Congo Watch: UPDF's Ankunda says commander of Operation Thunder Lightning is in contact with some LRA commanders

Saturday, January 10, 2009

UPDF's Ankunda says commander of Operation Thunder Lightning is in contact with some LRA commanders

Brig. Patrick Kankiriho, the commander of operation against the rebels, is in touch with some LRA commanders who want to come out. Kony might remain alone.

The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, on Friday told the MONUC commander, Gen. Bubacar Gaye, that the allies would deploy more forces to exert pressure on rebels.

LRA commanders want to surrender
Sunday Vision report by Henry Mukasa Saturday, 10 January 2009:
THE UPDF is in touch with some top Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commanders who are fed up with war and want to surrender.

The UPDF spokesperson, Maj. Paddy Ankunda, currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo said the development shows that the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, is increasingly becoming isolated and vulnerable.

“Brig. Patrick Kankiriho, the commander of operation against the rebels, is in touch with some LRA commanders who want to come out. Kony might remain alone,” Ankunda told Sunday Vision on telephone from Congo.

A joint force comprising Uganda, Congo and South Sudan is engaged in the military offensive against the rebels in northeastern Congo and parts of South Sudan.

The offensive, code-named Operation Lightning Thunder, with its tactical headquarters in Dungu, Congo, was launched on December 14, after Kony refused to sign the final peace agreement reached in Juba, the South Sudan capital.

The lightning surprise attack which started with air bombardment by helicopter gunships and fighter planes obliterated the rebel’s bases in the Garamba forest. Since then the rebels and their commanders, including Kony, have been wandering in the vast jungle with no shelter and food.

According to Ankunda, rebels who have surrenderd and those captured had also informed UPDF that most of the LRA fighters were tired of the war and wanted to return home.

Asked whether the captured fighters had also stated that Kony was still in charge of the central command of all his fighters scattered Ankunda replied: “Yiko wapi? (Where is it?). Kony ran on his own just like other commanders did after the UPDF air force bombardment.”

Ankunda said the rebels who surrender and the captured are taken to the child protection centre managed by UNICEF, Save the Children and United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Congo (MONUC).

At the centre the returnees are given psycho-social support and rehabilitation. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) will arrange their repatriation.

Meanwhile, the Congolese forces clashed with and repelled LRA rebels who had invaded Faradge town and ransacked homes, shops and gardens for food.

The Congolese army rushed to the town after learning about the marauding rebels from residents. A shoot out ensured but the number of casualties had not been established by press time.

“Our allies of FARDC (Congolese army) engaged the rebels in the north of Faradge. They made them drop food they had stolen,” Kankiriho said.

He said the rebels had also attacked Duruma and when the allies command was informed, the UPDF swung into action and beat them back into the densely forested park.

Ankunda observed that the UPDF and allies were “on top of the situation. If someone comes to your house, kicks you out, destroys your food and you are starving, you are as good as finished”.

“They are more vulnerable than ever before. They are running around for food and we have kept the pressure on them,” he stressed.

The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, on Friday told the MONUC commander, Gen. Bubacar Gaye, at External Security Organisation offices in Kampala that the allies would deploy more forces to exert pressure on rebels who, during the Christmas period, killed 400 civilians in Congo.

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