga implored.

He said when a ceasefire is declared, a neutral venue and chief mediator would be found. He said Kony had rejected chief mediator Dr Riek Machar and wanted the UN envoy to the LRA affected areas, Joaquim Chissano, to take over. He said with SPLA participating in the hunt for the rebels, the impartiality of Machar, the South Sudan vice-president, was doubted.

The LRA is facing a joint offensive by the UPDF, SPLA of South Sudan and the Congolese army.

It was launched on December 14 after Kony failed to sign the final peace agreement that was negotiated with the Government between July 2006 and April 2008 in Juba, South Sudan.

The joint force is pursuing the rebels in the densely-forested Garamba National Park in Congo.

The UPDF has, however, rejected the call for a ceasefire. The operation spokesperson, Capt. Chris Magezi, said yesterday that the peace talks were concluded but Kony refused to sign the deal.

“If Kony says he is ready to sign, that arrangement can be made but only if he is going to assemble at Ri-kwangba,” Magezi said.

Addressing the nation on December 22, President Museveni also said the only safe way for Kony was to assemble at Ri-Kwangba and sign the peace agreement.

“The operation will see the end of Kony, either peacefully by him walking to Ri-Kwangba or by being violently killed or captured,” Museveni said.

“As an old fighter, I would not want to be in Kony’s position. The combined arms operations about to begin will decimate him,” he warned.

Since the offensive, Kony has killed hundreds of people. Aid agencies say the death toll is over 400.

The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, on Tuesday condemned the atrocities committed by the LRA in the DRC and Sudan. He demanded that the rebels respect the international humanitarian law.

Ban’s special representative, Leila Zerrougui, on Tuesday met with Congo’s national security council to discuss the government’s needs.

“She informed them of UN’s willingness to support them,” MONUC said in a statement.

The LRA rebellion has raged for 20 years, killing thousands and displacing millions in Uganda, Sudan and Congo.

The rebels are notorious for atrocities which include massacres, abductions, mutilation, looting, rape, conscription of boys and forcing girls into sex slavery.

International arrest warrants were issued for LRA top commanders Kony, Dominic Ongwen and Okot Odhiambo.

Meanwhile, the UPDF has named the soldier who was accidentally killed in Congo as Pte. Sam Ochen. He was accidentally shot by a UN soldier.

The body was flown home on Sunday. But the army was yet to inform the family of the dead soldier.

The death brings to two the number of Ugandan soldiers killed since the operation against the LRA started on December 14. Lt. Bosco Opio, 33, died in a plane crash during a routine flight at Isiro airbase in Congo last Wednesday.

The UN said yesterday that an inquiry would be carried out into the accident.

“This was an accident and our relationship with MONUC will not be affected,” said Capt. Chris Magezi, the spokesperson of the joint offensive codenamed Operation Lightning Thunder.
Note, Sudan Tribune article from Khartoum - Machar’s wife escapes assassination attempt in South Sudan - excerpt:
The wife of a senior South Sudan official escaped unharmed after an unidentified gunman pulled a gun at her but did not fire, a newspaper reported December 30, 2008. The London based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily said that state minister of energy Angelina Mang was in the Unity state when the incident took place. The newspaper said that the assassin was taken into custody before he could fire any shots at the Sudanese official.

Angelina Mang

Photo: GOSS Energy Minister Angelina Mang

MONUC Blue Helmet accidentally shoots Uganda soldier

MONUC Press Release Wed Dec. 31, 2008:
MONUC Blue Helmet accidentally shoots Uganda soldier

MONUC regrets to confirm that a soldier of the Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) was killed today at a forward operating base at Dungu when a MONUC soldier who was on duty accidently fired his machine gun, hitting the Ugandan soldier, who was passing in front of the MONUC soldier’s vehicle.

The Ugandan soldier, a member of the coalition forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Uganda which are currently conducting operations against the LRA in the territory of Haut Uele, died of his wounds. The remains of the Ugandan soldier were immediately repatriated.

MONUC is deeply saddened by this incident and expresses its condolences to the family of the deceased soldier, as well as to the Government and people of Uganda. MONUC has immediately launched an official investigation of the incident in accordance with United Nations regulations.

MONUC pledges substantial support to the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC)

Note, the below copied press release by MONUC states that MONUC neither took part in the planning nor in the implementation of the operations carried out by the coalition against the LRA and that MONUC will do everything in its power to continue to protect civilians, notably by bringing substantial support to the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC).

So far, I have yet to find an official report that confirms the LRA were responsible for the massacre that reportedly took place in a Catholic church on Boxing Day, December 26, 2008 [Ref Congo Watch Dec. 29: Terrorists used machetes, clubs and swords to massacre women and children in church near Doruma, DR Congo].

Scores of news reports quote CARITAS as a source of information along with various alleged eyewitness accounts on the ground.

How strange in this day and age of mobile camera phones that, just like in Sudan, there is no photographic evidence leaking out to the press. Something's fishy. We don't know half the story yet. More later.

From Inner City Press December 31, 2008:
UN Helps Congo Attack LRA, Can't Protect Civilians Then Disclaims Any Role, as in Kivus

A UN-supported offensive against the Lord's Resistance Army has been followed by the hacking to death of more than 180 people in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. On New Years Eve, Inner City Press asked the UN's humanitarian coordinator John Holmes about the UN's role in the offensive against the LRA, with the Congolese army, and what is being done to protect civilians going forward. Holmes said that little can be done, since the UN peacekeepers' presence is limited due to redeployment to the Kivus, except to try to let the LRA know it will be held accountable. Video here, from Minute 36:40.

In fact, the UN has previously bragged about its logistical support to the Congolese Army for its attacks on the LRA. Now the UN Mission in the Congo, MONUC, is trying to distance itself from the results. A MONUC press release [see copy here below] on December 30 emphasized that MONUC " neither took part in the planning nor in the implementation of the operations carried out by the coalition against the LRA" but added that "MONUC will do everything in its power to continue to protect civilians, notably by bringing substantial support to the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC)."

Which is it? Does MONUC support the FARDC or  "neither take part in the planning nor in the implementation of [its] operations"?

In fact, Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson has previously told Inner City Press that "MONUC supported the FARDC "with logistics, such as transport, water and food" and "has also helped consolidate and widen the airfield at Dungu, which serves as operational bridgehead for the FARDC and Ugandan troops"of the UPDF.

Now MONUC's press release states that "yesterday, 29 December, 105 troops were transported to Doruma and 60 more today. Moreover, MONUC committed to provide them with logistic support in terms of food stuffs, water, medicines, sanitation and fuel." So let's be clear, some say: if the FARDC troops commit war crimes, the UN has facilitated these.

MONUC

Photo: MONUC in the DRC, looking past civilians

MONUC went on to recount that "Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the DRC, met today 30 December 2008 with the DRC's National Security Board, headed by the Minister of Interior Mr. Celestin Mbuyu Kabango [and] told them about MONUC's determination to support the Government's efforts to resolve the situation."  What does "resolve the situation" mean? Assist in the elimination of the LRA's Joseph Kony -- the UN's own hand in extrajudicial killing?

Inner City Press asked John Holmes about the LRA's claims, for what they're worth, that the Ugandan Army's "Battalion 105" made up of ex-LRA fighters are responsible for atrocities to blame them on the LRA. How does the UN know it is the LRA?  "It's hard to be sure," Holmes said, while calling the idea that the Ugandan Army might be involved "implausible." Those who thought that the International Criminal Court's Luis Moreno Ocampo should have also indicted some in the UPDF, or who are aware of the UPDF's UN-funded torching of huts in Karamoja in the name of forcible disarmament don't find it entirely implausible.

We know the Congo is big, but the UN seems to have a different relationship with the FARDC in the northeast, where it carries them around and cheers them on, than in the Kivus, where the full Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the DRC Alan Doss this week "voiced his concern over the closeness of the FARDC and CNDP positions in Kibati. He also reiterated his appeal to the two parties 'to refrain from taking any initiatives likely to provoke new hostilities' and took the opportunity to recall to both parties 'the need for guaranteeing free movement of persons and their goods.'" In the Kivus, to the UN the FARDC is just one of two parties. In the northeast, the FARDC is the horse the UN has bet on, and carries to the race. Until things go wrong...
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Press Release by MONUC 30 Dec. 2008
Haut Uélé: MONUC is taking action to protect civilians following the LRA attacks

Following the attacks of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels on civilian populations in many territories of Haut Uele district in northeastern DRC since 25 December last, the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) has declared that it is now taking steps to both protect and assist civilians in the area.

“Pursuant to its mandate, MONUC will do everything in its power to continue to protect civilians, notably by bringing substantial support to the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC),” said MONUC in a press release published on Tuesday.

In this regard, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the DRC, met today 30 December 2008 with the DRC’s National Security Board, headed by the Minister of Interior Mr. Celestin Mbuyu Kabango, in a bid to have a sense of the Government’s needs in this area. She told them about MONUC’s determination to support the Government’s efforts to resolve the situation.

At the military level, upon a request from the FARDC’s Army Chief of Staff, MONUC has already airlifted Congolese military troops to the operational zones: 96 FARDC troops have been deployed from Dungu to Faradje since 26 December last.

Yesterday, 29 December, 105 troops were transported to Doruma and 60 more today. Moreover, MONUC committed to provide them with logistic support in terms of food stuffs, water, medicines, sanitation and fuel. MONUC is also ready to assist the FARDC in protecting the civilian population against any possible direct LRA threat.

In terms of humanitarian assistance, MONUC’s Civil Affairs Section, while backing the reevaluation of the humanitarian access to affected persons and for a better protection of the populations, will continue to facilitate the organization of evaluation missions and assistance and will bring logistic support to UN agencies and NGOs, notably in Dungu where MONUC recently deployed two World Food Programme trucks that continue to be available for the distribution of assistance.

MONUC recalls that it neither took part in the planning nor in the implementation of the operations carried out by the coalition against the LRA.

The Mission also points out the 22 December 2008 Security Council declaration, which invited the coalition participants to ensure that any action is taken in respect of international humanitarian law; international human rights law and the international law of refugees; and to take appropriate measures to protect civilians.

UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon today condemned in the strongest possible terms the appalling atrocities reportedly committed by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in recent days in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and southern Sudan. He demanded that the LRA respect all rules of international humanitarian law.

He also urged the forces of Uganda, DRC and southern Sudan on the ground to coordinate with the humanitarian community and the United Nations Missions in the region to ensure the effective delivery of assistance to those affected by the LRA attacks.

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Has Uganda invaded DR Congo?

Note, I had a backlog of DR Congo news reports collected before, during and after Christmas and posted them here at Congo Watch all on the same day but filed them under their original dates of publication. Normally I don't back date posts but in this case I needed to for easy future reference.

Everyone must be feeling mortified at the tragic news of 400 horrific deaths. I'm stunned and can't quite take it in.

To me, it looks as though DR Congo has been invaded by Uganda.

Where were the UN, Laurent Nkunda and all the other rebel groups when Operation Lightning Thunder took place I wonder.

The news reports aren't clear at all. It's difficult to know what to believe.

I am writing this in haste before doing a trawl of news from past 48 hours.

Meanwhile, I have just come across this editorial published today at Black Star News Editorial. I am posting it here because it raises some questions that I am thinking: has Uganda invaded DR Congo? Curiously, it mentions the words "Uganda’s U.S.-backed army".

It seems to me that DRC is being infested and invaded from all sides. How is the DRC government protecting itself and its citizens. DRC urgently needs help. MONUC needs back up.

At the moment I can't make head nor tail of what's going on or where the UN figures in amongst Operation Lightning Thunder. More later.
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From Black Star News Editorial December 31, 2008

CONGO CARNAGE: WHEN BANDITS FIGHT BANDITS
Now the Uganda government and the Lord’s Resistance Army have exported their bloody conflict to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with reports of massacres after Christmas Day of hundreds of Congolese, including by hackings to death.

Death estimates range from 100 to 145, including some reported victims being pursued inside churches.

The United Nations reports that the LRA rebels are responsible for the killings; an LRA spokesman has denied the charges and claim Uganda’s U.S.-backed army committed the massacres.

Uganda government critics point out that earlier this year after the LRA was blamed for killings in Southern Sudan, government officials in the Sudan later said Uganda soldiers stationed in Sudan had been responsible.

In any event the United Nations must immediately investigate these Congolese massacres reported to have been committed by the LRA, whose leadership has already been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on earlier war crimes charges in Uganda.

The United Nations ineptly acquiesced to Uganda’s December 14 Congo invasion. The logic was that the intervention would neutralize the LRA which had reneged several times on signing a peace deal with the Uganda government. How can an army of bandits neutralize another army of bandits?

Human rights groups have for years documented the LRA’s killings of civilians in Uganda. Equally, Uganda’s national army’s vicious killing of civilians was well documented; in addition to inside Uganda, ironically, also in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Uganda’s Congo crimes occurred when Uganda’s army occupied eastern Congo between 2003-2005. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Uganda liable for massacres of Congo civilians, mass rapes, burnings of homes, and plunder of resources.

The Court assessed Uganda’s government $10 billion. It’s a wonder that Congo’s government has not yet sought a lien against Uganda assets, including embassies in foreign lands. Separately, since at least 2004, according to The Wall Street Journal, the International Criminal Court has also been investigating Uganda’s army and its commanders for the same crimes committed in Congo on which the ICJ found Uganda liable in the civil case.

The ICC’s briefs are in on the LRA’s crimes, and its top leaders including Joseph Kony have already been indicted on war crimes charges. The world awaits the ICC’s briefs on Uganda’s army, and its commander in chief, president Lt. General Yoweri Museveni.

For years the people of Uganda, especially in the Acholi region in the north have suffered the consequences of 22 years of warfare between the brutal LRA and the equally vicious national army, Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF).

Both armies have acronyms that are completely at odds with what they represent in reality. The LRA is hardly "Lordly" or "Godly" in its aspirations or conduct, having brutalized the citizens of Uganda, in Acholi region, mutilated civilians, and having abducted young daughters and sons in the region. Uganda’s army also has not been known to defend civilians, especially not against LRA attacks; on the contrary, human rights groups have documented widespread abuses against civilians.

There can be no impunity for the LRA or for the UPDF.

For as long as the Uganda conflict remains unresolved the entire East Africa region will remain engulfed in warfare. Congo is already reeling from another conflict, in its border region as Rwanda-backed terrorist Laurent Nkunda seeks to annex mineral rich territory through massacres and depopulations.

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UN rebuffs Nkunda allegations over DR Congo troop surge

From AFP Kinshasa via ca.news Wed Dec 31, 2008:
UN rebuffs Nkunda allegations over DR Congo troop surge

The UN has denied allegations made by rebel leader Laurent Nkunda that the Congolese army is boosting troop numbers at a key battle line in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nkunda, who leads the Tutsi rebel group the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), wrote to the UN envoy to DR Congo Alan Doss on December 24 to protest at what he called the "redeployment" of Congolese troops.

He said they were reinforcing the front line in Kibati, 10 kilometres (7 miles) north of Goma, the provincial capital of the Nord-Kivu region.

Doss rebuffed Nkunda's claims, saying the UN mission to Congo (MONUC) had carried out investigations on the ground and saw no evidence of any advance by the Congolese army in the areas in question.

Kibati has been one of the main flashpoints between the Congolese army and the rebels since fresh fighting broke out at the end of August. Just a few hundred metres separate the two camps.

Talks opened between the government and the rebels earlier in December in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Since then, fighting between the two sides has subsided and they are set to meet for another round of talks on January 7.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

LRA kill 2 in Tore, South Sudan ambush - LRA may have been tipped-off before Operation ‘Lightning Thunder’ attack

Note, the following report from the Monitor tells us that the UPDF established their second tactical headquarters at Camp Swahili, the former LRA headquarters, inside the Garamba forests, DR Congo.

Also, see here below conflicting reports that I have highlighted in red regarding casualties found or not when Ugandan commandos parachuted into Garamba a few days after the first wave of Operation Lightning Thunder.

From Monitor Online, Kampala, Uganda by Grace Matsiko Dec. 21, 2008:
LRA KILL 2 IN SOUTH SUDAN AMBUSH

In an apparent revenge attack following military raids on their territories, suspected Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels have killed two civilians in South Sudan, a regional official has said.

The Deputy Governor of the Western Equatoria state, Joseph Ngere told Sudan Tribune, a Sudanese online daily publication on Friday, suspected LRA rebels killed two youths in an ambush at Tore, an area on the South Sudan-Democratic Republic of Congo border on Thursday.

“The deputy governor Ngere said there are growing fears in Western Equatoria state that the fighting may spill over to the state,” the Sudan Tribune quoted the governor as saying.

Uganda, DR Congo and the semi-autonomous South Sudan last Sunday launched joint military strikes in an operation codenamed ‘Lightning Thunder’ against the LRA rebels who have been holed up in north-eastern Congo’s Garamba forests since 2005.

But the statement by Governor Ngere on the attack could be a signal that, though the LRA may have been displaced from its bases as a result of last Sunday’s air strikes, the reclusive rebel leader Joseph Kony’s will to forment mischief is not yet over.

Last Sunday’s strike had the stated objective of applying pressure on Kony to sign the Final Peace Agreement negotiated with the Uganda government since 2006. The operation’s commander, Brig. Patrick Kankiriho has said they wanted to “break Kony’s back”.

However, emerging information suggests that the rebels may have been tipped-off before the attack, meaning the onslaught hit empty encampments and ultimately appears to have failed in its primary objective.

Thursday’s ambush at Tore is the one consequence of military action that political leaders in northern Uganda had warned about, saying the LRA could mount retaliatory strikes, forcing their people who have enjoyed relative peace back into the crowded internally displaced persons camps.

Meanwhile, the LRA peace delegation chairman, Mr. David Nyekorach Matsanga said by telephone yesterday, he could not confirm or deny the attack. He promised to verify the information from military commanders on the ground.

“As far we are concerned we are ready for peace not fighting,” Mr Matsanga said. “If there is ceasefire, it will enable our troops to re-assemble in Rii-kwangba, the designated assembly point,” he added.

Mr Matsanga told Sunday Monitor yesterday, they have not closed the door to peace efforts but will no longer allow South Sudan’s semi-autonomous government to chair any talks. Until last Sunday, South Sudan Vice President, Dr Riek Machar, was chief mediator to the Juba peace process.

“I have spoken to LRA and they are asking for cessation of hostilities. They are however saying future negotiations cannot take place in Sudan because the Sudan People’s Liberation Army participated in the raids,” Mr Matsanga said.

When contacted the spokesman for the UPDF troops deployed in the DRC, Capt. Chris Magezi said they have not heard of the attack.

“We are not aware of that,” Capt. Magezi said via satellite telephone link from Dungu yesterday.

Sunday Monitor has separately learnt that the army has stepped up its vigilance in West Nile. Before Operation Lightning Thunder, the army had repeatedly said they have secured Uganda’s borders against possible infiltration by the LRA, a terror group that for years has used panga’s, among other weapons, to kill and maim their victims.

Up to two million Ugandans were at one time internally displaced in northern Uganda as result of the insurgency.
 
The Governor of Central Equatoria state, which covers the provincial capital of Juba, Major General Clement Wani Konga, on Monday warned of imminent attacks by the LRA rebels in the region.

The UPDF said military strikes on Kony’s bases were necessary to force the elusive rebel leader to sign a peace deal. Kony has thrice failed to show up at the signing venue since at various since the beginning of this year.

Meanwhile, Sunday Monitor has established that the UPDF have established their second tactical headquarters at Camp Swahili, the former LRA headquarters, inside the Garamba forests that were occupied by the troops this week.

Between September 17 and October 4, sources in Monuc, the UN mission in DR Congo, say the LRA attacked 10 villages and abducted of between 100 and 200 people, as well as killing up to a 100 others. The attacks displaced over 70,000 people.
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From Xinhuanet, Kampala Dec. 17 2008:
NO CASUALTIES FOUND IN MILITARY OFFENSIVE AGAINST UGANDA'S LRA REBELS

No casualties have been found in an airstrike on Uganda's rebel camps located in remote northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a military spokesman for the operation said on Wednesday.

"We have not found any casualties. It is possible they were tipped off before the attack or they carried the injured and the dead away before our ground troops closed in," Capt. Chris Magezi, the spokesman for the joint operation told Xinhua by satellite telephone from Dungu, the main military base for Ugandan and DRC troops.

Military forces from Uganda, southern Sudan and DRC on Sunday launched an aerial bombing on camps of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)

Magezi said six people were rescued, four of them Congolese, one from Central African Republic (CAR) and another from Uganda, who told the army that the rebels fled when the aerial bombardment started.

The ground troops who arrived at Kony's main camp on Tuesday only found abandoned ammunitions, sub-machine guns, burning huts and vast gardens of food crops.


"We are very happy this was a decisive blow, without food LRA can not survive," Magezi defended the operation opposed by many legislators representing the war-ravaged north.

He said the operation will continue to hunt down the rebels whose leader has failed to sign the Final Peace Agreement the group negotiated with government for over two years.

Meanwhile, the army has started a massive campaign of air-dropping thousands of leaflets in northeastern DRC with messages urging the rebels to surrender and take amnesty.

"We came here because of you. Give peace a chance and come home," read one message.

"The whole world cares about you. Use this chance to get out of the war," read another.

Magezi said the United Nations peace keeping mission in Congo (MONUC) has pledged helicopters to evacuate the combatants who surrender.

LRA, which has wreaked havoc in northern Uganda and southern Sudan for years, has more recently targeted towns and villages in the DRC and CAR. Editor: Sun
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From Reuters Kampala Dec, 18, 2008:
UGANDA FINDS LRA REBEL BODIES, NOT KONY: GOVERNMENT

Ugandan soldiers found corpses in Joseph Kony's east Congo hideout after it was attacked by the military, but have not found the rebel leader, Kampala said on Thursday.

The five-day offensive began with an attack by helicopter gunships and an aerial bombardment of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) camps, and special forces have since moved into the remote jungle areas to "mop up" the insurgents.

Kony's soldiers have waged a two-decade war against Uganda's government that has spilled over into south Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in one of Africa's longest wars.

"(The Ugandan army UPDF) have found dead bodies ... they are trying to identify the bodies," said Oryem Okello, state minister for international affairs.

"If Kony was among those bodies, we would have known by now," he told Reuters by telephone.

Okello, who was briefed by the army, said he could not say how many bodies were there, adding that it would be difficult to identify some of the dead.


A peace process started in 2006, fell into disarray after the self-proclaimed prophet repeatedly failed to turn up to sign a final deal argued out in negotiations in southern Sudan.

Juba, Kinshasa and Kampala agreed to launch Sunday's attack against the LRA rebels who have been holed up in northeastern Congo since 2005. In June, the three countries said they would jointly combat the insurgents.

Diplomats say the attack was necessary following Kony's repeated refusal to sign the pact and reports that he was using the peace process to re-arm and recruit.

The guerrillas have demanded that arrest warrants for Kony and two deputies be scrapped before they will ink the agreement.

But Uganda says it will ask the U.N. Security Council to defer the indictments only when Kony signs.

Uganda's government says the military operation is aimed at forcing Kony to sign the final deal -- an explanation that opposition members laughed at on Tuesday in parliament.

Only sketchy information has filtered out since the offensive began five days ago. Some opposition parliamentarians said the army had attacked empty LRA camps, local media said.

Nearly 2 million people were displaced and tens of thousands killed during the civil war. Kony's fighters were notorious for hacking off limbs and using children to fight.

"The success of operation should not be measured by Kony's head, but by the capacity of the LRA to continue abducting (and) killing," Okello said.
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INSIDE JOSEPH KONY'S CAMP SWAHILI

From New Vision Uganda Dec. 17, 2008 by Henry Mukasa:
THE UPDF commandos on Tuesday evening matched into the deserted LRA camps in the Garamba jungles in north-east DR Congo that were bombarded by the airforce on Sunday.

The Special Forces that were air-dropped five kilometres from the main camp called Camp Shahili, picked their way in the dense, swampy forest infested with wild animals.

Strewn in the camp were tents, bedding, farm tools, generators, shoes, mattresses, blankets, mosquito nets, cooking utensils and posho and beans.

The commandos collected the items and burnt them.

No dead or injured were found, but the joint forces said indications were that the rebels suffered severe casualties.

For instance, the forces picked nine sub-machine guns, four anti-personnel mines and bombs in the camps that had 400 people.

The latest offensive, Operation Lightning Thunder, was jointly launched by Uganda, South Sudan and the DR Congo after the rebels thrice this year refused to sign the peace agreement in Juba.

Spokesperson Capt. Chris Magezi said yesterday the camps had large gardens of groundnuts, maize, rice, sunflower, sorghum, sweet potatoes, cassava and sim-sim. The soldiers started destroying the crops. Magezi said it would take a while to raze the gardens.

Child slaves abducted from the region had tended the gardens. The rebels also had fully-stocked granaries of posho and beans.

Magezi said the operation was “impressive” and likened it to the army’s victories at Birinyang and Jabuleni in South Sudan in 2005 during Operation Iron Fist. The rebels then were forced to flee to Garamba from where, he said, they had also been smoked out.

“The final cord of the LRA backbone has been broken,” Magezi said. “Without food, Kony will become a wanderer and it will be difficult for him to survive.”

Magezi said the joint forces were still hunting Kony, his fighters and the non-combatants who fled into the jungles. He said the attack came shortly after Kony addressed a parade and left for a hunting spree.

“There’s evidence of casualties,” Magezi noted. “We suspect they carried away the injured.”

The army yesterday named four Congolese girls it rescued as Jean Lavi Kitala, 16, Justive Atoloba, 14, Victoria Nakayobi, 11, and pregnant 17-year-old Horlanchar Minongote, who had been married off to rebel commander Abokero.

Commander Brig. Patrick Kankiriho received the youngsters at the tactical headquarters in Dungu, Congo, and gave them personal effects. “Imagine your daughter pregnant at this age!” Kankiriho remarked.


Asked about the fate of Kony, Kankiriho said the operation was not a cup of tea. “You attack, deploy, fight and count casualties.”

But, he added, Kony’s end was near. “Kony will never stand and fight again. He has lost many people who fled in disarray and are scattered in the jungles. He is always the first to flee,” Kankiriho explained.

Kankiriho, the commander of the Mbale-based 3rd Division, is deputised by Col. Moses Rwakitarate, the Chief of Staff of the Airforce and Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba of the Special Forces Division.

Kankiriho commanded the disarmament programme against Karimojong warriors.

Yesterday, the forces continued searching for the rebels and dropping more leaflets to encourage scattered fighters and abductees to hand themselves in.
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ARMY DROPS FLYERS FOR REBELS TO GATHER

From Sapa-AFP Dec. 17, 2008:
Ugandan forces taking part in a joint operation against Lord's Resistance Army rebels are dropping leaflets to urge them to gather at areas where they will escape attack, an official said on Wednesday.

"This campaign is part of our strategy and rules of engagement. The LRA should know that if they go to the designated areas they will not be attacked," said Ruth Nankabirwa, the state minister for defence.

Ugandan, Congolese and south Sudan troops launched an offensive at the weekend against the rebels, whose leader Joseph Kony has refused to sign a final peace agreement with Kampala.

Uganda's state-run newspaper New Vision displayed a leaflet with a picture of a former Kony aide who received amnesty after defecting from the group.

"You have the blessing when you come home," read a text under the picture.

Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa said on Tuesday the military drive was to force the rebels back to the peace process, whose final agreement Kampala has signed.

Kony cites outstanding International Criminal Court arrest warrants against him and his lieutenants as a reason for failing to sign the deal.

The LRA has been accused of abductions, rape and killings of tens of thousand of civilians in the two-decade insurgency that has also displaced nearly two million others.

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LRA had been tipped about an impending attack on their camps - Ugandan commandos found desolate camps and Kony's guitar

Article from the Monitor, Uganda by Rodney Muhumuza Dec. 21, 2008 - excerpt:
Let’s count Garamba’s dead baboons

For about two years, as Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army found a new home in the jungles of Garamba in eastern Congo, what used to be a story of regular skirmishes between hungry UPDF soldiers and dreadlocked rebels was radically changed.

Northern Uganda found peace, soldiers deployed there started having fun, villagers cultivated their gardens, and President Museveni declared the region secure.

All of that happened while Kony was miles away from the place he once called home, feasting on the wildlife of Garamba and sometimes inviting Acholi elders to sober conversations. Kony was not dead, but he was not around to cause death.

The mystic rebel leader’s decision to relocate to the Congo, where he relived his reign of terror, was not a gift of love to the northern Ugandans he traumatised for two decades, of course, but neither was it because the UPDF had single-handedly exiled him there.

By the time a truce was signed in August 2006, early in the Juba Peace Process, it had been long since the LRA and the UPDF had clashed. By April 2008, when Kony refused to sign the final peace deal, rendering negotiations useless, there was already a sense of hope in most of northern Uganda that the days of hacking limbs and raping women were firmly buried in the past.

Now, nearly a week after a joint assault on the LRA, the army is said to be deploying heavily in northern Uganda, especially in the border town of Arua, apparently to make sure that LRA rebels do not infiltrate Uganda. It is war all over again.

The public relations surrounding the offensive--led by the UPDF and including the armies of Congo and South Sudan--has been a disaster of Garamba proportions. Although it has been said that the attack was to rescue women and children enslaved by Kony’s ragtag army, aerial bombardment is not a tactic that achieves that. It does not make a distinction between the face of Kony and a baboon’s, and it also does not care if there are pregnant women collecting firewood or little children chasing squirrels.

Officially, Ugandan commandos were parachuted into Garamba about two days after the aerial assault on the national park, reportedly to count the number of casualties and rescue any survivors.

The commandos found desolate camps, reportedly bloody compounds, at least six survivors, and—what else?—a guitar that allegedly belonged to Kony! The curious thing, though, is that no one in the UPDF has claimed that the place was strewn with human bodies.

In the absence of reliable information on the character and scope of the attack, two scenarios can be conjured: Either the allied forces bombed empty camps, or the aerial strikes claimed the lives of many women and children.

If the offensive was as successful as the army wants us to believe, the second scenario is one that, unfortunately, is more probable. But the success of the operation is being doubted seriously. On Tuesday, two days after the aerial assault on Garamba, some lawmakers from Acholi told reporters they were reliably informed that the LRA had been tipped about an impending attack on their camps.

Kony and his fighters, the MPs claimed, had abandoned their camps long before fighter jets rained bombs on the jungles they were holed in after the International Criminal Court issued warrants of arrest for the rebel leader and his top lieutenants. Reagan Okumu, the Aswa MP, was even willing to stake his reputation on the argument, whispering into reporters’ ears that “maybe they bombed monkeys”. That sounds really funny, but it probably captures everything we do not know about the offensive.

Should the assault be seen as a deadly attack on the LRA, or was it a playful assault on Garamba? Was the UPDF, already stunned by leaks to the press that the attack was imminent, desperate to bomb Kony, however misguidedly, before the government in Kinshasa changed its mind about allowing the attack?

Can the UPDF justify the attack against a supposedly demented rebel chief who, despite his reputation for brutality, was yet to completely rule out making peace with President Museveni?

Weeks before the assault on Garamba, a Monitor journalist had been investigating a juicy rumour that the UPDF was planning to attack Kony’s bases in Garamba. The reporter, doubtful that such an attack would be contemplated at a time when the ceasefire was holding, decided the story was a hoax when Uganda’s top military intelligence officer asked him a dull question.

“Where did you get that from?” Brig. James Mugira, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence chief, reportedly asked the reporter. In a recent conversation, the journalist told me he regretted not having penned the story, and that Brig. Mugira’s question may have psyched him out of doing what he is paid to do.

I am hard-pressed to believe that Kony, who has eluded capture for two decades, would be so uninformed about his looming fate in a world where reporters know weeks in advance that his camps are being targeted for aerial bombardment. Like the UNITA example in Angola, Kony is the LRA and the LRA is Kony.

The former altar boy is the ultimate prize, dead or alive. If the allied forces believed at the time of the attack that Kony was unaware of their deadly plans, then they were joking. Because I am inclined to think that the commanders of the operation codenamed “Lightning Thunder” had no reason to believe that Kony was sitting inside his hut waiting to be the high-profile victim of enemy bombs.

I do not find Mr Okumu’s monkey comments hilarious. The apes of Garamba did not deserve to die in place of Kony—a murderer’s death. Their sounds, those screams of agony, surely cursed the Garamba air that Sunday morning. Even for an ugly baboon devoid of a sense of responsibility, it is a Kony way to die.

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LRA blamed Christmas massacre on UPDF's Battalion 105

From Daily Nation, Nairobi December 30 2008 by Sam Kiplagat:
Uganda rebels deny killing 200 people

Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group yesterday distanced itself from the killing of more than 200 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The attacks, which started on Christmas Day, have left close to 200 people dead and more than 20,000 have fled DRC, according to UN humanitarian agency, Ocha.

But speaking to the Nation on phone on Tuesday, LRA Peace delegation leader David Nyekorach Matsanga blamed the attacks on group’s breakaway combatants who he said have since joined the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).

According to Dr Matsanga, the attacks were carried out by Battalion 105 on orders of the government of Uganda.

According to the UN, the killings were reported to have been carried out between December 25 and December 27 in Faradje, Doruma and Gurba villages by LRA fighters fleeing a two-week-old multinational military offensive led by Uganda.

The agency also added that at least 20 children and an unknown number of adults were abducted during the attacks.

Dr Matsanga said the Ugandan government wanted to malign LRA’s name.

He said rebel leader Joseph Kony and the LRA command were against such attacks and would not fight back.

“I have talked to some European diplomats who are against the attacks. We will maintain peace as we await for peace talks,” said Dr Matsanga.

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More than 400 people killed by Ugandan rebels in the DR Congo in attacks since Christmas day says Caritas

Report from the BBC 30 December 2008 - excerpt:
Christmas massacres 'killed 400'

More than 400 people have been killed by Ugandan rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo in attacks since Christmas day, aid agency Caritas says.

The head of Caritas in DR Congo told the BBC some 20,000 people had fled to the mountains from the rebels, who have denied carrying out the attacks.

An eyewitness told the BBC that five people in Faradje had their lips cut off by Lord's Resistance Army fighters.

They were told that it was a warning not to speak ill of the rebels.

News of the attacks in north-eastern DR Congo began to come out after the weekend when the Ugandan army accused the LRA of hacking to death 45 civilians in a Catholic church near Doruma.

Bruno Mitewo, head of the Catholic aid agency, says that from information they have collated from their parishes on the ground, more than 400 civilians have died in the attacks.

He said that in Faradje 150 civilians had died, almost 75 people in Duru and 215 in Doruma.

The victims had been hacked to death and forced into fires, he said.

"All villages were burned by rebels... we don't know where exactly the population is because all the villages are empty," he told the BBC.

"We have almost 6,500 displaced who are refugees in the parishes of the Catholic Church around the city of Dungu, more than 20,000 people displaced are running to the mountains," he said.

Those who were hiding in the bush and forest were mainly the young, as the LRA tends to kidnap children and recruit them as fighters, he said.

An eyewitness in Faradje said the people who had their lips cut off were being treated for their injuries.

Earlier, LRA spokesman David Nekorach Matsanga told the BBC that the allegations that the massacres had been perpetrated by LRA fighters were untrue.

He said rebel units were not in the areas concerned and said a group of LRA defectors who joined the Ugandan army may have been responsible.

Uganda's government said the joint offensive had destroyed some 70% of the LRA camps in DR Congo.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says that Mr Kony's force is relatively small - about 650 strong - but the difficulty is that when it is hit, it scatters and then regroups.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

LRA massacre 189 in DRC's Faradje, Doruma and Gurba U.N. Says

From The New York Times Dec. 29, 2008 by Jeffrey Gettleman:

Fleeing Ugandan Rebels Massacre Nearly 200, U.N. Says - excerpt:
The Lord’s Resistance Army, the fearsome Ugandan rebel group known for its lurid violence and penchant for kidnapping children, massacred nearly 200 people last week, United Nations officials said on Monday.

The rebels were being chased by a multinational military offensive against them, and as they fled, they hacked to death dozens of villagers in their path, according to Ugandan military officials.

The killings may not be over. Most of the rebels escaped the military offensive and have scattered across a vast swath of rugged territory in the northeastern corner of Congo.

“The civilian population is really in danger,” said Ivo Brandau, a United Nations spokesman in Congo. “They are under attack.”

According to United Nations officials, the rebels struck a village called Faradje on Dec. 25, killing 40 people. Over the next two days, the rebels attacked two more villages, Doruma and Gurba, killing another 149 people.

Ugandan military officials have said most of the victims were women and children, who were cut into pieces. A rebel spokesman denied responsibility for the killings, telling Agence France-Presse that the rebels were not in the area.
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From Radio Netherlands December 29, 2008:
200 slaughtered by rebels in DRC at Christmas

A United Nations agency says a Ugandan rebel movement killed nearly 200 people in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo during Christmas. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the Lord's Resistance Army killed 189 people over three days in the villages of Faradje, Doruma and Gurba. A spokesman for the rebels has denied the killings.

Earlier reports said that 45 bodies, apparently also killed by the rebels, had been found in a church in Doruma. It is unclear whether those victims were included in the total announced by the OCHA on Monday.

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Rikwangba in Southern Sudan remains open as assembly area for LRA rebels

Article from Sudan Tribune December 15, 2008 (JUBA) by James Gatdet Dak:
SOUTH SUDAN VP CONFIRMS ATTACKS ON LRA REBELS

The Government of Southern Sudan’s Vice President and Chief Mediator of the Uganda peace process, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, confirmed on Monday that military offensive against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was under way inside DR Congo.

Joseph_Kony_Riek_Machar.jpg

Photo: LRA Joseph Kony is shaking hand with southern Sudan’s vice president Riek Machar. (Reuters).

A regional joint force carried out a surprise attack on LRA positions in eastern DR Congo on Sunday.

Machar said as mediators they were aware of the offensive shortly before it was announced in Kampala by the Ugandan government.

He blamed the LRA leader Joseph Kony for not signing the peace deal.

“We understand the frustration involved because Kony has failed to sign [the final peace agreement] five times,” he explained.

He further explained that Kony failed his arrangement to sign twice, former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano’s once, northern Ugandan leaders’ once and lastly failed to talk to President Museveni on the phone despite Museveni’s offer to dialogue with him directly.

Machar added that his government has closed its borders and would not allow the renewed fighting with the rebels to over spill into Southern Sudan again.

He however said the Government of Southern Sudan has made an important decision that incase Joseph Kony reconsiders to sign, Rikwangba in Southern Sudan remains open as assembly area for the rebels.

He said he considered the military offensive as a pressure on Kony to sign.
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Article from Sudan Tribune by James Gatdet Dak December 20, 2008 (JUBA)

CHIEF MEDIATOR CALLS ON UGANDAN REBELS TO ASSEMBLE TO DE-ESCALATE HOSTILITIES
The Chief Mediator of the Uganda peace process, Government of Southern Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar Teny has called on the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to assemble in Ri-Kwangba to “de-escalate” the ongoing hostilities with regional forces.

Riek_Machar7-2.jpg

Photo: Riek Machar

A joint regional force launched offensive against the LRA bases inside north-eastern DR Congo last week and still escalating.

In his 2nd report on the status of the Juba peace process, dated 15th December and of which copy the Sudan Tribune received today, the Chief Mediator stated that it was the Ugandan army that carried out the attacks on LRA on 14th December in Garamba forests, but was to be joined by Congolese forces while the SPLA would deploy along Southern Sudan borders to prevent the LRA from infiltrating into the semi-autonomous region.

He urged the LRA rebels to assemble in Ri-Kwangba area, respect the terms for assembling, sign and implement the peace deal.

The Government of Southern Sudan’s Vice President further stated that the military action was neither intended to destroy the Juba peace agreements nor abrogate the Ugandan government’s commitments towards the peace process.

Machar blamed the LRA leadership for not signing the Final Peace Agreement (KPA), which prompted regional military offensive against the rebels and called on them to assemble.

"I would therefore invite the LRA to signal its readiness to return and assemble in Ri-Kwangba in order to expeditiously conclude the Juba process,” he stated.

Some of the rebels were already reported to have infiltrated into Southern Sudan following the fighting and were accused by government officials of killing two civilians yesterday in Western Equatoria state.

He said the LRA should contact the Mediator who would, through the Cessation of Hostilities Monitoring Team, work with the relevant forces, to arrange for safe passage to Ri-Kwangba at Sudan/DR Congo border.

Machar said the mediators were aware of the concerns raised by the LRA on the ICC which they said were impeding the signature of the FPA, but he stated that these would be addressed within the framework of the peace agreement and "should therefore not delay this process any longer."

"The LRA must act swiftly and in good faith to conclude this chapter of violence so that peace can return to this region," he concluded.
Cross posted today at Sudan Watch and Uganda Watch.

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Ugandan army kills 13 rebels in Doroma, DRC ambush

From Bloomberg by Paul Richardson Dec. 29, 2008:
UGANDAN ARMY KILLS 13 REBELS IN CONGO AMBUSH, NEW VISION SAYS

Ugandan security forces killed 13 members of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army and seized weapons and ammunition in an ambush in neighboring Congo, the New Vision reported, citing Captain Chris Magezi, a military spokesman.

The fighters were killed at Doroma, a town near the intersection of the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic, the Kampala- based newspaper said on its Web site yesterday. The Uganda People’s Defense Forces, along with Congo and Southern Sudan’s armies, began an offensive against the LRA on Dec. 14, it said.

Fighters from the renegade group, led by Joseph Kony, have killed 88 civilians in Congo and southern Sudan over the Christmas holidays, the newspaper said. At least 45 bodies were found in a Catholic church 10 kilometers (4 miles) southeast of Doroma after a massacre on Dec. 26, it said. The LRA rebels used machetes, swords and clubs to kill people, including women and children, who had taken refuge in the church, the newspaper said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Richardson in Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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Terrorists used machetes, clubs and swords to massacre women and children in church near Doruma, DR Congo

Rebels are suspected over the deaths of 45 civilians in a Catholic church the day after Christmas, the army said today. The report could not be independently confirmed. Uganda's military spokesman, Captain Chris Magezi, said it took place in remote eastern Congo, where the rebels have bases.

Source: The Scotsman 29 December 2008
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From ugpulse.com 28 December 2008
The Uganda People’s Defense Forces has said the recent killing of civilians by Lords Resistance Army rebels fleeing a joint military offensive is regrettable and shows that the LRA were never committed to the peace process.

The UPDF Spokesman, Maj. Paddy Ankunda says LRA rebels have been using the peace talks to reorganize and continue their fighting which victimizes civilians.

He says the reported killing of more than 40 civilians in a village of eastern DRC by the LRA is an indication the rebels don’t mind about a good reputation given that the whole world has been waiting on them to sign the comprehensive peace agreement.

Maj. Ankunda says the LRA are killers whom the regional governments have decided to join forces and rout out.

He says the UPDF and its sister forces of DRC and Southern Sudan are in hot pursuit of the LRA in the Garamba forest and will defeat them.

In an interview today, Ankunda appealed to Ugandans to support the national army and government’s efforts to end the LRA through military means since the LRA have refused to end the conflict through peaceful means.

He says with the support of the DRC government, the UPDF is sure of defeating the LRA who are operating in eastern parts of the vast DRC.
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From Times Online December 29, 2008 by Jenny Booth:
DEATHS IN BOXING DAY MACHETE MASSACRE IN CONGO 'TOP 100'
The death toll in the Boxing Day machete massacre in a church in a remote part of eastern Congo may exceed 100, according to reports.

Captain Chris Magezi, a Ugandan military spokesman, said that survivors and witnesses had described seeing dozens of people, including women and children, being hacked to death, in an atrocity that he blamed on members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group.

“The scene at the church was unbelievable. It was horrendous. On the floor were dead bodies of mostly women and children cut in pieces,” Captain Magezi said.

Witnesses had reported seeing rebels using machetes, clubs and swords, he said.

Captain Magezi put the death toll at 45 civilians, but a European aid worker said that more than 100 people were reported to have been killed in the attack and that the Congolese military put the number of dead at 120 to 150.

The accused Ugandan rebel group, which has waged one of Africa’s longest and most brutal wars, denied responsibility.

David Matsanga, a spokesman, said that the LRA had no fighters in the area and he accused the Ugandan Army of the cross-border killings.

But Abel Longi, a villager who witnessed the attack, said that he recognised the rebels by their dreadlocked hair, their Acholi language and the number of young boys among them.

“I hid in bush near the church and heard people wailing as they were being cut with machetes,” said Mr Longi, a shop owner from the village of Doruma where the attack happened.

The European aid worker, who refused to be named because his organisation fears reprisals, said that a woman who escaped from the church told them there were about 30 killed, but that Congolese military forces said that as many as 150 people had died.

The UN-run Radio Okapi, meanwhile, quoted the governor of Congo’s Oriental Province, Medard Autsai Senga, as saying that the death toll had surpassed 75 and bodies were still being discovered around the church.

He appealed for aid for survivors. The aid worker said that hundreds of people had fled south, deeper into Congo, while the majority of people from Doruma, a village of several thousand people, were taking refuge at Naparka, about 37 miles (60km) to the south.

The rebels appear to be retaliating against civilians for military attacks, including the bombing of their main camp in Garamba National Park on December 14.

The rebel spokesman, David Matsanga, who spoke by telephone from Nairobi, Kenya, blamed Uganda’s 105th Battalion. “They were airlifted to Congo to kill civilians and then say we are responsible,” he charged. “They want to justify their stay in DRC [Congo] and loot minerals from there like they did before.”

Congo suffered back-to-back civil wars from 1996 to 2002 that drew in neighbouring countries in what became a rush to plunder its massive mineral wealth.

The armies of Congo, Uganda and Sudan began an offensive this month to root out the Ugandan rebels, who have been fighting for about 20 years.

Long-running peace talks between the LRA and the Ugandan Government have stalled. Rebel leaders seek guarantees that they will not be arrested under international warrants. The rebels’ elusive leader, Joseph Kony, and other top members are wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

UPDF in possession of Kony’s laptop seized from rebels' camp Eskimo

From the Monitor by Grace Matsiko, Kampala December 27, 2008:
Kony kills 35 on Christmas Day

Suspected Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels led by fugitive Joseph Kony have massacred 35 civilians in coordinated attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.

Joseph Kony

Well placed military sources told Saturday Monitor that on Christmas Day the marauding rebels raided Bitima, along the South-Sudan DRC border killing at least 13 civilians. The rebels are also reported to have killed another 12 people in Faraje, a small town about 150km East of Dungu the UPDF operations  base in DR Congo. The two attacks took place on the afternoon and  evening of December 25 respectively.      

The UPDF spokesman for Operation Lightning Thunder, now  being conducted in the vast eastern part of the Congo,  Capt. Chris Magezi said apart from the killings in Faraje and Bitima, suspected rebels ambushed a civilian pick up truck between Lasolo-Mambe road in South Sudan killing all the  three occupants.

“Our forces who are pursuing the rebels found another five bodies of civilians, South west of Sekure, along the DRC-Sudan border ,” Capt. Magezi said by satellite telephone link from DRC. Capt. Magezi said, two more civilians were killed at Doruma, close to the Central African Republic, bringing the total number of people killed by the rebels on Christmas Day to 35.

According to the UN sponsored Radio Okapi in DRC, five children were also abducted by the rebels in Dungu.

“The allied forces condemn these attacks against innocent civilians by the LRA terrorists. It is this reason why Kony failed to sign the peace agreement for over two years and this justifies the action the allied troops have taken against these terrorists,” he added.
 
Uganda, DR Congo and the semi-autonomous South Sudan on December 14, launched a joint military operation codenamed ‘Lightning Thunder’ against the LRA rebels who have been holed up in north-eastern Congo’s Garamba Forests since 2005.

The allied forces have since established their tactical headquarters at Dungu, about 90km from Garamba in eastern DR Congo.

The number of civilians killed by suspected LRA rebels has reached 28 since the military offensive against the rebels was  launched two weeks ago. Sunday Monitor last week reported the rebels killed two civilians in Western Equatoria state of South Sudan.

A senior South Sudan intelligence officer currently in Juba, South Sudan, who declined to be named  because he is not the official spokesperson of the South Sudan government  confirmed the killings and blamed them on the LRA. “We got confirmation from the areas that have been attacked that LRA is responsible and we have deployed against them,” the intelligence officer stated.
 
Capt. Magezi said because of the attacks by the rebels, the allied forces have changed tactics from just pursuing the rebels to maintaining forces on the ground to protect civilians.  “It is a strategy we used in Northern Uganda and it succeeded,” Capt. Magezi said. He said the attacks on civilians will not make the forces back off from their mission to capture Kony and bring him to justice.
 
Saturday Monitor can reveal that on Wednesday the allied forces uncovered a huge consignment of human medicine and tones of food in an LRA camp  ‘Eskimo’, about 5km north of camp Swahili in Garamba. The drugs were supplied by Christian relief agency (Caritas), to facilitate the failed peace talks between the rebels and the government in Juba. The army destroyed the recovered drugs. Military sources further revealed that the UPDF was in possession of Kony’s laptop which was seized in the  rebels’ camp ‘Eskimo’.  The laptop is being examined by the UPDF’s intelligence.

Meanwhile, the body of the pilot of Mig-21  fighter jet, Lt. John Bosco Opio, that crashed in Isiro DR Congo on Wednesday was flown in the country on Thursday and will  be buried  in Kumi today. President Yoweri Museveni has appointed Maj. Gen. Jim Owoyesigire, the Air force commander, to lead a panel of investigators to establish the  cause of the crash. Lt. Opio, 30, is one of Uganda’s army pilots who trained in  Israel to fly combat  jets. Lt. Opio joined the air force in 1998.

Capt. Magezi described the fatal crash as a setback to the ongoing military operations but said, “our spirits remain high in pursuit of the LRA terrorists”.  Capt. Magezi described the late Opio as a resourceful person to the force.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Kony tapped UPDF radio - Museveni

From the Monitor Kampala by Rodney Muhumuza 23 December 2008:
President Yoweri Museveni has said at least four battalions of Ugandan troops are closing in on Joseph Kony in DR Congo’s forested Garamba area, over a week after a joint force bombarded the rebel leader’s camps and forced him to flee.

Mr Museveni, who described the attack as very successful, said the reclusive rebel leader may have escaped because he acquired a gadget that he used to monitor the radio conversations of the pilots manning the helicopter gunships.

“We found that there was a manual of a certain gadget Kony may have used to monitor the radio conversations of the pilots,” Mr Museveni told a press conference in Kampala yesterday. “We captured the manual but we did not capture the gadget itself. The gadget only becomes useful if the pilots do not maintain radio silence.”

Mr Museveni, who regretted that his government spent time negotiating peace with the Lord’s Resistance Army, said the UPDF would seek to block Kony from crossing into the Central African Republic, where his troops have sometimes sneaked to recruit and cause havoc.

“The force on the western side of Garamba has detected a group of 100 fighters trying to go to the Central African Republic,” Mr Museveni said. “We shall get them before they go there.”

Mr Museveni said the operation had been successful despite delays in putting the ground forces into action.

Ugandan commandos entered Garamba last Tuesday, two days after the initial assault.

Although there have been no casualties from the attack, Mr Museveni said yesterday that LRA fighters may have returned to bury their dead. “It was a very successful operation…we attacked Kony’s main camp and devastated it,” Mr Museveni said. “Kony only understands one language--- the language of the gun.”

Kony, indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, in April refused to sign a peace deal negotiated under the mediation of the South Sudan government.

Kony has said he will not sign the peace deal until the ICC withdraws arrest warrants for him and his top lieutenants.

The offensive on Garamba, where Kony had be holed up for nearly three years, was the first direct confrontation between the UPDF and the LRA since a ceasefire agreement was signed in August 2006.
 
“I don’t think that it was ever correct to beg Kony for peace as some groups were doing,” Mr Museveni said. “We had no other option but to act against these criminal acts.”

A section of Acholi elders, reacting to the offensive, said aerial bombardment of the LRA camps was the wrong tactic against a rebel group that still holds many women and children, most of them forcibly recruited.

Mr Museveni said yesterday he had asked the Police to examine whether the recent statements of MPs Reagan Okumu and Livingstone Okello-Okello, who claimed that the allied forces had hit empty camps, were not potentially criminal.

Mr Museveni suggested that the Ugandan contingent would stay in Garamba for an extended period as it tries to capture or kill Kony.
 
“If Kony tried to settle in any other region, he would be exposed to more danger than in Garamba,” he said. “I would like to assure Ugandans that this is the end of Kony as the terrorist of Uganda… As an old fighter, I wouldn’t want to be in Kony’s position. The combined operations are about to decimate him.”

Meanwhile, the LRA yesterday set new demands for talks with the government and called for a ceasefire.

Addressing a press conference in Nairobi, the leader of the LRA peace delegation, Mr David Nyekorach Matsanga, said the LRA will not go back to Juba for the completion of the talks and signing of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA).

He added LRA want a different person other than vice President of South Sudan, Dr Riek Machar, to chair the talks.

If possible, Dr Matsanga said, a UN appointed envoy should take over the process as Dr Machar “has lost credibility to mediate in the conflict.”

He termed Dr Machar as a traitor especially after the Sunday attacks. Mr Matsanga said the UN appointed envoy should report directly to the UN Security Council at every step made.

The rebel group demanded the inclusion of Sant. E-Gideo, an international NGO in Northern Uganda in the peace talks.

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DR Congo: Offensive against LRA rebels - Troop movements, patchy reports

Source: Missionary International Service News Agency (MISNA)
Date: 22 Dec 2008 - via ReliefWeb:
Troop movements, a dozen Ugandan cargo planes landed in the past 36 hours in Dungu, a group of 350 Ugandan soldiers moving in the forest indicated by local MISNA sources, local press reports refer of sequester of war material: nine days from the start of the joint military offensive launched by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and South Sudan against bases of the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) North Ugandan rebels in the Eastern Province of DR-Congo, reports on what is actually taking place are patchy and independent confirmation lacking.

According to a Ugandan army spokesman, no dead or injured have been found since the bombings of the past days, the rebels are fleeing in the forest of Park Garamba and war material has been sequestered, including documents signed by Joseph Kony, the rebel leader.

No independent sources are however able to confirm and local MISNA sources only indicate significant troop and air movements in a vast and scarcely populated zone.

According to the army spokesman, without food supplies and a base to operate from Kony and his men are at large in the forest; he also confirmed the surrender of two rebels and release of eight people held by the LRA.

The bombing of the LRA bases caused concerns for the hundreds of civilians apparently kidnapped by the LRA.

On the diplomatic front, the LRA chief negotiator in talks with Kampala, David Nyekorach Matsanga, called for an end to hostilities "to give new concrete possibilities" to the signing of an accord.

Matsanga also called for a new UN mediator in place of Riek Machar, as also a change of venue to Tanzania or South Africa.

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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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Monday, December 15, 2008

The Bulk of Kony's infrastructure in Garamba was destroyed yesterday - Ugandan air force says joint operation against LRA bases in DR Congo continues

The Ugandan air force started bombing LRA bases in Garamba National Park in northeastern Congo yesterday after rebels last month failed to sign a peace agreement negotiated in 2006, military spokesman Paddy Ankunda said in a phone interview from Uganda’s capital, Kampala, today.

“The joint operations against LRA are still continuing,” Ankunda said. “DRC is coordinating the raid and we don’t know when it will end.”

Source: December 15, 2008 Bloomberg report by Fred Ojambo. Copy:
UGANDAN AIR FORCE SAYS RAIDS ON REBEL BASES IN CONGO CONTINUE

The Ugandan military is carrying out air raids on Lord’s Resistance Army rebels based in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the support of the DRC and South Sudan, an army spokesman said.

The Ugandan air force started bombing LRA bases in Garamba National Park in northeastern Congo yesterday after rebels last month failed to sign a peace agreement negotiated in 2006, military spokesman Paddy Ankunda said in a phone interview from Uganda’s capital, Kampala, today.

The Ugandan army hasn’t determined when to end the operation, coordinated with the Congolese army, and neither has it received details of casualties from the raids, the spokesman said.

“The joint operations against LRA are still continuing,” Ankunda said. “DRC is coordinating the raid and we don’t know when it will end.”

Rebel leader Joseph Kony refused to sign the peace agreement, demanding that the International Criminal Court first withdraw war crimes charges against him.

The Uganda government referred Kony and his commanders to the court, which indicted them in 2005, after they had fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Uganda started negotiations with the rebel movement in July 2006 with the mediation of the South Sudan government in an attempt to end a war which has claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than 1.5 million people.

Kony, who is holed up in the jungles of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, didn’t attend the talks in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, for fear of being arrested for crimes against humanity under the ICC warrant.

His rebel movement, which claims to represent the Acholi people, the dominant tribe in northern Uganda, says it wants to the country to be governed according to the Bible’s Ten Commandments.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fred Ojambo in Kampala via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.
- - -

LRA SPOKESMAN CALLED GOSS VP RIEK MACHAR TO WARN HIM THAT IF THE REPORTED ATTACK WERE TRUE, IT WOULD BE AN ESCALATION OF THE WAR

David Nyekorach Matsanga, chief peace negotiator for the LRA, told VOA that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was using an attack against the LRA as a pretext to invade eastern Congo for that country's resources.

"We condemned this action of a few military people in the government of Uganda who are using this as a pretext to invade Congo. They have now taking their positions in Congo to loot the minerals, to loot the diamonds, to loot the timber, and everything in Congo. But that attack has taken place, the consequences are going to very dear, and the world is going to regret why this has taken place and they watched it," he said.

Source: Monday, December 15, 2008 Voice of America report by James Butty, Washington, D.C. Copy:
UGANDA REBEL SPOKESMAN CONDEMNS REPORTED ATTACK ON LRA CAMP

A spokesman for Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels has said that if reports of an attack on LRA positions are true, it would be disastrous for the peace process and the people of northern Uganda.

Reports Sunday quoted three central African governments – Uganda, Southern Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo - as saying their armies launched a joint offensive against an LRA base in the Garamba forests of eastern Congo.

The three countries said in a joint statement that their forces destroyed the main camp of LRA leader Joseph Kony and set it on fire. There was no immediate word on Kony's fate.

David Nyekorach Matsanga, chief peace negotiator for the LRA, told VOA that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was using an attack against the LRA as a pretext to invade eastern Congo for that country's resources.

"First of all the action, if it is true and if it is confirmed, it is the most regrettable action that humanity in this region will have. We have negotiated an agreement, we had negotiated peace for the last two years, and it is regrettable that the government of the Republic of Uganda has decided to make a military attack on the LRA, if it is confirmed. I want to make it clear that I have not received official confirmation from General Joseph Kony of this attack. But when it unfolds tomorrow and I received instruction from General Joseph Kony, then I will make an official statement," he said.

Matsanga rejected suggestions that the LRA was responsible for the alleged attack for its repeated failure to sign a final peace agreement the rebel group and the Ugandan government.

Instead Matsanga said the nearly four years peace process has brought some stability to northern Uganda.

"You should understand that we have got gains out of these three and the half years of negotiations. There was relative peace in northern Uganda. And now if Museveni decides to attack the LRA without any consultation while he is talking to us, it is very regrettable. The world must condemn it," Matsanga said.

He accused Uganda of using an attack on the LRA as a pretext to invade the Democratic Republic of Congo with the intention to loot that country's resources.

"We condemned this action of a few military people in the government of Uganda who are using this as a pretext to invade Congo. They have now taking their positions in Congo to loot the minerals, to loot the diamonds, to loot the timber, and everything in Congo. But that attack has taken place, the consequences are going to very dear, and the world is going to regret why this has taken place and they watched it," he said.

When pressed furthe3r to give evidence that Uganda has been wanting to invade the DRC to loot that country's resources, Matsanga would only say that the LRA has its own intelligence network deep inside Uganda.

Matsanga also said he called South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar, who is also the mediator of the peace process between the LRA and the Ugandan government to warn him that if the reported attack were true, it would be an escalation of the war.

He would not say whether Joseph Kony would retaliate if the reports of an attack on his camp were true. But Matsanga said the LRA was interested in peace.

"I cannot discuss the military strength of General Joseph Kony. It is only he as a military spokes of the LRA that can discuss the modalities. Let me make it very clear negotiations are not weaknesses. Being on the peace table does not mean the LRA is weak. But if the Museveni government has taken that root, we will wait and see the consequences that will unfold in the region," Matsanga said.

He said those who think an attack against the LRA in Congo would be a quick walkover might live to regret their actions.
- - -

UGANDAN MILITARY ATTACKS LORDS RESISTANCE ARMY REBELS (Update 1)

Monday, December 15, 2008 Bloomberg report by Fred Ojambo and Franz Wild:
The Ugandan military is carrying out air raids on Lord’s Resistance Army rebels based in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the support of the DRC and South Sudan, an army spokesman said.

The Ugandan air force started bombing LRA bases in Garamba National Park in northeastern Congo yesterday after rebels last month failed to sign a peace agreement negotiated in 2006, military spokesman Paddy Ankunda said in a phone interview from Uganda’s capital, Kampala, today.

The Ugandan military hasn’t determined when to end the operation, coordinated with the Congolese army, and neither has it received details of casualties from the raids, the spokesman said.

“The joint operations against LRA are still continuing,” Ankunda said. “DRC is coordinating the raid and we don’t know when it will end.”

The United Nations mission in Congo, known as Monuc, will tomorrow fly into the combat zone to assess the situation, Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, said in an interview from Kinshasa, the Congolese capital.

“There are several hundred Ugandan soldiers in Orientale Province since yesterday,” he said. “They are putting real military pressure on the LRA.”

Rebel leader Joseph Kony refused to sign the peace agreement, demanding that the International Criminal Court first withdraw war crimes charges against him. Uganda’s government referred Kony and his commanders to the court, which indicted them in 2005, after they had fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

ICC Warrant

Uganda started negotiations with the rebel movement in July 2006 with the mediation of the South Sudan government in an attempt to end a two-decade war which has claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than 1.5 million people.

Kony, who is holed up in the jungles of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, didn’t attend the talks in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, for fear of being arrested for crimes against humanity under the ICC warrant.

His rebel movement, which claims to represent the Acholi people, the dominant tribe in northern Uganda, says it wants to the country to be governed according to the Bible’s Ten Commandments.

The LRA justifies its rebellion by saying forces loyal to Museveni attacked the Acholi people, who formed the rank and file of the Ugandan army, after he overthrew Tito Okello, an Acholi, in 1986. The majority of the LRA are from the Acholi.

‘No Stick’

As the war intensified, the LRA targeted local villagers and abducted children to use as soldiers, porters and sex slaves, Amnesty International and other rights groups said.

The Ugandan government responded by forcing almost 2 million civilians, including about 90 percent of the Acholi people, into “protected villages,” according to rights groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.

“Over the last three years Kony was given repeated carrots and no stick,” Julia Spiegel, LRA specialist for the Washington-based Enough Project, said in an interview from Kampala. “ We still need to see how successfully this operation eroded the LRA’s strength, but it could leave Kony without many options.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Fred Ojambo in Kampala via Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net. Franz Wild in Kinshasa via Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.
- - -

UGANDAN ARMY SAYS SEVERAL LRA CAMPS DESTROYED, INCLUDING ITS MAIN BASE

Ugandan rebels say a stalled peace process has collapsed completely after a joint attack on its positions by forces from three African countries.

The Ugandan army has said that several LRA camps have been destroyed, including its main base.

Army spokesman Paddy Ankunda told the BBC that the operation had been launched because LRA leader Joseph Kony had been unwilling to end the violence in the region.

Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende Omalanga said they had decided to join in the attack out of desperation, accusing Mr Kony of being unwilling to halt his rebellion and of having attacked Congolese children.

"Or duty is to destroy terrorists and we've decided to join these neighbouring countries to do so," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"Those people they are killing are Congolese, those children they are recruiting, those girls they are raping are Congolese kids so we have to fight for them, we have to secure them, we have to crush everybody who is coming to kill them."

BBC East Africa correspondent Peter Greste says it is doubtful that any of the three governments involved are concerned about a collapse in the peace process.

Mr Kony has repeatedly refused to sign a draft agreement and his troops have continued to attack, rape and mutilate civilians and abduct children across all three countries amidst the peace process, BBC correspondent says.

Source: Monday, December 15, 2008 15:49 GMT BBC report. Copy:
ATTACK 'ENDS UGANDA PEACE TALKS'

Uganda, DR Congo and South Sudan launched a joint offensive on Sunday against bases of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in north-eastern DR Congo.

A rebel negotiator said the offensive signalled an escalation of the war.

The Ugandan army has said that several LRA camps have been destroyed, including its main base.

Army spokesman Paddy Ankunda told the BBC that the operation had been launched because LRA leader Joseph Kony had been unwilling to end the violence in the region.

Last month Mr Kony failed to sign a peace deal, despite two years of tortuous negotiations.

Millions displaced

The LRA has led a rebellion for more than 20 years in northern Uganda, displacing some two million people.

LRA negotiator David Nekorach Matsanga told the BBC's Network Africa programme that the involvement of troops from South Sudan - which is mediating in the conflict - meant that the peace process was now as good as dead.

He said he had not been able to contact LRA commanders since the attacks and it was not clear how much damage or casualties had been inflicted.

Mr Matsanga said he had protested to United Nations envoy at the negotiations, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, saying: "We needed more time for peace. Peace was going to come. It was around the corner."

He said that Sudanese mediator Riek Machar had told him that the South Sudanese government was not aware of the attacks.

[But] "The intelligence that I have gathered is that… a section of the SPLA [Sudan People's Liberation Army, South Sudan's army] was involved in the attack, which is a very bad precedent because it is now an escalation of the war and it puts the peace process in total collapse," he said.

Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende Omalanga said they had decided to join in the attack out of desperation, accusing Mr Kony of being unwilling to halt his rebellion and of having attacked Congolese children.

"Our duty is to destroy terrorists and we've decided to join these neighbouring countries to do so," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"Those people they are killing are Congolese, those children they are recruiting, those girls they are raping are Congolese kids so we have to fight for them, we have to secure them, we have to crush everybody who is coming to kill them."

BBC East Africa correspondent Peter Greste says it is doubtful that any of the three governments involved are concerned about a collapse in the peace process.

Mr Kony has repeatedly refused to sign a draft agreement and his troops have continued to attack, rape and mutilate civilians and abduct children across all three countries amidst the peace process, our correspondent says.

He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Mr Kony has insisted that arrest warrants for him and for his associates must be dropped before any agreement is signed.

A statement announcing the joint operation was released in the Ugandan capital Kampala by intelligence chiefs of all three armed forces.

The statement said the attack targeted the "terrorists" at their bases in the forested area of Garamba, in the east of DR Congo.

"The three armed forces successfully attacked the main body and destroyed the main camp of Kony, code-named camp Swahili, setting it on fire," the statement said.
- - -

LRA CANNOT HAVE A SAFE HAVEN IN SOUTHERN SUDAN AND THAT'S WHY THEY MOVED TO CONGO

Kinshasa, Kampala and Juba agreed earlier this year to launch joint military operations against the insurgents.

South Sudan's army spokesman, Peter Parnyang, said its soldiers would not cross into Congo to chase the LRA.

"Of course we are part (of the operation), but our work is to protect our people," he said. "There will be no attacks unless they come."

Congo's information minister, Lambert Mende, said the offensive would continue until all Kony's bases were destroyed.

"It has already been successful ... The bulk of Kony's infrastructure in the Garamba was destroyed (on Sunday)."

Source: Monday, December 15, 2008 Reuters report by Jack Kimball, Kampala. Copy:
UGANDAN SOLDIERS MOVE ON REBEL BASES: ARMY

Ugandan ground forces closed in on Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) bases in northeastern Congo after bombarding the rebels' camps, the army said on Monday, in a new push to end one of Africa's longest-running conflicts.

The offensive agreed by Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Sudan began on Sunday with an aerial attack against the camps in the remote Garamba National Park in eastern Congo.

Analysts say regional governments were spurred to act after losing patience with LRA leader Joseph Kony who has repeatedly failed to sign a final peace deal to end fighting that has killed thousands of people.

"We can confirm that most of (Kony's) camps have been set on fire," said Ugandan army spokesman Major Paddy Ankunda. "It was an air-led operation, then the ground forces were inserted."

"We had reliable intelligence that they were preparing to attack Uganda ... and also we had the ICC warrants," he said, referring to indictments by the International Criminal Court for Kony and two of his deputies for war crimes.

The self-proclaimed mystic Kony has repeatedly demanded the ICC arrest warrants be dropped before the guerrillas would leave their camps in Congo.

Kony's fighters have waged a two-decade war against Uganda's government, mutilating victims, displacing nearly two million and destabilizing a vast swathe of central Africa.

After initial euphoria when a peace process started in mid-2006, LRA rebels have since run amok in the porous borders of Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic, opening a new front in a region racked by insecurity.

Ankunda would not comment on any Ugandan casualties, nor how many troops were involved in the operation.

DIFFICULT OPERATION?

Operating from camps in Garamba, the LRA has attacked several Congolese villages and towns in recent months. The rebels have killed dozens of civilians and abducted several hundred, including many children.

Kinshasa, Kampala and Juba agreed earlier this year to launch joint military operations against the insurgents.

South Sudan's army spokesman, Peter Parnyang, said its soldiers would not cross into Congo to chase the LRA.

"Of course we are part (of the operation), but our work is to protect our people," he said. "There will be no attacks unless they come."

Experts say a swift military victory against the LRA would be fraught with difficulties.

"The history of this conflict has shown that it is very resistant to military defeat," said analyst Levi Ochieng.

"But the political dynamics have changed ... the LRA cannot have a safe haven in southern Sudan and that's why they moved to Congo," he said. "It's a kind of a wild west."

Kony's fighters were harried by Uganda's army into southern Sudan, where they were used as a proxy force to fight Sudanese rebels battling Khartoum's central government.

In 2005, when the Sudanese civil war ended, Kony quit his southern hideouts and moved to Congo.

The 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in the Congo (MONUC) said no decision had been taken on what role U.N. peacekeepers would play in the new offensive against Kony.

Congo's information minister, Lambert Mende, said the offensive would continue until all Kony's bases were destroyed.

"It has already been successful ... The bulk of Kony's infrastructure in the Garamba was destroyed (on Sunday)."

(Additional reporting by Skye Wheeler in Juba and Joe Bavier in Kinshasa; Editing by David Clarke and Katie Nguyen)
- - -

UGANDA, CONGO AND SUDAN JOIN FORCES AGAINST REBELS

Monday, 15 December 2008 non-subscriber extract - 81 of 436 words - from Jane's Information Group:
The operation against the base of LRA leader Joseph Kony in Garamba forest, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, reportedly involved paratroopers, infantry and the air force, according to Uganda's New Vision newspaper.

Military operations were said to be continuing, with no indication given as yet on Kony's whereabouts. Nevertheless, many in northern Uganda, which has seen security improve since the launch of the peace talks in 2006, will fear that the renewed military offensive will bring fresh destabilisation to the region.
- - -

JOINT RAID SETS CAMP OF UGANDAN REBEL GROUP ABLAZE

Monday, December 15, 2008 Christian Science Monitor news round-up by Jonathan Adams:
Uganda, Congo, and south Sudan attacked the Lord's Resistance Army camp in northern Congo on Sunday.

Three African nations announced Monday they had launched military operations against the notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the remote northeast forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo the previous day.

Uganda, Congo, and south Sudan said they had attacked an LRA camp and set it ablaze.

The LRA has waged a 20-year rebellion against the Ugandan government and is notorious for kidnapping children and conscripting them. Its leaders are now hiding out in the jungles of the neighboring Congo.

The Ugandan government and the LRA have been in on-and-off peace talks for more than two years, but LRA head Joseph Kony has three times this year failed to show up to sign a deal, frustrating efforts to bring peace.

The BBC reported that the three countries released a joint statement on the raid.
A statement announcing the operation was released in the Ugandan capital Kampala by the intelligence chiefs of all three armed forces.

The statement said the attack targeted the "terrorists" at their bases in the forested area of Garamba, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The three armed forces successfully attacked the main body and destroyed the main camp of Kony, code-named camp Swahili, setting it on fire," the statement said.
Agence France-Presse reported that the three governments have lost patience with Mr. Kony. It reported that both the LRA and the Ugandan government say they are still open to negotiations, despite the obvious breakdown of the peace process.
"We are attacking the camps. So for now the peace process is off," Ugandan army spokesman Major Paddy Ankunda told AFP.

But he added: "We still think that if there is an opportunity to re-open negotiations we will do it."

The attack, in which the forces raided and set an LRA rebels' camp on fire in the Garamba region, ended a two-year ceasefire between the Ugandan army and the rebels.

LRA spokesman David Nyekorach-Matsanga condemned Sunday's attacks but said they were still committed to peace.
Bloomberg reported that the Ugandan Air Force began bombing LRA positions Sunday. Quoting a Ugandan Army official, it said there weren't yet any details on casualties. It said the stumbling block to a peace deal was International Criminal Court charges against Kony.
Rebel leader Joseph Kony refused to sign the peace agreement, demanding that the International Criminal Court first withdraw war crimes charges against him.

The Uganda government referred Kony and his commanders to the court, which indicted them in 2005, after they had fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Uganda started negotiations with the rebel movement in July 2006 with the mediation of the South Sudan government in an attempt to end a war which has claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than 1.5 million people.
The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan daily, reported that peace talks had already collapsed in November, when Joseph Kony "failed to turn up for the third time this year to sign a deal earlier agreed upon by both sides."
In a separate interview, Maj. Ankunda told Daily Monitor last night that the attack was prompted by the rebel leader's failure to sign the deal. "He continues to kill and abduct, so we decided to move and rescue the women and children," Maj. Ankunda said. "This operation is also intended to implement the warrant of arrests issued by the International Criminal Court against Kony and his top commanders."
The Monitor said the attack was believed to have included infantry and special forces, in addition to the airstrikes.

In a report last week, the International Crisis Group said the peace process was "failing." It warned that the LRA could be used as a pawn in the coming years by the Sudanese government in Khartoum. That Arab government has long been accused of sponsoring the LRA in its fight against the Ugandan government, as a tit-for-tat measure against Uganda's alleged past sponsorship of southern Sudanese Christian rebels who fought Khartoum.
[The LRA] is available again as a proxy if Khartoum wants to disrupt the 2009 national elections, Southern Sudan's 2011 referendum, or restart war on the Sudan People's Liberation Army's (SPLA) southern flank.
The Associated Press wrote that the LRA's insurgency has destabilized several countries in the region.
The LRA has been waging one of Africa's longest and most brutal rebellions for the past 20 years, drawing in northern Uganda, eastern Congo and southern Sudan. The rebels were notorious for raping children and using them as soldiers.
According to the website Globalsecurity.org, the LRA has "committed numerous abuses and atrocities, including the abduction, rape, maiming, and killing of civilians, including children."
The LRA rebels say they are fighting for the establishment of a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments. They are notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to become rebel fighters or concubines. More than one-half-million people in Uganda's Gulu and Kitgum districts have been displaced by the fighting and are living in temporary camps, protected by the army.
Time magazine has called the LRA "one of the world's most terrifying rebel groups."

See video documentary [ See: http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=5eZCiAGTbCk ] from Journeyman Pictures on the LRA.

Three African nations announced Monday they had launched military operations against the notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the remote northeast forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo the previous day.

Uganda, Congo, and south Sudan said they had attacked an LRA camp and set it ablaze.

The LRA has waged a 20-year rebellion against the Ugandan government and is notorious for kidnapping children and conscripting them. Its leaders are now hiding out in the jungles of the neighboring Congo.

The Ugandan government and the LRA have been in on-and-off peace talks for more than two years, but LRA head Joseph Kony has three times this year failed to show up to sign a deal, frustrating efforts to bring peace.

The BBC reported that the three countries released a joint statement on the raid.
A statement announcing the operation was released in the Ugandan capital Kampala by the intelligence chiefs of all three armed forces.

The statement said the attack targeted the "terrorists" at their bases in the forested area of Garamba, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The three armed forces successfully attacked the main body and destroyed the main camp of Kony, code-named camp Swahili, setting it on fire," the statement said.
Agence France-Presse reported that the three governments have lost patience with Mr. Kony. It reported that both the LRA and the Ugandan government say they are still open to negotiations, despite the obvious breakdown of the peace process.
"We are attacking the camps. So for now the peace process is off," Ugandan army spokesman Major Paddy Ankunda told AFP.

But he added: "We still think that if there is an opportunity to re-open negotiations we will do it."

The attack, in which the forces raided and set an LRA rebels' camp on fire in the Garamba region, ended a two-year ceasefire between the Ugandan army and the rebels.

LRA spokesman David Nyekorach-Matsanga condemned Sunday's attacks but said they were still committed to peace.
Bloomberg reported that the Ugandan Air Force began bombing LRA positions Sunday. Quoting a Ugandan Army official, it said there weren't yet any details on casualties. It said the stumbling block to a peace deal was International Criminal Court charges against Kony.
Rebel leader Joseph Kony refused to sign the peace agreement, demanding that the International Criminal Court first withdraw war crimes charges against him.

The Uganda government referred Kony and his commanders to the court, which indicted them in 2005, after they had fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Uganda started negotiations with the rebel movement in July 2006 with the mediation of the South Sudan government in an attempt to end a war which has claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than 1.5 million people.
The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan daily, reported that peace talks had already collapsed in November, when Joseph Kony "failed to turn up for the third time this year to sign a deal earlier agreed upon by both sides."
In a separate interview, Maj. Ankunda told Daily Monitor last night that the attack was prompted by the rebel leader's failure to sign the deal. "He continues to kill and abduct, so we decided to move and rescue the women and children," Maj. Ankunda said. "This operation is also intended to implement the warrant of arrests issued by the International Criminal Court against Kony and his top commanders."
The Monitor said the attack was believed to have included infantry and special forces, in addition to the airstrikes.

In a report last week, the International Crisis Group said the peace process was "failing." It warned that the LRA could be used as a pawn in the coming years by the Sudanese government in Khartoum. That Arab government has long been accused of sponsoring the LRA in its fight against the Ugandan government, as a tit-for-tat measure against Uganda's alleged past sponsorship of southern Sudanese Christian rebels who fought Khartoum.
[The LRA] is available again as a proxy if Khartoum wants to disrupt the 2009 national elections, Southern Sudan's 2011 referendum, or restart war on the Sudan People's Liberation Army's (SPLA) southern flank.
The Associated Press wrote that the LRA's insurgency has destabilized several countries in the region.
The LRA has been waging one of Africa's longest and most brutal rebellions for the past 20 years, drawing in northern Uganda, eastern Congo and southern Sudan. The rebels were notorious for raping children and using them as soldiers.
According to the website Globalsecurity.org, the LRA has "committed numerous abuses and atrocities, including the abduction, rape, maiming, and killing of civilians, including children."
The LRA rebels say they are fighting for the establishment of a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments. They are notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to become rebel fighters or concubines. More than one-half-million people in Uganda's Gulu and Kitgum districts have been displaced by the fighting and are living in temporary camps, protected by the army.
Time magazine has called the LRA "one of the world's most terrifying rebel groups."

See video documentary from Journeyman Pictures on the LRA. [ http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=5eZCiAGTbCk ]
- - -

Monday 15 December 2008 Press Release from Fathya Waberi / MONUC
ORIENTALE PROVINCE: ALAN DOSS STANDS BY THE POPULATION OF DUNGU

Alan Doss, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for the DRC, travelled for the first time to Dungu, in DRC’s Orientale Province on 12 December 2008, where MONUC has been providing support to the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) against the Lord’s Resistance Army. It was the last leg of his week long tour to Eastern DRC, Rwanda and Uganda.

Accompanied by Karl Wycoff, the Deputy-Assistant of the American Under Secretary of State for Eastern and Central Africa, Alan Doss highlighted that his visit was a “show of solidarity” with a population that suffered serious exactions from the LRA, including killings and the kidnapping of children, with disastrous humanitarian consequences.

MONUC’s chief condemned in the strongest possible terms “the brutal exactions and killing perpetrated by the LRA, an organization that has no reason to exist and must be brought to justice.” The LRA is allegedly holding over a hundred children of Dungu and its surroundings, according to MONUC/Ituri’s Child Protection Unit. Alan Doss highlighted the need for “stopping such atrocities and facilitating the return of internally displaced persons.”

The Special Representative noticed that despite the territory’s isolation, the situation was beginning to return to normal in the past week, alluding to the LRA’s attacks. Local authorities and representatives of civil society organisations warmly welcomed Mr. Doss. Reassured, the local population applauded MONUC’s new mandate and the resumption of activities by the UN and humanitarian agencies.

On 8 December last, The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) resumed the airlifting of emergency aid between Entebbe in Uganda and Dungu, intended firstly for 6,000 internally displaced persons out of the total of 35,000.

But according to humanitarian actors this number may be higher. The head of WFP Ituri announced that the first phase, consisting in facilitating a convoy of 100 tons of food and non food items would take eight days to get there, and other means are also being considered. Mr. Doss reassured the humanitarian community of MONUC’s support.

Another concern expressed by the population of Dungu was the security situation and the ongoing military operations aimed at containing the LRA in Garamba Park, whose members in the DRC are estimated at 1,200 troops, not to mention the civilians, women and children enlisted by force or retained as hostages.

In this respect, Mr. Doss reiterated MONUC’s determination to continue to provide logistic support to the FARDC, in terms of transport for troops and equipment, the supply of food and medical items, the construction of the runway at Dungu and the refurbishment of the Dungu-Kiliwa-Duru road axes.

When questioned on whether MONUC envisaged increasing its forces in the region, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the DRC said that the Mission could not do so now due to its limited resources. However, MONUC would do everything in its power “to hold the negative force called the LRA in check, and to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons to their communities.”
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SNAPSHOT OF GOOGLE'S NEWSREEL MONDAY 15 DECEMBER 2008 16:45 PM GMT

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