Congo Watch: LRA's Kony is in the fringes of Garamba, North of Maridi but in the Sudan territory

Monday, January 05, 2009

LRA's Kony is in the fringes of Garamba, North of Maridi but in the Sudan territory

According to some of the latest news reports reprinted here below:
Currently, LRA commanders Okot Odhiambo and Bok Abudema are heading to CAR; Okeny Opwa is in Maridi, South Sudan. Kony is shuttling between these places. Killing LRA’s notorious commanders could leave Kony bare. It is already reported that Odhiambo and Abudema are in a critical condition, both suffering from gout and probably injured during the December 14 air raids.

Kony is in the fringes of Garamba, North of Maridi but in the Sudan territory.

On Friday morning, LRA fighters attacked an SPLA truck at Tori and a commercial truck in Yei, Sudan. In the overnight raid, dozens of the fighters attacked the headquarters of the Garamba National Park in Magero town, a few kilometres from the Sudan border. Local authorities said the rebels had retreated to the north of the Garamba jungles on the Sudan border. Twenty people were killed local officials said today (Monday January 05, 2009).

U.N., Congolese and Ugandan officials have said the rebels, estimated to number between 800 and 1,000, have splintered into smaller groups. Only some are believed to be headed for CAR. LRA forces have been seen in the Ango region on the border with CAR. There was no sign the rebels had crossed into CAR.

During three days of raids beginning on December 25, fleeing LRA fighters attacked several Congolese towns, slaughtering civilians and looted and burned hundreds of homes.

The deputy governor of Orientale province, where the attacks happened, told Reuters on Saturday that the bodies of 271 victims had so far been buried, but the death toll was rising.

"The number is going up every day," Joseph Bangakya said. "Most were killed with machetes. (The LRA) are trying to save their ammunition."

Catholic humanitarian charity Caritas said it believed more than 400 people had died in the attacks.

Uganda has sent more troops to the area to prevent more LRA raids. Congo's 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission, MONUC, has said it is assisting the deployment of additional Congolese forces but is not participating directly in the joint offensive.

The UN has expressed support for the assault on the LRA. “We cannot condemn this military action because we can see the merit of it,” the UN envoy to northern Uganda, Joaquim Chissano, said last month.

“The aim of the attacks now is to force Kony out because he should not be given opportunity to entertain other options than are open to him through the peace process. The negotiations are over... what is remaining is the signing of the final peace agreement.”

Under the current agreement, if Kony signed, the government of Uganda would go to the Security Council or the International Criminal Court and request for the suspension of the arrest warrants. Then Kony could move freely into Uganda where justice would be applied according to what is foreseen in the agreement. In May, a special war crimes court was established in Uganda to deal with cases of human rights violations committed during the two-decade insurgency.

Note, Operation Lightning Thunder did not begin on time as instructed. President Museveni ordered attack for 7:30 am, but was it carried out at 11:30 am. And ground troops were also not deployed in time to start the cordon-and search operation. This, they said gave the rebels ample time to carry the dead and move out of the danger zone.

Ugandan rebels blame the Christmas massacres on the joint force currently in eastern Congo.
Map showing Maridi, Southern Sudan

Maridi, Southern Sudan

Credit: www.joshuaproject.net
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Ri-Kwangba

Sorry, unable to find a good map.

Ri-Kwangba is a site in West Equatoria, Sudan, near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It, along with Owiny Ki-Bul, is one of two assembly points for the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) under the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement agreed to by the LRA and government of Uganda on 26 August 2006.

In September 2006, the only structures at the location, which was essentially a 200-by-300 meter clearing in the jungle, were five huts.

June 2007 peace talks held in Ri-Kwangba resulted in an improvement of facilities, in order to handle the gathering of delegates. (Source: Wikipedia)
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LRA Raid Congolese Army Base
Report from Angola Press, Kampala, Uganda January 05, 2009:
The Lord's Resistance Army rebels on Friday raided a Congolese army base in the Garamba jungles to get food, local officials said yesterday. In the overnight raid, the rebels attacked a park ranger station in Magero town, a few kilometres from the Sudan border.
 
He said he had no details of casualties but no civilians had been hurt.
 
Efforts to get comments from the UPDF yesterday were fruitless.
 
On Friday morning, the rebels attacked an SPLA truck at Tori and a commercial truck in Yei, Sudan.
 
Local authorities said the rebels had retreated to the north of the Garamba jungles on the Sudan border.
 
There were reports that some LRA fighters were heading towards the Central African Republic (CAR).
 
Congo's information minister Lambert Mende said yesterday that the CAR government was deploying troops at its borders with DR Congo.
 
LRA forces have been seen in the Ango region on the border with CAR, Bangakya said.
 
Meanwhile, a group of civilians from the chiefdom of Mopoyi in Ango, have organised patrols to prevent attacks by the LRA.
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Heavy loses for the rebels
Report from Sapa-AFP (Kinshasha) January 05, 2009:
Remnants of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army are fleeing towards Central African Republic, having been routed by a three-nation military operation, a Democratic Republic of Congo official said.

The Ugandan rebel force, which is being tracked down by DRC, Ugandan and south Sudanese troops, has suffered heavy losses in fighting that has uprooted tens of thousands of people, Joseph Bangakya, deputy governor of Orientale province, said.

"The LRA has been routed," said Bangakya, whose province spanning the Ugandan and Sudanese borders has been the target of the military operation.

But Bangui authorities said there was no sign the rebels had crossed into CAR, even as they announced they were reinforcing security on their border with Democratic Republic of Congo.

Blamed for widespread atrocities over the years, the LRA stands accused of killing hundreds of civilians in several parts of the Orientale region during the Christmas holidays - some 400 according to the Catholic NGO Caritas.

"What we know is that the LRA have suffered serious casualties and lost their food stock plus equipment," Captain Chris Magezi of Uganda said.

The latest clashes add to a host of troubles plaguing this conflict-wracked central African country, with local authorities estimating they have displaced some 68 000 people in just over two weeks.

"The humanitarian situation remains very critical," Bangakya said, adding regional officials were eagerly awaiting medical and other supplies promised by Kinshasa.
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Is this the end of kony?
Report from Sunday Vision Uganda January 03, 2009 by Barbara Among:
Operation Lightning Thunder

Photo: Operation Lightning Thunder soldiers before they were airlifted to DR Congo

UGANDAN troops entered the Democratic Republic of Congo 20 days ago to flush out the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, after its leader, Joseph Kony, refused to sign a peace accord.

The joint military attack on the LRA is expected to bring the 22-year-old rebellion in northern Uganda to an end with the prospect of arresting Kony himself or eliminating him.

But the reality is that the operation, backed by the regional forces, the UN and the US, seems to have made northern leaders more wary than ever before, given that the most affected region had experienced peace for the last two years. They fear that the offensive may have fatally undermined any chance of achieving permanent peace.

The Government, however, argues that the operation was successful because it sent Kony scampering and his fighters in disarray. It continues to assure and announce that they will achieve their objective ‘sooner’.

The warring parties entered into a peace negotiation in July 2006, mediated by Southern Sudan vice-president Riek Machar in Juba. A final peace agreement was drawn, but Kony refused to sign, demanding that the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant issued against him and his commanders for crimes against humanity be dropped.

The offensive, also aimed at forcing Kony back to sign the agreements, has taken a new turn with the troops now planning to increase their dominance in the vast Garamba jungle in northeastern Congo.

Sources said more battalions are being ferried into the region, in a bid to boost the ground forces, code-named Operation Lightning Thunder.

Dislodged from their hideout in Garamba National Park in Congo, the rebels are said to be scattered in the jungle and the army is closing in on them. Kony is reportedly heading towards the Central African Republic (CAR).

A Savimbi-like end

The Juba talks attracted a lot of international support and funding from the US, European Union, African Union and United Nations. This is believed to translate into support for the offensive against the LRA, putting more pressure on the rebel group.

Last week the UN Security Council extended their stay in Congo and revised the mandate of the UN mission in Congo (MONUC) to deal with negative forces such as the LRA. MONUC is gathering intelligence information against the LRA and also providing helicopter gunships. The UPDF is also using its strategic base in Dungu as a centre of operation. Growing international interest in the region, especially the American interest in oil-rich South Sudan and DR Congo, Congo Brazzaville and the French in CAR, could trigger a Savimbi-like operation whose end was brought about by a growing international interest both in Angola’s oil and politics.

The LRA and Angola’s UNITA (National Union for total independence of Angola) have several tactics in common and analysts argue that Uganda could borrow a leaf from the war against the rebel group. Its leader, Jonas Savimbi, after surviving more than a dozen assassination attempts, was killed on February 22, 2002, in a battle with Angolan government troops, who had support from South African mercenaries and Israeli Special Forces.

The army offensive dubbed Kissonde was sustained for six months, with the Angolan government isolating Savimbi by targeting and killing his commanders. LRA, just like UNITA, applies diversionary tactics to draw attention away from its leader. The death of Savimbi’s commanders was a serious setback, as it deprived him of diversionary troops who had until then concentrated on attracting attention away from their leader.

Currently, LRA commanders Okot Odhiambo and Bok Abudema are heading to CAR; Okeny Opwa is in Maridi, South Sudan. Kony is shuttling between these places. Killing LRA’s notorious commanders could leave Kony bare. It is already reported that Odhiambo and Abudema are in a critical condition, both suffering from gout and probably injured during the December 14 air raids.

Isolation

Savimbi was further weakened when he lost important means of communication by radio. At the moment, the LRA rebel leader and his commanders have abandoned their satellite phones and walkie-talkies for fear of being tracked.

Sources, however, said Kony has acquired a Zain line. Kony’s second-in-command, Odhiambo, military intelligence says, has been able to switch his satellite phone on only for a minute every day.

Gulu Resident District Commissioner Walter Ochora believes that with the LRA’s communication being cut off, the Government soldiers would succeed in capturing or killing the rebel leader. He argued that the operation has been a success given that the fighters are scattered and could be vulnerable to the UPDF as they are now in small groups. “This operation has disrupted his plan to reorganise,” said Ochora

His escape to South Sudan or the CAR could, however, lay him bare. In South Sudan or CAR, the ground troops would also be able to move faster compared to the difficult Garamba terrain.

Kony at a crossroads

During the last attempt to sign the final peace agreement on November 29, Kony seemed more paranoid than times past, reportedly allowing his guards to conduct an embarrassing body search of the Ugandan delegation — a group of elders. When they returned, according to the state minister for defence Ruth Nakabirwa who camped nearby, some could hardly talk about what had happened. The rebel leader also claimed he had been told that his supporters in the diaspora were breaking away from him and starting another insurgency.

Keen LRA watchers argue that the combination of imminent starvation following the air strikes, the razing of large food gardens and the cutting off of supply lines from Caritas and the threat by the UPDF, could have forced the LRA to show eagerness to surrender or sign the peace deal before it is too late.

Regional problem

“The LRA is now a regional problem,” said Capt. Chris Magezi, in November 2008, while still the peace talks spokesperson.

One game-changing move is that Kony was reckless enough to provoke a border incident between South Sudan, DR Congo and Uganda. He attacked and killed civilians in DR Congo and South Sudan. On December 5, according to President Yoweri Museveni, he had sent a team to attack northern Uganda via South Sudan.

The Congolese government has turned their attention to Kony after he killed hundreds of civilians in DR Congo over the Christmas period. South Sudan’s involvement is, however, expected to grow because the US, South Sudan’s patron, has long urged three-way action — by the Ugandans, Congolese, and the South Sudanese against the LRA.

UN backs action

The UN has expressed support for the assault on the LRA. “We cannot condemn this military action because we can see the merit of it,” the UN envoy to northern Uganda, Joaquim Chissano, said last month.

“The aim of the attacks now is to force Kony out because he should not be given opportunity to entertain other options than are open to him through the peace process. The negotiations are over... what is remaining is the signing of the final peace agreement.”

Under the current agreement, if Kony signed, the government of Uganda would go to the Security Council or the International Criminal Court and request for the suspension of the arrest warrants. Then Kony could move freely into Uganda where justice would be applied according to what is foreseen in the agreement. In May, a special war crimes court was established in Uganda to deal with cases of human rights violations committed during the two-decade insurgency.

Will not capture him

“They cannot capture him (Kony) they will not succeed,” said the LRA spokesperson Matsanga, who claims he speaks to Kony often. “Those claiming they hit Kony are lying,” he added.

Matsanga’s confidence is based on his claims that the group is getting intelligence briefing from a section of soldiers in both SPLA and Battalion 105 of the UPDF. The 105 Battalion, composed of LRA combatants, was only formed in 2004.

The troops made a few blunders at the start of the operation and this could cost the operation a great deal. But these, the President said were ‘challenges’ that could be corrected. The operation did not begin on time as instructed. President Museveni ordered attack for 7:30am, but was it carried out at 11:30am. And ground troops were also not deployed in time to start the cordon-and search operation. This, they said gave the rebels ample time to carry the dead and move out of the danger zone.

Gulu District chairman Norbert Mao, describes the operation as ‘unnecessary’ and points that the operation failed right from the start. Mao suggests that the troops be withdrawn and negotiations reopened.

Aswa MP Reagan Okumu, suggests that the troops go back to the drawing board and plan a two military approach based on how to assassinate the LRA leadership, as it is the top commanders who are holding everybody.

Alternatively, the troops should allow the rebels to regroup, and plan a precise rescue mission. “If they continue now, Kony is likely to disappear underneath and the chief culprit will be difficult to get, but if they allow them to regroup, then they can get them.”

Those opposed to the operation call it a miscalculated, hurried offensive, with a very broad objective. They suggest that the Government should have designed a rescue mission that would target the leadership, not the entire force.

Since the launch of the attack, allied forces are yet to make contact with the elusive rebel leader and the other five notorious commanders. Kony, Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Ceasar Achillam have managed to conceal themselves.
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 Uganda's LRA rebels heading for CAR:Congo minister
Report from Reuters (Kinshasha) by Joe Bavier January 03, 2009:
Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels, who killed hundreds of Congolese villagers in a Christmas week massacre, are preparing to enter neighbouring Central African Republic, Congo's government spokesman said.

Hundreds of LRA fighters are fleeing a nearly 3-week-old multinational assault led by Uganda against their bases in Garamba National Park, in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

LRA

"According to intelligence we have received, they are preparing to enter Central African Republic. A pursuit is underway," Congo's Information Minister Lambert Mende said.

"(The Central African Republic government) is sending troops to the border," he told Reuters on Saturday.

Central African Republic authorities could not be reached.

The LRA was driven out of northern Uganda, where its two-decade bush war killed thousands of people and displaced 2 million more, but the group has continued to carry out raids in Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic.

In February and March last year, LRA fighters crossed over Congo's porous border with Central African Republic.

Over 10 days, they attacked villages in the impoverished former French colony's sparsely populated east, abducting about 150 people for use as porters, sex slaves and child soldiers.

Uganda, Congo and South Sudan launched a joint assault on December 14 after LRA leader Joseph Kony again failed to sign a deal to end his rebellion against Uganda's government.

Ugandan military officials have said bombing raids destroyed the majority of the LRA's jungle strongholds.

U.N., Congolese and Ugandan officials have said the rebels, estimated to number between 800 and 1,000, have splintered into smaller groups. Only some are believed to be headed for CAR.

In an overnight raid on Friday, dozens of rebels attacked a park ranger station in the town of Nagero, several hundred kilometres from the border with Central African Republic.

RISING DEATH TOLL

Despite claims of early success and the unanimous backing of U.N. Security Council members, the offensive has failed to find Kony, a reclusive self-styled mystic, or crush his rebellion.

An LRA spokesman said Kony, who is wanted for war crimes along with two deputies by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, survived the camp bombings.

Human rights campaigners are increasingly worried by heavy civilian casualties from assaults by fleeing LRA fighters.

During three days of raids beginning on December 25, fleeing LRA fighters attacked several Congolese towns, slaughtering civilians and looted and burned hundreds of homes.

The deputy governor of Orientale province, where the attacks happened, told Reuters on Saturday that the bodies of 271 victims had so far been buried, but the death toll was rising.

"The number is going up every day," Joseph Bangakya said. "Most were killed with machetes. (The LRA) are trying to save their ammunition."

Catholic humanitarian charity Caritas said it believed more than 400 people had died in the attacks.

Uganda has sent more troops to the area to prevent more LRA raids. Congo's 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission, MONUC, has said it is assisting the deployment of additional Congolese forces but is not participating directly in the joint offensive.
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LRA Denies Killing Civilians
Report from Ohmynews by Zachary Ochieng (Zach)  January 04, 2009:
Ugandan rebels blame attacks on the joint force currently in eastern Congo.

The beleaguered Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has denied any involvement in the killing of hundreds of civilians in northeastern Congo. Mr Justine Labeja, deputy leader of the LRA peace delegation said that the atrocities being blamed on the LRA were perpetrated by the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"The whole world knows that the UPDF has gone to Congo to kill innocent civilians and blame it on the LRA. When they drop bombs from helicopter gunships, do they expect them to land on trees?" Labeja wondered.

He justified his assertion, referring to the UPDF occupation of Congo between 1996 and 2001 during which thousands of Congolese civilians were killed. Then, as now, the UPDF went to eastern Congo ostensibly to flush out the LRA. But the UPDF failed to capture the LRA insurgents and instead unleashed terror on the civilian population, besides plundering DRC's resources. The Kinshasa regime took Uganda to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which in 1995 ordered Uganda to pay $10 billion in reparations.

"The UPDF and SPLA are already in north-eastern Congo where it is alleged that LRA fighters are killing civilians. If it is true the LRA soldiers are killing innocent civilians, how come not a single LRA fighter has been captured or killed by the combined force?" Labeja asked.

According to him, the UPDF and the SPLA are in the DRC not to fight the LRA but to exploit the minerals. He further claimed that the UPDF has joined Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) as part of Museveni's grand scheme to topple President Joseph Kabila.

"The UPDF did not go to DRC to pursue the LRA. We have information that a contingent of the UPDF has joined Nkunda's forces with a bid to overthrow President Kabila as this is one of Museveni's grand plans", Labeja said.

Labeja was responding to reports by Caritas, an international NGO and the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that implicated the LRA in the murder of approximately 400 civilians on Christmas day and the subsequent period. According to the two organizations, the LRA soldiers attacked villagers in Faradge (some 80 km from the Sudanese border) and abducted children as they fled a joint military onslaught by the UPDF, SPLA and the Congolese army launched on Dec. 14.

But Labeja and his boss David Matsanga maintain that Kony has no intention of avenging the attacks on his camps and will only defend himself when the forces finally catch up with him.

"Uganda, Southern Sudan, DRC and the international community should wake up to the reality that a military option has never and will never bring peace to northern Uganda and the country at large," Labeja added.

On the issue of abduction, Labeja defends the LRA, saying that no rebel movement conducts an open and voluntary military recruitment, citing President Museveni who as a rebel leader also recruited children known as "Kadogo" (small ones) into his ranks.
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LRA raid on Congo park kills 20
Report from Reuters by Joe Bavier January 05, 2009 - excerpt:
Twenty people were killed in a raid by Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels on a park ranger station in northern Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials said on Monday.

Dozens of LRA fighters attacked the headquarters of the Garamba National Park in the town of Negero, in Congo's Orientale province, late on Friday.

LRA

"Ten people were killed, including two women, two park rangers, an electrician and five other civilians who have not yet been identified," Orientale's Deputy Governor Joseph Bangakya told Reuters.

Ten rebels were also killed in the four-hour gunbattle with armed park rangers and Congolese soldiers based at Negero's airstrip as part of a three-week-old multinational assault on LRA strongholds in northeastern Congo, Bangakya said.

In two separate attacks on Sunday, LRA gunmen raided a protestant mission in the Congolese village of Napopo and attacked Laso, a village in Sudan, local officials said. It was not immediately clear whether anyone died in the incidents.
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International Criminal Court

Joaquim Chissano, UN Special Envoy for LRA-affected areas

Photo: Joaquim Chissano, UN Special Envoy for LRA-affected areas, briefed the UN Security Council on 17 December 2008. The Coalition urged the Security Council to honor the Court’s arrest warrants for LRA members. Credit: CICC

See 18 Dec 2008 Coalition for the International Criminal Court: Uganda: Chissano statements to UN media; press coverage; IBA and SAD

3 Comments:

Blogger Peter Eichstaedt said...

Check out my book on the LRA, First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army, on Amazon.com or at http://www.firstkillyourfamily.com Also my blog at http://www.petereichstaedt.blogspot.com

Tuesday, January 06, 2009  
Blogger Ingrid Jones said...

Hello Peter. Sorry for this delayed response. I am including details of your book in a soon to be published post that I am in the middle of drafting for Congo Watch and Uganda Watch. Here's looking forward to following your blog. Sorry my news feed only reads RSS not Atom. It would be helpful if you could visit FeedBurner to organise an RSS feed for your blog and/or a chicklet to enable visitors to subscribe to your blog by email. Nice to meet you. Thanks for your useful comment.

Thursday, January 08, 2009  
Blogger Ingrid Jones said...

Peter: see my post at Congo Watch 08 Jan 09

http://congowatch.blogspot.com/2009/01/peter-eichstaedts-book-on-lra-first.html

Friday, January 09, 2009  

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