Congo Watch: January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

African leaders meet on DR Congo conflict - DR Congo’s Kabila sets exit deadline for Rwandan, Ugandan troops

From AFP (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) Saturday 31 January 2009:
African leaders meet on Congo conflict
African leaders from the Great Lakes region were meeting Saturday in Addis Ababa to discuss the rapidly changing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The meeting, held on the eve of the African Union (AU) summit in the Ethiopian capital, had been designed as peace talks between the Congolese government in Kinshasa and rebels led by ethnic Tutsi Laurent Nkunda.

But just days ago, on January 20, Congolese and Rwandan soldiers launched a joint offensive in the eastern DRC, officially against the Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

However, Nkunda became the raid's first casualty and was arrested near the border after falling from grace with his erstwhile backers in Kigali.

The renegade general's arrest and extradition have turned the Addis meeting on its head, and the summit of the Great Lakes Region on the DR Congo now aims to "examine the progress made toward finding solutions to the security situation in the eastern DRC," according to a statement.

Eleven countries were taking part in the talks -- Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), the DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, according to the statement.

"Despite these latest developments in the DR Congo, which seem to indicate very encouraging possibilities for ending hostilities, the humanitarian situation for the people remains uncertain and worrying," said Jean Ping, the head of the African Union commission.

Major fighting broke out in August in the eastern DRC between the army and Nkunda's rebels, causing tens of thousands more residents to flee in a region already torn by conflict.

Intense international pressure led to the opening of talks on December 8 in Nairobi between Nkunda's forces and the Congolese government.

Since the launch of the joint DRC-Rwanda operation, the UN mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, said that Rwandan Hutu rebels had begun returning home.
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From APA News (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) Saturday 31 January 2009:
NEPAD mini-summit kicks off in Ethiopian capital
The 20th New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) mini-summit kicked off on Saturday in Addis Ababa in the presence of several African leaders.

The summit, also known as the NEPAD Heads of States and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC) have gathered to discuss mainly the integration of NEPAD into the African Union structures and processes and the appointment of a new Chief of Executive Officer to head the NEPAD secretariat and its successor entity.

NEPAD is one of the regional initiatives advocating for more development programs for Africa in collaboration with African partners. A number of international communities are currently supporting this initiative, which is believed to bring more resources to the continent.

Leaders from Ethiopia, Sudan, South Africa, and Namibia among others are attending the ongoing closed session.

Jean Ping told the gathering of heads of state that the integration process of NEPAD to the AU process had been slow until the 19th meeting of the HSGIC in Sharm –El-Sheikh in Egypt in June last year which mandated the AU commission to speed up the work on integration and report to this summit.

“It is in this respect that I wish to report progress on the work being undertaken so far. Notable strides have been made to accelerate the integration of NEPAD into the AU structures. These include, amongst others; the recent signing of the host agreement with South Africa, which now accords the NEPAD secretariat and its successor entity the status of an AU office outside the headquarters, “said Ping.

Ping also indicated that the implementation of the host agreement by the joint technical team of the South African authorities, the AU Commission, the NEPAD secretariat, and the Development Bank of South Africa are also among other progress achieved so far as part of NEAPD’s integration process to the AU.

“Regarding the study on the integration of NEPAD into the AU structures and processes, I regret to inform you that work did not start on time as planned owing to some problems, particularly identifying sources of funding for the study,” Ping added.

However, Ping indicated that the commission finally secured the necessary funding, which enabled them to re-launch the tender.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who is chairing the forum said that the global financial crisis will have an impact in the integration process of NEPAD into the AU structure.

Meles indicated that there is a need to revise NEPAD’s strategy plans to tackle the problem, whose integration process is at the right track.

“We have gathered here today at a time when the world is facing a global economic crisis, which will help us see the matter in detail,” PM Meles said. DT/daj/APA
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From Bloomberg by Franz Wild Saturday 31 January 2009
Congo’s Kabila Sets Exit Deadline for Rwandan, Ugandan Troops
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila said troops from neighboring Rwanda and Uganda will leave the country within a month, rejecting criticism of operations to hunt foreign rebel groups.

Rwandan soldiers will withdraw by the end of February, while those from Uganda will pull out by Feb. 14, Kabila said today in the capital, Kinshasa. Rwandan forces entered the country on Jan. 20 to disarm Hutu rebels, whose leader sought refuge in the eastern North and South Kivu provinces after their alleged involvement in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Inviting Rwandan soldiers “was a difficult decision, but we needed a solution,” Kabila said. It has been “an exceptional solution for an exceptional situation,” he said, referring to a conflict that has gripped the central African country’s east for 13 years.

“The units that came to participate in these operations will return to Rwanda as planned,” Kabila said, adding the operations were progressing.

Kabila has struggled to fulfill on a promise to establish peace in eastern North Kivu, where Tutsi-led rebels last year trounced his army, displacing 250,000 people. United Nations investigators late last year said Rwanda was supporting the same group, the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP.

Disarming the Hutu rebels, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwandan, or FDLR, goes hand-in-hand with neutralizing the CNDP, Kabila said. The CNDP says it is defending the Tutsi minority against the FDLR.

Nkunda

The extradition of CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda, who was arrested in Rwanda on Jan. 22 after his number two claimed to have ousted him, would take time, Kabila said.

“There is a political and diplomatic process,” Kabila said. “On the judiciary level we are working on his extradition.”

Kabila said separate joint operations with Uganda’s army in Congo’s north-eastern borderlands with Sudan, aimed at smoking out Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, has yielded “quite positive” results.

To contact the reporter on this story: Franz Wild in Kinshasa via Johannesburg atpmrichardson@bloomberg.net
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From Associated Press by Eddy Isango (KINSHASA) 31 January 2009:
Congo: Rwanda, Uganda troops to leave in February:
Congo's president said Saturday that troops from former enemies Rwanda and Uganda, who are carrying out joint operations against armed militias in the east, must leave this Central African nation by the end of February.

Ugandan soldiers have been fighting Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels in the northeast since December, while Rwandan troops were invited in this month to hunt down Rwandan militias linked to that nation's 1994 genocide.

President Joseph Kabila made the announcement in the capital, Kinshasa, telling reporters the foreign armies' presence "must not last beyond the month of February."

Ugandan and Rwandan troops invaded in 1998 and seized the eastern half of the country, ostensibly to fight insurgents opposed to their governments. But the two nations became involved in a hunt for mineral riches, turning their guns on each other in three separate battles in the diamond-rich northern city of Kisangani. Hundreds of civilians were killed.

Uganda and Rwanda withdrew after a 2002 peace deal allowed their rebel proxies to occupy top posts in a Congolese unity government.

Kabila won elections two years ago, and has struggled to end continual violence and extend central government authority in the lawless east of his Europe-sized nation.

Some of the worst violence has hit the northeast, where the U.N. and human rights groups say Ugandan rebels have massacred more than 700 people over the last month in apparent retaliation for a military offensive waged against them since mid-December by soldiers from Congo, Uganda and Sudan.

Further south, around the provincial capital, Goma, Tutsi rebels led by Laurent Nkunda seized a large territory of hilly pastureland in fighting last fall that forced 250,000 people from their homes.

This month, though, senior commanders and his longtime ally, Rwanda, betrayed Nkunda, accusing him of being a megalomanic who embezzled from rebel coffers. In a surprise move, Rwanda detained Nkunda as part of a deal between the two nations that has allowed Rwanda to send thousands of troops across the border into Congo, where they are conducting a joint military offensive aimed at disarming the Rwandan Hutu militias. The offensive was initially supposed to last 10 to 15 days.

As part of the deal, rebels of a splinter faction led by Bosco Ntaganda said they would operate under army command and eventually integrate into army ranks. Rights groups have called for Ntaganda to be extradited to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, where he is wanted for the alleged forced conscription of child soldiers several years ago.
Analysts speculate Ntaganda may have brokered a deal to avoid being tried abroad, and Kabila implied his government was not going to pursue him. Speaking about Ntaganda's fate, Kabila said his country's options were "expedited international justice or peace and security for our people in the east."

"For me, the choice is clear," Kabila said. "The choice is stability and security."

Kabila also said it was not enough to detain Nkunda. "We must completely decapitate the mafia that has installed itself in the east," he said.
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No news of LRA's deputy commander Okot Odhiambo

From Peter Eichstaedt's blog Saturday 31 January 2009 - excerpt:
No news is bad news

Despite the flurry of stories over the past couple of days on the defection and pending surrender of Okot Odhiambo, the deputy commander of the Lord's Resistance Army, we have heard nothing in the past 48 hours.

LRA's Odhiambo and Otti in 2006

Photo: A uniformed Odhiambo is pictured above in the lower center, with former LRA deputy commander Vincent Otti to the left, whom rebel commander Joseph Kony reportedly executed in October 2007.

Peter Eichstaedt took this photo at one of the meetings between the LRA and former peace talks mediator Riek Machar, in July 2006, not far from Kony's camp near the border of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Peace May Break Out in the Congo - Pan African Solution Back on the Agenda

From justiceafrica.org
Peace May Break Out in the Congo
January 29th, 2009
Pan African Solution Back on the Agenda
In one of his many witticisms Winston Churchill said of the Americans, they would “do the right thing after trying everything else”. Could it be that he was foretelling the election of Barack Obama? Even if he was, it is not Obama I want to write about, I am merely borrowing Churchillian wit in order to understand the current military alliances in the DRC: African leaders will return to Pan Africanism after trying everything else. It was an unprecedented interstate Pan African military alliance that dislodged Mobutu’s long reign of greed and graft. Unfortunately once the ‘victorious allies’, principally Rwanda and Uganda, entered Kinshasa, they did not realise that Laurent Kabila’s allegiance and gratitude to them would be short-lived, and the tail would be wagging the dog. In order for Kabila to construct a new national constituency for himself he needed to be seen as independent of his military benefactors especially Rwanda. The soft underbelly of popular anti-Banyarwanda (in reality anti-Tutsi) xenophobia has always been in the body politic of the country and in the region.

Apart from DRC’s vast resources which have been coveted and exploited by all kinds of marauding slave dealers and fortune hunters, from King Leopold of Belgium’s genocidal pillage of the country, to Mobutu’s grand robbery with impunity, to the current corporate, individual, state and other looting cabals, the sheer size of the country has also been a contributory factor to its instability. Officially the DRC has ten countries bordering it. This means that a DRC affair can never be an internal affair. If any country proves the necessity for A Pan African solution, it is the Congo.

After Mobutu, instead of engaging in more Pan Africanism, Kabila’s old, newly found and eagerly waiting friends chose the bilateral and interpersonal route. Instead of Pan African solidarity and joint planning, there was competition between the states and individual leaders, about who was Kabila’s best ally and reliable good guy.

Military gratitude was not enough to guarantee Rwanda, Uganda or even Angola, Kabila’s loyalty. These contradictions led to the second Kabila war in which several countries became militarily engaged. Initially it looked like Kabila had no chance in facing down those who put him in power, but politics proved more decisive than fire power. Kabila, who was previously regarded as a poodle of Rwanda and Uganda, became a national hero. There were other allies, most strategically Angola and later SADC led by Mugabe, who were willing to shore up his rule. They saw off the challenge to his leadership from Kigali and Kampala, who in turn turned against one another three times, not across their borders but inside the Congo.

But even the SADC intervention soon became bilateral again, failing to realise that a joint Pan African solution was the lasting path. The Lusaka Accords and subsequent South African peace initiatives under OAU/AU authority had all the ingredients of such cooperation, but the bilateral interests of the different states, armies and freewheeling militias readily available for hire, made every group believe that they and their allies could impose a friendly government in Kinshasa.

No doubt neighbouring states have legitimate security interests in the country, but Rwanda and to a lesser extent Uganda, had the more immediate threat because Congo is the haven for former Interahamwe militia, the defeated Genocidaire army of Rwanda and a motley of rebel groups fighting against the Ugandan government, not to topple it but just to destabilise the population. Unfortunately the bright glitters of Congolese gold and diamonds soon blinded everyone involved.

All the countries (with the exception of Rwanda and Angola) that intervened militarily in the Congo were more or less bankrupted by the misadventure, but individual generals, warlords and other war entrepreneurs became filthy rich. Different Congolese rebel or militia groups became expert manipulators of their military allies.

More than a decade later it seems everyone is now tired of proxy wars. The DRC government and army is finally admitting that playing one military ally against another may guarantee the survival of politicians in power in Kinshasa, but it does not help to consolidate state authority over this vast country. They need the cooperation of all their neighbours to stop rebels from using the Congo to destabilise other countries. On the other hand neighbouring countries, first Uganda and now Rwanda, appear to have exhausted their previous strategy of using convenient military allies in the Congo to pressurise Kinshasa and are abandoning any dream of changing the Kinshasa government. All of them need each other and a joint strategy of collective security and shared sovereignty.

This realism is what is driving the current hitherto unthinkable military cooperation. Potentially Congo may never have been closer to a possible lasting regional solution.

However, we have to make sure that unlike previous years, this is not just another bilateral military alliance in which the peoples of the DRC and the region are spectators. The AU and the Great Lakes Conference on Peace, Security and Development already provide for the Pan African multilateral framework with clear roles for the elective institutions, civil society and other stakeholders to be active agents for lasting peace across the region. Military victories may contain seeds of future conflicts if the people are not actively involved. Another Laurent Nkunda may rise, just as Kony rose after Alice Lakwena and in the same way that Ondekane, Bemba and numerous others rose after Kabila senior. The prospect of regional peace breaking out must therefore be complemented by real efforts at internal national dialogue, truth, justice and reconciliation, in a more transparent and accountable democratisation.

“Forward ever, backward never”…..Kwame Nkrumah (1909 - 1972)

………………DON’T AGONISE!…………………..ORGANISE!!…………….

Sunday, January 18, 2009

DR Congo: Ben Affleck and Sir Mick Jagger make film for UNHCRs Gimme Shelter campaign

Actor-director Ben Affleck and Sir Mick Jagger have launched a short film for UNHCRs new Gimme Shelter campaign to help raise funds and awareness about the crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the work of the UN refugee agency. (UNHCR 17 December 2008)

Click on the centre arrow to view Ben Affleck's short film (4 minutes 33 seconds) for UNHCR's Gimme Shelter campaign and listen to one of the greatest rock songs of all time.

The footage was shot in the North Kivu region of the DRC in November 2008.



In November, Affleck visited Africa to shoot footage in DRCs strife-torn North Kivu province, where tens of thousands have fled their homes since fighting resumed in August. He also visited Uganda, where some 30,000 people have sought refuge and are receiving help from UNHCR. The result is a short film entitled Gimme Shelter, set to the classic Rolling Stones song of the same name, which Jagger and the group donated to the campaign.

UNHCR hopes the Gimme Shelter campaign will help raise US$23 million in 2009 to pay for clean water supplies and emergency humanitarian assistance kits in the region.

The film - Gimme Shelter - was directed by Affleck and filmed by John Toll, both Academy Award winners. The footage was shot in the strife-torn North Kivu region of the DRC in November, where thousands have fled their homes since fighting resumed in August.

For more information about the Gimme Shelter campaign go to www.unhcr.org
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From gorilla.wildlifedirect.org December 18 2008:
Ben Affleck and Jagger make film for Congo

If peace is restored in Congo it will benefit everyone including  Gorillas. This new film may just help

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Ben Affleck and Mick Jagger teamed up on Wednesday to launch a short film called “Gimme Shelter” drawing attention to the plight of Congolese families driven from their homes by a decade of war.

The film focuses on the plight of families forced to flee the fighting, among an estimated 1.3 million displaced people in Congo, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The film will be distributed online at www.unhcr.org as well as on television and in cinemas.

“I hope this video will help highlight the plight of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people and also the thousands of innocent people who are needlessly losing their lives there,” Jagger said in a statement.

Jagger and the Rolling Stones donated the song for the campaign to raise money for emergency humanitarian assistance kits that contain jerry cans, kitchen sets, thermal blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and plastic sheeting needed for construction of shelters.
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Mapima, a six-month-old chimp

Photo: Mapima, a six-month-old chimp - read her story below

From The Times
November 22, 2008
By Rob Crilly at the Virunga National Park
Congo: Rangers risk lives to guard gorillas as violence spreads
For more than a fortnight Dusabimana John was forced to live in a stinking camp for people displaced by fighting in the latest flare-up in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Like hundreds of thousands of others, he sheltered from tropical rainstorms under plastic sheeting and ate food distributed by aid agencies.

Unlike the others, the ranger from Virunga National Park was as concerned about the animals he had left behind as the humans around him.

“I was worried about the gorillas and elephants,” he said, standing amid ammunition discarded by rebels at the park headquarters in Rumangabo. “That's why I came back. I found myself thinking about them every day. In the war gorillas have been killed. If we are not here then no one can stop them being killed.”

Rangers like him are the only thing keeping the war from destroying Africa's oldest national park. Virunga is one of the last homes of the endangered mountain gorillas. Almost a third of the 700 remaining in the world live in the forest. Others live in national parks in Rwanda and Uganda. Chimpanzees and lowland gorillas, as well as 2,000 varieties of plants and more than 700 bird species, can be found among the volcanic hills that are often shrouded in mist.

The forest affords little protection from the fighting. One sector is the hideout of Hutu militias who fled Rwanda at the end of the 1994 genocide against mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Another sector — where the gorillas live — has been under the control of rival Tutsi rebels for the past year. A month ago the rebels, commanded by General Laurent Nkunda, seized the park headquarters.

There has been fresh wave of violence this week, turning the tranquil forest into a war zone. Further north in the park, General Nkunda's rebels seized government positions and ranger stations. About 240 rangers have been forced to leave.

At the end of a terrible week came a glimmer of hope. Rebels allowed rangers back into the gorilla sector for the first time in more than a year. Emmanual de Merode, the director of the park, drove for four hours into the heart of rebel-held territory on Tuesday to negotiate their return. “It was just a question of explaining that it's a world heritage site of global significance and the park authority has got to continue its work,” he said, playing down any risk to his own safety.

“It's a huge breakthrough for us because we haven't been able to get into the gorilla sector since August last year.” The first rangers found a shell of a building where their headquarters had been. Rebels had carted off most of the furniture and left three mortar rounds amid a jumble of park papers scattered on the floor.

Today the first rangers were due to begin tracking the apes as the first step of a census. An estimated 200 live in the park but no one knows what toll the war has taken. Hundreds of hippos were killed in an orgy of slaughter two years ago, as Government-allied Mai Mai militia went hunting for meat and ivory.

“It's the presence of all these armed groups, the chaos and people who simply need to make a living, that's destroying the park along with a future for tourism and conservation here,” said Mr de Merode.

The region's abundant seams of minerals, and its charcoal forests, provide rich incentive for a dozen or so more militias to keep conflict simmering and the local population in squalid camps.

The rangers themselves have taken a heavy toll. About 120 have been killed since the region was plunged into civil war more than a decade ago.

Now they are returning to continue their crucial work once again. “When the fighting came here we knew we had to leave to protect our families and go to safety in Goma,” said Karonkano Baseka, a returning ranger, speaking in Swahili.

“We cannot leave this place unprotected because there is danger all around and without us there will be no forest. If there is no forest there can be no gorillas,” Karonkano Baseka, a park ranger, said.

As the little furball - all grasping fingers and curious brown eyes - gambols around the lawn there are few signs of Mapima’s miserable start to life.

In places her thick coating of hair has been rubbed bare by the ropes that once bound her. The six-month-old chimpanzee’s head is marked by a sore.

But since being rescued from an army commander by Congolese conservationists Mapima has one thing on her mind: playing rough and tumble with her new carers.

“She loves playing with flowers and eating them,” said Faustin Muhindo Kighomo. She always likes attention and if you ignore her she’ll hassle you until you give in.”

Mapima was spotted tied up at an army roadblock outside the regional capital Goma.

Close by soldiers patrol with monkeys on their shoulders.

While baby chimps are viewed as playthings or valuable commodities, monkeys are believed to ward off evil spirits making them useful companions in war.

Mapima’s ordeal ended 10 days ago when park rangers rescued her from her army captor.

Samantha Newport, spokeswoman for the Virunga park authority, said the latest round of fighting had accelerated the illegal trade in wildlife.

Three baby chimps have been rescued in recent months. But, “most of them slip through the net,” said Ms Newport. “When you have a war and a park that’s badly resourced it’s impossible to protect everything.”
For more about the rangers of Virunga National Park go to www.gorilla.cd, the park's website.
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Year of the gorilla kicks off

Looking for Miza

Source: gorilla.wildlifedirect.org

Aswa County MP Reagan Okumu's account of an attempt by a phoney LRA linkman to set him up

From Sunday Monitor 18 January 2009 by Yasiin Mugerwa:
‘The LRA liar who loved me’

The Uganda People’s Defence Forces has entered month II of its Operation Lightning Thunder against Joseph Kony’s rebels in the Garamba Forest of northeastern DR Congo.  In this in-depth look at the long road to the peace process in Northern Uganda, Aswa County MP Reagan Okumu, narrates to Yasiin Mugerwa his riveting account of an attempt by a phoney Lord’s Resistance Army linkman to set him up.

“It was some time in March 2002 when UPDF launched its South Sudan military offensive on the LRA’s rear bases in Operation Iron Fist I.

As leaders from northern Uganda, prior to the 2002 events, we had fought so heard to have a negotiated peaceful settlement to this conflict to no avail. At this time, it was extremely dangerous to us to welcome Operation Iron Fist because the abducted children [being held by the rebels] were going to be crushed in captivity. This was our major concern.

Operation Iron Fist was decided behind the backs of Acholi leaders. We were indeed surprised to see heavy weapons, tanks and sophisticated missiles being transported to Sudan via Gulu, Palabek, Kitgum Road, taking the Juba Road and Patiko areas.

The people became worried and indeed deeply concerned and became apprehensive that something was about to happen and they put us under pressure to explain the plight of their abducted children.

“I went to the Gulu [4] Division Commander then, Col. Geoffrey Muhesi seeking for information about what was going on. I also demanded that they should speak to the people about this operation.

Col Muhesi’s explanation was simple, “we are also concerned and we want to end this war once and for all by fighting inside where these people (the enemy) are and we want your support for this war must come to an end because our people have suffered enough.

But to Acholi people their feeling was that their children in captivity were going to be massacred in the process if the government goes for war under the Operation Iron Fist.

As Acholi leaders, we took a unanimous decision to go to the then Minister of State for Defence, Amama Mbabazi for more explanation about what was going on.

“In that meeting, Mr Mbabazi said; ‘Please, we know sometimes the statements you make demoralises the forces and yet you make them in good faith, but we want to promise you that we shall brief you at every stage of the conflict and we request that you trust us.’

When we asked whether Operation Iron Fist was an offensive or a rescue mission, he said it was a rescue mission. However, they had already ferried heavy weapons and it was clear that Mr Mbabazi was telling us lies because the government had already planned this war.

After our meeting with Mr Mbabazi, we agreed to keep quiet and wait for the first attack inside Sudan. For me, I was not convinced because they had not even identified the spots where these people were and how long the rescue mission would take them.

Mr Mbabazi casually said; ‘UPDF is a well-built army and we have capacity to handle the situation and we are ready to handle this rescue mission successfully.’

For us as Acholi leaders, we gave government the benefit of the doubt and we decided to play the game of wait and see, but there was pressure from the population, we explained without success and at the same time they continued seeing these heavy weapons bypassing them.

“They kept asking us; ‘Why are you quiet when these weapons are moving to Sudan?’ Personally, I was in a dilemma because the government had smartly done its mobilisation. They had mobilised all the development partners such that even the diplomatic community in Kampala was convinced that indeed, Operation Irion Fist was the only solution that would bring peace to northern Uganda. But they were wrong.

“This was not what we wanted; we wanted to end this fighting not by guns but by talking peace even though some people labelled some of us rebel corroborators in the process. But this was a price we were ready to pay for peace, even if it meant death.

Whichever angle we tried to reach out to the diplomatic community in our quest to block Operation Iron Fist, the idea/response was that ‘what else could the government do, let us wait and see. To us as development partners these rebels should be defeated militarily’.

People in Acholi looked at us, especially myself and Norbert Mao (former Gulu Municipality MP and now Gulu LC5 Chairperson), as their true voice and we could not fail them because their problem was our problem. They looked at us as their hope; they looked at us as people who don’t fear to speak for them in times of need and desperation.

“Although the government had convinced the diplomatic community that the UPDF was aware of the abducted women and children, the civil society was restless and complemented our endless struggle for a peaceful settlement to the conflict rather than war.

After a period of about three months, I received a call from a satellite phone from a stranger, I picked and told the caller to call me later because I was driving.

It was quite interesting, the fellow talked softly and composed, he introduced himself as Lt. Col. Johnson Onen and said ; ‘I am speaking from the Altar Command headquarters’ - Kony’s backyard.

He said Kony was trying to reach my number and other leaders without success. He said for them (LRA) they don’t mind about fighting, they can fight but they have so many children and women too and would like them to be released and that for the sake of stopping bloodshed, they would wish to surrender the captives because the UPDF was closing in on them day-by-day.

“The message to me was that ‘we want you to help us to reach out to government, to negotiate where we can surrender the children and there is no need for war’, this message sounded very positive to me. I was excited and immediately asked him “where are you?” The man said he had been sent on a mission and couldn’t tell his location until further notice.

The way in which he talked sounded as if he had already crossed the Sudanese border into Uganda. I was thrilled because as Acholi leaders we had got a second chance to stop the bloody Operation Iron Fist; to end the massacre and to rescue the children, then, we would have offered leadership at the right moment.

“I agreed with the stranger that he comes and meets me in Kampala. He said he would be calling me using the satellite phone. The next day he called me and said he was in a suburb of Kampala.

But I was scared, I started asking myself, “What if I am nabbed by government security agencies for dealing with rebels, they would now say ‘Okumu is a rebel corroborator’. I was afraid and at the same time brave because I was doing the right thing and I was not a rebel corroborator in anyway.

“I met this ‘rebel envoy’ at Parliament and he reiterated that Kony wants to talk to me because they want to initiate talks with government. He also told me that they were ready to hand over women and children to the UN because they could not trust government.

The fellow looked like a rebel and I believed him. He came with a brand new satellite phone and left it with me, claiming that they have been struggling to get in touch with me since my number is sometimes on and off. So, for easy communication he told me that he had strict instructions to give me a satellite phone.

“We agreed to meet again; I immediately contacted the American Embassy requesting for an appointment but without any success because the diplomatic community had been clearly briefed by the government that the only solution to the conflict was Operation Iron Fist.

Next Sunday, shifty meetings in Kampala before a wild goose chase to Nairobi and back.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why can't the UN send EUFOR into DR Congo for a one-month mission?

Commentary by Peter Eichstaedt 17 January 2009:
Condemnation, but no action

The United Nations Security Council has once again condemned the atrocities that are currently being committed by the Lord's Resistance Army.

On Friday, the UNSC issued a press statement, read aloud by the Council President Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, which chairs the council this month.

Here it is:
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned the recent attacks carried out by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which have resulted in over 500 dead and over 400 abducted, as well as the displacement of over 104,000 people. The members of the Council expressed their grave concern at the scale of these atrocities and emphasized that those responsible must be brought to justice.

"The members of the Security Council reiterated the statement of the President of the Security Council 22 December 2008. The members of the Council expressed their deep concern that the Council’s previous calls for the LRA to cease its attacks, and recruitment and use of children, and to release all women, children and non-combatants, have not been heeded.

"The members of the Security Council demanded that the members of the LRA cease all attacks on civilians immediately, and urged them to surrender, assemble, and disarm, as required by the Final Peace Agreement."
Does the world need yet another strongly worded statement? It seems that the LRA, and its leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium, has committed enough atrocities in the past twenty-two years to warrant more than grumbling from the UN's guiding council.

The French like to present themselves as the bastion of "liberty, fraternity, and equality," but they're disinclined to do much to enforce those values.

It's not as though France couldn't.

As I stated last week during a interview on BBC radio's The World Today show, putting an end to Kony and the LRA's endless rampages will take more than letting the Ugandan army wander around the jungles of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It will take a well-trained and well-equipped force authorized by the UN and composed of international troops with the specific goal of capturing or killing Kony.

This is not without precedent. It's been done before in other African countries, including eastern DRC when the inept horde of UN peacekeepers there, which number an astounding 17,000 soldiers, were unable to keep the peace. The UN authorized a limited European Union force to enter the country, settle the situation, then pull out. It worked.

Such a force is sitting very close by. It's called European Force, or Eufor, and is about 5,000 EU troops, mostly French, who are sitting near in eastern Chad on the border with Sudan.

They're positioned as a deterrent to any further invasions by the Sudan-backed rebels who attacked the Chad capital of Ndjamena last February. And, some speculate that the force may be there to help protect Chad's oil fields, which are pumping out crude that is piped to the west coast of Africa via Cameroon.

But, there's not much for them do these days. Why can't the UN send them in for one-month mission? It's clear the Ugandan army needs help, as does South Sudan and the Central African Republic, where most say the LRA is headed.

The Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA), which is South Sudan's army, has found dozens of body of people believed to be killed by the Ugandan Lord Resistance Army (LRA) after being abducted.

And, the BBC reports that rebels attacked a village in the DRC this week, killing four people, including a girl of four and abducting a boy of nine. A bishop in South Sudan says two men had their hands and legs chopped off and were beaten to death, as boys watched.

The BBC noted that the LRA now operates in at least four countries in the region, and that the CAR has sent troops to its border with DR Congo in an effort to push back the rebels.

The survivors of the LRA attacks told a UN agency that the rebels looted and torched their houses, forcing them to flee into the forest.

"What we saw was shocking," David Nthengwe, UNHCR spokesman for eastern DR Congo, told the BBC. "People live in fear in the forest. Many of them are unable to move, as they fear that the LRA is going to attack them."

Clearly the Ugandan army is not making much progress. Yet, the Eufor sits there in Chadian desert, just an hour away by air.

LRA shot wildlife officer & abducted civilians in Andari payam near Ezo County in Sudan's Western Equatoria State

From Sudan Radio Service 16 January 2009 (Nairobi) -
LRA Attacks Continue in WES:
The Lord’s Resistance Army carried out an attack in Andari payam 25 miles from Ezo County in Western Equatoria State on Wednesday night.

Speaking to Sudan Radio Service by phone from Ezo, the county commissioner Peter Jamus said that a wildlife officer was shot as he tried to escape from the rebels.

He said that the officer is receiving treatment in hospital.

Jamus said that LRA attacked the area which has no SPLA soldiers and abducted an unknown number of civilians. They also looted food items from civilians.

In a separate incident, the LRA allegedly attacked 2 vehicles heading to Uganda on Wednesday. The vehicles were carrying students from Western Equatoria state who were going back to school in Uganda.

The LRA have also been accused of looting property and burning two vehicles in a recent attack along the Yambio-Yei-Juba road in Rasul payam.
Western Equatoria State is one of the 26 states of Sudan.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bosco's CNDP announces its political turnaround - War in Congo has killed over 5 million people since 1998, mostly through disease and starvation

Congolese rebel group CNDP vow to join national army after Nkunda’s ouster. The National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) announced its political turnaround in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, at a news conference attended by its military leader, General Jean Bosco Ntaganda, and senior commanders.

Bosco said Jan. 5 said he had overthrown CNDP leader General Laurent Nkunda, whom he called a hindrance to peace. This is the first time since the alleged ouster that all the senior CNDP commanders were seen in public with Bosco.

The announcement was given weight by the presence of General John Numbi, who is a close ally of President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan army chief General James Kabarebe.

A thaw in relations between Congo and neighboring Rwanda may have eclipsed United Nations and African Union-brokered talks with Nkunda’s CNDP wing and the government, said former International Crisis Group researcher Jason Stearns.

A report by UN investigators last month said Rwanda supported the CNDP, a claim Rwanda denies.

Source: Bloomberg report by Franz Wild 16 January 2009 - Congo Rebels Vow to Join National Army After Nkunda’s Ouster:
Rebel dissidents in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo said they would stop fighting the government, join the national army and help combat Rwandan Hutu militias in the region.

The National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, announced its political turnaround in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, at a news conference attended by its military leader, General Jean Bosco Ntaganda, and senior commanders.

The rebel group decided to yield command of “all the combatant forces of the CNDP with a view to their integration into the national army,” spokesman Colonel Esaie Munyakazi said, reading from a statement signed by the CNDP’s military hierarchy.

Bosco said Jan. 5 said he had overthrown CNDP leader General Laurent Nkunda, whom he called a hindrance to peace. This is the first time since the alleged ouster that all the senior CNDP commanders were seen in public with Bosco.

Last year, when still united, their troops overran Congo’s army in three months of fighting, causing 250,000 civilians to flee their homes.

The announcement was given weight by the presence of General John Numbi, who is a close ally of President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan army chief General James Kabarebe.

A thaw in relations between Congo and neighboring Rwanda may have eclipsed United Nations and African Union-brokered talks with Nkunda’s CNDP wing and the government, said former International Crisis Group researcher Jason Stearns.

Talks Ended

A report by UN investigators last month said Rwanda supported the CNDP, a claim Rwanda denies. The talks came to an inconclusive end yesterday.

The rebels demanded an amnesty in line with a cease-fire deal they signed in January 2008 following a similar round of hostilities in a conflict that has its roots in the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda. Bosco was indicted last year by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.

The CNDP says it’s defending Congo’s ethnic Tutsi minority from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu militia that fled to Kivu after allegedly killing 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

War in Congo has killed over 5 million people since 1998, mostly through disease and starvation. The thousands of Congolese who remain in refugee camps abroad should be helped to return to their homes, the statement said.

“To this effect it is necessary that the negative Rwandan forces, the FDLR/Interahamwe, be neutralized by our government as soon as possible,” Munyakazi said. “This is to secure the return” of the refugees.

Interior Minister Celestin Mbuyu, who was also at the session, welcomed the announcement.

“They are Congolese who said enough is enough,” he said in a telephone interview from Goma.
To contact the reporter on this story: Franz Wild in Kinshasa via the Johannesburg bureau on abolleurs@bloomberg.net

Matsanga's never represented the LRA - Who are the merchants of conflicts in Uganda based in London?

According to the following article by Peter Eichstaedt 16 January 2009, David Matsanga, the self-proclaimed spokesman for the LRA, does not represent the LRA and never has. A new rebel group may be emerging in Northern Uganda called the Uganda People's Liberation Front/Army, an Acholi cabal based in London headed by a man named Ladit Balgara.

LRA in disarray, again
By Peter Eichstaed
16 January 2009
My friend and fellow reporter, Henry Mukasa of the New Vision newspaper in Kampala, this week contacted the former spokesman for Lord's Resistance Army's former negotiating team.

The former spokesman, Obonyo Olweny, says that the self-proclaimed spokesman and chief negotiator for the LRA, David Matsanga, does not represent the LRA and never has.

By so doing, Olweny has shed light on the truly chaotic situation behind the scenes of the LRA, which has been under attack by the Ugandan army since December 14, and at this point appears to be scrambling for its life.

First, a new rebel group may be emerging in northern Uganda called the Uganda People's Liberation Front/Army.

Who are these people and what do they want? Matsanga again lifted the lid on this dustbin, and says they're an Acholi cabal based in London and headed by a man named Ladit Balgara.

If the Acholi diaspora are forming a new rebel group, does this mean they've written off LRA leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium meant to lead the Acholi?

Could Uganda President Yoweri Museveni be on the verge of victory at last?

These issues will be dealt with in future dispatches.

Olweny is a former English teacher and currently a resident of Nairobi, I believe, and Henry and I spent a lot of time with him in July 2006 when the peace talks were beginning between the LRA and Uganda in Juba, South Sudan.

After Olweny and the leaders of the former negotiators, Martin Ojul, in particular, were supposedly fired by Kony in early 2008 -- in a surprise announcement made by Matsanga, not Kony -- Olweny dropped out of sight, only to re-emerge this week.

(Ojul, by the way, now lives in Kampala on a Ugandan government salary.)

The Olweny-Matsanga dispute has opened the door to one reality of the LRA: Kony largely keeps his own council.

According to sources at the late November meeting between Kony and the Acholi religious and cultural leaders, Kony knew nothing about the peace agreement that has been negotiated for two and a half years. When his fellow Acholi tried to explain it to him, including the Catholic archbishop from Gulu, Kony became angry and called them traitors.

“Kony never saw the text of the agreement until the day of signing. Is that normal?” Olweny told New Vision. Now, to be fair, Olweny here may be confirming earlier reports, but could also be simply repeating them.

But what he also said is more interesting:

“Since the attack on LRA bases in the DRC, I don’t think he (Matsanga) has talked to Kony. Kony is under pressure. He hardly talks to anyone,” Olweny said.

“Kony sees Matsanga as responsible for the attack. He misled him,” he added.

This is an amazing charge, but probably true. If true, then Matsanga should be looking over his shoulder. Yet, Matsanga continues to speak for the LRA.

As I've said before, Matsanga is in this for the money. As previously noted, Matsanga was stopped in the airport in Juba this past April, just a couple of days after he has successfully duped the entire international community into believing Kony was prepared to sign a peace deal.

Matsanga had $20,000 in cash, his pay for three months work as the LRA negotiation team leader. Matsanga then fled, and deputy, the Dr. James Obita, a western educated Acholi, took over.

Obita managed to pull yet another layer of wool over the world's eyes, and convinced everyone that Kony would sign the deal in May. Again Kony didn't show. Obita dropped out of sight. Obita then accepted amnesty from the government and reportedly is also collecting govenment money.

In the interim from May to about October, Matsanga saw an opening, and with no one openly disputing his claim, he re-emerged and convinced the world that Kony would sign a deal at the end of November.

Despite Olweny's remarks, Matsanga maintains that he is in contact with Kony, despite a statement said to be from the LRA "high command" this past weekend, that Matsanga was fired.

Matsanga explained it this way: “This group of former LRA delegates have teamed up with self-confessed paupers and senior militarists in Nairobi and London, namely Obonyo Olweny and Alex Oloya, under a new outfit called Uganda Peoples Liberation Front/Army (UPLF) headed by Ladit Balgara based in London to cause mayhem for the people of northern Uganda,” Matsanga said in an email sent to The New Vision.

“They issue unsigned statements using the LRA letterheads that Obonyo acquired during his spokesman tenure one year ago.”

“Those who have plotted against me have lost in the past and will lose on this round. They have been advised (by Kony) to desist from such malicious acts and work with me to bring peace in northern Uganda,” Matsanga said.

When asked to describe Matsanga's motivations, Olweny said, "He is the one asking for money in the name of LRA and the blood of the suffering people in the north. We began the peace process in Juba and he came from London begging to join the LRA delegation. You tell him he has failed to deliver the peace agreement he promised to his paymasters,” he added.

It is clear that Olweny is enjoying Matsanga's failures, because his "paymasters" are the UN, which has been funding the peace talks.

Asked whether it was true that he had joined a new rebel front (UPLF/A), Olweny said: “I think Matsanga is running out of his mind.”

That is not a denial, rather it's an attempt to disparage the messanger.

Matsanga blamed what he called “merchants of conflicts in Uganda based in London” for sowing discord in the LRA to derail the peace process.

Sowing discord in the LRA? That assumes there has been unity.
Who are the merchants of conflicts in Uganda based in London? Are they connected to Sudan?
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UPDATE: Sunday 18 January 2009

From The New Vision, Uganda by Henry Mukasa 15 January 2009 -
LRA peace team in power row:

THE leader of the LRA peace delegation, David Nyekorach Matsanga, has refuted reports that he was sacked. Matsanga said yesterday he still maintained full contact with rebel chief, Joseph Kony.

He explained that the un-signed statement said to be from the LRA high command over the weekend, came from rival former LRA negotiators.

“This group of former LRA delegates have teamed up with self-confessed paupers and senior militarists in Nairobi and London, namely Obonyo Olweny and Alex Oloya, under a new outfit called Uganda Peoples Liberation Front/Army (UPLF) headed by Ladit Balgara based in London to cause mayhem for the people of northern Uganda,” Matsanga said in an email sent to The New Vision.

“They issue unsigned statements using the LRA letterheads that Obonyo acquired during his spokesman tenure one year ago.”

Matsanga claimed that his detractors converge in “tribal cocoons” and malign his work by asserting that he does not hail from the north. Matsanga hails from Bugisu in eastern Uganda.

He said Kony was aware of the “tribal chauvinism” and addressed it on November 28, 2008 at Rwi-Kwangba when he met religious and cultural leaders from the north.

“Those who have plotted against me have lost in the past and will lose on this round. They have been advised (by Kony) to desist from such malicious acts and work with me to bring peace in northern Uganda,” Matsanga said.

He also blamed what he called “merchants of conflicts in Uganda based in London” for sowing discord in the LRA to derail the peace process.
But Olweny denied fighting Matsanga and doubted Matsanga’s claims of direct contact with Kony.

“Since the attack on LRA bases in the DRC, I don’t think he has talked to Kony. Kony is under pressure. He hardly talks to anyone,” Olweny said.

“Kony sees Matsanga as responsible for the attack. He misled him,” he added.
Asked how, Olweny pointed at the many times delegates went to Ri-kwangba for the peace agreement signing ceremony, only to return empty-handed.

“Kony never saw the text of the agreement until the day of signing. Is that normal?” he asked.

Olweny said the Sudan Tribune, which published the article about Matsanga’s termination, should be contacted for its source of information other than using him as a scapegoat.

He also laughed off Matsanga’s description of him as a pauper.

“I am a published author. How can I be a pauper? He is the one asking for money in the name of LRA and the blood of the suffering people in the north,” Olweny charged.

“We began the peace process in Juba and he came from London begging to join the LRA delegation. You tell him he has failed to deliver the peace agreement he promised to his paymasters,” he added.

Asked whether it was true that he had joined a new rebel front (UPLF/A), Olweny said: “I think Matsanga is running out of his mind.”

Labels:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ugandan LRA are agents of forces who are against South Sudan's peace agreement

The following report from Sudan Radio Service in Malakal says that the current LRA attacks in Western Equatoria State are aimed at derailing the implementation of Southern Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and that the LRA are agents of people who would like the party and the government to fail and the CPA not be implemented. And one of the ways it can fail is to prevent the holding of elections in Western Equatoria and in Southern Sudan.

Although the source of the report is unverifiable, I am posting it here because its contents make more sense to me than any other report I have read on why Joseph Kony and his group of terrorists continue to be so well trained and equipped while remaining free to be on the rampage for the past 20 years.

As noted here a few days ago, Kony's Ugandan LRA is a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

However, looking at it in another way, the LRA sure is a convenient bogeyman to blame for the handiwork of other bandits and so-called janjaweed. One thing's for sure, we don't know half of what is really going on behind the scenes. Even after the past five years, reporters still aren't getting to the root of who is behind the rebel groups in Sudan and Chad.

Sudan reminds me of America's old Wild West in the days of cowboys and indians and gold diggers all fighting to stake a claim on the gold in them there hills. Never mind the poor natives who get in the way. Not to mention the Aborigines in Australia. Bah. Such is life. Very sad.

WES Official Claims LRA is an Agent of Anti-CPA Forces
Report from Sudan Radio (Malakal) 12 January 2009:
Western Equatoria State political advisor Paul Tambua claims that the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels are agents of forces who are against the CPA.

Tambua told Sudan Radio Service in Malakal last week that the current LRA attacks in Western Equatoria State were aimed at derailing the implementation of CPA in the region.

[Paul Tambua]: “The LRA are there, they are agents of other bodies who would like to interfere with the CPA, who would like to see to it that the implementation of CPA fails. And one of the ways it can fail is to prevent the holding of elections in Western Equatoria and not only in Western Equatoria but in Southern Sudan. So these are agents of people who would like the party and the government to fail and the CPA not be implemented.”

He said the Government of southern Sudan will not allow the forces behind LRA operations to ruin the CPA. However, Tambua did not mention which forces he says are behind the LRA operations in south Sudan.

Meanwhile, the security advisor in Western Equatoria state, Jasmine Samuel, said the current situation in the state is very bad.

She said the LRA attacks on people of Western Equatoria State have created fear among the population and has paralyzed the movement of vehicles and people in the state.

The two officials called on the GOSS to increase the number of soldiers and provide logistical support to protect civilians in the area.

Jasmine also called upon the people of Western Equatoria to help the government by giving information to the authorities about the movements of LRA rebels in the area.
- - -

UGANDAN COMMANDER OF OPERATION LIGHTNING THUNDER IN DR CONGO ADVISES CRITICS OF THE MILITARY OFFENSIVE TO WAIT FOR PHOTOS THAT SHOW THE RECENT SUCCESSES

Peter Eichstaedt, author of First Kill Your Family, has a neat round up of news on the LRA in his latest blog post today. For future reference, here is a copy:
Rampage or runaways?

More conflicting information, or perhaps non-information, is coming out of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo as Uganda's army pursues the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

In a story written by Henry Mukasa, the government-owned daily, New Vision, quotes Gen. Patrick Kankiriho as claiming to have "engaged" forces led by the LRA's deputy, Okot Odhiambo, 30km north of Doruma on Monday.

That would put them right on the border with South Sudan, or even in that country, and he claims that two were killed and two were captured two."

Speaking from Dungu, the general said that now eight LRA fighters have been captured and 38 killed since the offensive was launched on December 14, 2008. Over 21 rebels have surrendered to the allies in various parts of Congo and South Sudan and nine captives were rescued.

“We have reached a stage of ‘search and destroy’ for fighters and rescue for captives. We rescue the abductees and the combatants who want to fight us, we engage them,” Kankiriho explained.

The commander said after the battle, two sub-machine guns, four full magazines, two empty magazines and two Sudanese uniforms were recovered.

In another battle on Sunday, Kankiriho said four rebels were killed south of Lagoro. One was captured, two women rescued north of Doruma, while another rebel surrendered with his gun at Yambio in Sudan.

Kankiriho explained that the joint forces had tightened their noose around Kony and his scattered fighters in the vast and densely- forested Garamba National Park in Congo.

“You think he is asking for ceasefire for nothing? The man is under immense pressure. Big, big pressure. We shall get him,” he stressed.

Despite this tough talk, the UN is reporting a different side of the story.

Reuters news agency says that the UN now puts the total civilian dead at the hands of the LRA at 537, since the Dec. 14th attack on LRA camps in northeastern DRC.

Another 408 people had been kidnapped by the rebels, according to UN High Commission on Refugees, and more than 104,000 people are thought to have been forced from their homes into the bush by the violence.

"The displaced population is in dire need of food, shelter, medicines, clothes and other aid items. The area, which by itself poses immense logistical challenges due to the lack of roads or their poor condition, remains highly volatile," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in a statement in Geneva.

As most are wondering, what has happened to LRA leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium?

The Ugandan general refused to say, arguing that this would pre-empt army action drive the Kony further underground. He advised the critics of the military offensive to wait for photographs that show the recent successes.

The New Vision also reported that the Central African Republic (CAR) began deploying more troops on its border with Congo to guard against incursions by the LRA.

Kankiriho said the group was composed of families of rebel commanders and a few fighters guarding them, led by Odhiambo, who is reportedly wounded.
"First Kill Your Family"

Photo: Peter Eichstaedt's book First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the LRA
- - -

Meanwhile ....

Kalma camp

A Sudanese woman sits inside her tent in the Kalma displaced people camp on the outskirts of the southern Darfur town of Nyala. African and Arab countries will try to halt international efforts to bring Sudanese president Omar al-Beshir to justice, which a senior African official judged would hurt peace chances for Darfur. (AFP/File/Jose Cendon)

(Cross posted today at Sudan Watch and Uganda Watch)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Garamba National Park officials expected LRA attack

More info on January 2nd LRA attack on Garamba National Park. On December 30, 2008 there had been a “small-scale” attack on Garamba National Park by Ugandan rebels, possibly probing the park’s defences. More Congolese troops have arrived in the park.

Report from Voice of America by Joe De Capua 06 January 2009:
DRC Park Officials Expected LRA Rebel Attack
There’s more information available about the January 2nd LRA rebel attack on the Garamba National Park, located in Nagero, in the eastern DRC. That attack left at least eight dead and thirteen wounded and caused heavy damage to the park headquarters.

Dr. Jose Kalpers, country coordinator for the DRC for the African Parks Network, spoke from Brussels to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the attack by Ugandan rebels.

“Our headquarters…was attacked by a group of LRA rebels. The attack started at 5 pm (local time) and lasted…about two hours. And it seems that the rebels launched several attacks at different spots. The headquarters is spread over a large area and so several places basically were targeted by the rebels almost at the same time…. Our rangers, assisted by some Congolese army soldiers, started engaging fire. It was very sudden and very violent and a number of people were killed during the attack, including two rangers and two wives of wardens and a couple of other people working for the park…. There was also extensive damage done to the infrastructures. A few buildings were basically torched,” he says.

Asked why the LRA might target the park along with villages in the area, Kalpers says, “Since the military offensive that started on the 14th of December and launched by the three armies of Uganda, South Sudan and Congo, the LRA…dispersed over a large area. And you probably have heard about the atrocities that were committed…around Christmastime…and then…at the end of the year… I suspect those people are looking for food, looking for money and looking for people.”

Kalpers says they had suspected there would be an attack on Garamba National Park and rangers were in position at various spots in anticipation. That’s because on December 30th, there had been a “small-scale” attack by Ugandan rebels, possibly probing the park’s defenses.

The LRA attacks on eastern Congolese villages last week reportedly left as many as 500 people dead and displaced as many as 50,000. Also, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday that there are reports of another LRA attack on the village of Napopo, leaving eight people dead, houses destroyed and an unknown number of people abducted.

More Congolese troops have arrived in the park, and Kalpers says the main priority is taking care of the rangers, their families and the wounded and those who were displaced by the attack. Humanitarian agencies have been notified that several thousand people living near the park may have fled when the attack occurred and may need emergency assistance.

There is concern that with the rangers occupied with defending the park against the LRA, there might be increased poaching in the park. However, Kalpers says they hope to resume patrols soon.

LRA killings in NE DR Congo is estimated at 537 - Another 408 kidnapped by LRA since Sept 2008

According to UNHCR, LRA killings in DRC's Oriental Province is estimated at 537. Another 408 people have been kidnapped by LRA since Sept 2008. IDPs exceed 104,000.

UNHCR staff in Dungu reporting considerable, ongoing population movements in the direction of Faradje and areas south of Dungum while over 2,000 people have fled to Ezo in neighbouring South Sudan.

UNHCR is extremely concerned about the fate of residents who are now increasingly caught in a conflict zone near the borders of the DRC, the Central African Republic and Sudan.

Source: report from Newsroom America Tuesday 13 January 2009:
UGANDAN REBELS KILL OVER 500 IN CONGO: UN

A notorious Ugandan rebel group has killed more than 500 people in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and kidnapped over 400, including several over the past four days, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva that they are increasingly concerned about the humanitarian situation and continuing attacks by the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), on the civilian population in the DRC's Oriental Province.

UNHCR's team in the regional centre of Dungu said the death toll in the province bordering Uganda and South Sudan is now estimated at 537 people. Another 408 people have been kidnapped by LRA rebels since the outbreak of violence in September last year.

The rebels, who have been fighting Ugandan forces since the 1980s and have since spilled over into Sudan and DRC, are notorious for human rights abuses including the killing and maiming of civilians, and the abduction and recruitment of children as soldiers and sex slaves.

The Governments of DRC, Uganda and Southern Sudan launched a joint military operation in mid-December to flush the LRA out of a remote national park in north-eastern DRC. The fleeing rebels are said to have committed grave human rights violations against civilians in the area.

Mr. Redmond said rough estimates of the number of forcibly displaced in the area have now surpassed 104,000.

"Many of these internally displaced people (IDPs) are still hiding in the bush, particularly in areas around the town of Faradje which was heavily hit during the Christmas period," says Mr Redmond.

Out of an estimated 37,000 people who escaped from Faradje, some 16,000 have been registered so far in Tadu and surrounding villages south of Faradje. More than 10,000 of them are children.

In the Dungu area, which was attacked by the LRA in September last year, the local Red Cross has just completed the registration of displaced in the town and 27 nearby villages. Out of 54,777 IDPs registered there, more than 27,000 are women and nearly 15,000 are children under the age of five.

The latest series of LRA attacks targeted villages and settlements south-west of Faradje, with the village of Tomati, 57 kilometres south-west of Faradje, being reduced to ashes on Saturday.

Mr Redmond says that throughout the region, sightings of LRA rebels are causing panic and new displacement, with UNHCR staff in Dungu reporting considerable, ongoing population movements in the direction of Faradje and areas south of Dungum while over 2,000 people have fled to Ezo in neighbouring South Sudan.

He says the UNHCR is extremely concerned about the fate of residents who are now increasingly caught in a conflict zone near the borders of the DRC, the Central African Republic and Sudan.

ICC charges former DR Congo leader Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo with war crimes

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo

Photo: Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo

From UN News Centre 12 January 2009:
International Criminal Court charges former DR Congo leader with war crimes

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today formally charged a former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with multiple counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who was the President and Commander in Chief of the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC), is accused of directing his militia to commit murder, torture and rape against civilians as well as to commit outrages upon personal dignity and pillaging in an attempt to suppress support for anti-government rebels during the 2002-2003 bloody power-struggle in the CAR.

The ICC alleges that in 2002 the MLC was leased to the then embattled President of the CAR, Ange Felix Patassé, to engage in a systematic and wide-spread assault on the civilian population across the country, including its capital, Bangui.

Over the next four days, the Court’s pre-trial chamber will hear evidence on five counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the CAR from 25 October 2002 to 15 March 2003.

The Chamber will decide whether there is a legitimate basis for the charges the ICC Prosecutor has brought against Mr. Bemba and whether to commit him to trial within two months of the end of the confirmation hearings which started today.

Mr. Bemba was arrested on 24 May 2008 by the Belgian authorities and transferred to the ICC in The Hague, where he has been in custody since July.

The ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern – namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The situation in CAR is one of four situations currently under investigation by the ICC Prosecutor. The others are the Darfur region of Sudan, the DRC and Uganda.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kony's Ugandan LRA is a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq

Defectors held in the Ugandan capital Kampala say Kony – who claims to receive his instructions directly from God – had no real intention of laying down his weapons. Instead he used the ceasefire to rearm, recruit and stockpile food donated by well-meaning charities and supporters abroad.

For the first time they have given an insight into a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

Read more in the following LRA feature from Doruma, Democratic Republic of Congo by ROB CRILLY. On 16 December 2008, the day that a cut down version of the feature appeared in The Times, Rob kindly emailed me the full 2,000 word piece to use on my blog, along with a link to photographer Kate Holt's website kateholt.com.

As a backgrounder, I am prefacing the piece with this excerpt from Rob's blog post at From The Frontline December 10, 2008:
Earlier this year photographer Kate Holt and I chartered a plane to fly from Dungu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the tiny village of Doruma which was recovering from repeated attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army. We found people living in fear of the next assault, as LRA raiding parties roamed the jungle looking for sex slaves, porters and fighters.

We uncovered evidence that Joseph Kony was cynically using a halt in hostilities - called to allow peace talks - in order to rearm, recruit and reorganise. With food distributed by aid agencies and satphones delivered by the Ugandan diaspora, his fighting force was more efficient that ever. And one his key aides, a recent defector, told us that Kony would never sign up to peace.
With many thanks to Rob, here is the feature and photos by Kate Holt.

Rob Crilly

ROB CRILLY
Doruma, Democratic Republic of Congo

FOR eight days Raymond Kpiolebeyo was marched at gunpoint through the steaming Congolese jungle, not knowing whether he would live or die. For six nights he slept with eight other prisoners pinned under a plastic sheet weighted down with bags and stones to prevent escape. Their sweat condensed on the sheeting inches above their faces before dripping back and turning their plastic prison into a stinking, choking sauna.

He was a prisoner of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a cult-like band of brutal commanders and their brutalised child soldiers.

“They told us that if one of use tried to escape we would all be shot,” said Raymond, a 28-year-old teacher from the town of Doruma, close to the border with South Sudan.

He had been captured by a raiding party looking for porters, sex slaves and soldiers to continue the LRA’s 20-year struggle to overthrow the Ugandan government.

Yet the war is supposed to be over. After two years of negotiations, the LRA’s reclusive leader, Joseph Kony, was expected to sign a final peace deal in April. He failed to show up and his aides first said he was suffering from diarrhoea before announcing that he would be not be signing at all.

Negotiators still hold out hope that a war that forced two million people into squalid aid camps is close to an end. Many of the war’s victims in northern Uganda have slowly begun leaving the sprawling shack cities where one generation was born and another died.

But in the border towns of the Democratic Republic of Congo a different picture emerges, one where slaving parties slog through the dense jungle snatching children barely big enough to carry AK-47 rifles. Mothers keep children close to their simple homes of mud and thatch.

And defectors held in the Ugandan capital Kampala say Kony – who claims to receive his instructions directly from God – had no real intention of laying down his weapons. Instead he used the ceasefire to rearm, recruit and stockpile food donated by well-meaning charities and supporters abroad.

For the first time they have given an insight into a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

This year his fighters have roamed through Southern Sudan, the Central African Republic and the DRC kidnapping more than 300 children, and turning a Ugandan war into a regional conflict.

After walking 10 hours a day for six days with a sack on his back and another balanced on his head, Raymond arrived at a well-ordered camp filled with children – some the offspring of women kept by commanders while others were being trained with guns.

“They were mobile. All the time they were organising,” he said, sitting in the office of Doruma school where he teaches primary age children. “Some were leaving for other villages and others were arriving.”

Kony is thought to have settled in the DRC two years ago, disappearing deep into Garamba National Park far in the north-east of the country. It was part of a gentlemen’s agreement with the Congolese government: he was offered a safe haven from which to begin seeking peace; in return his troops would steer clear of locals.

Raymond said the camp was a bustling town. Thatched huts stood in neat rows, while labourers farmed sweet potato, maize and beans.

At night a solar-powered television set would be brought out and the young soldiers would cheer as they watched noisy American war films. Anything starring Chuck Norris was a big hit.

After six nights living in Kony’s jungle headquarters Raymond had the chance of escape.

He was woken by a tap on the head from another prisoner. It was the signal to leave. The two tiptoed over sleeping soldiers before breaking for the thick bush around the camp.

He was one of the lucky ones. Five families in Doruma have had children snatched this year with little hope of seeing them returned.

Sitting on a low bamboo bench in the shade of a mango tree Christine Kutiote described how her 13-year-old niece, Marie, was taken as she tried to cross the river for a visit.

Now, she keeps her own four children close to home.

“I’m a Christian and I pray for them and that security will get better,” she said in the local Zande language, as a priest translated her words into French.

Her low, simple home told a different story. Its mud walls bore a pattern of white spots used by witchdoctors to ward off evil. They have little else to protect them. There is no army, the handful of police officers is unarmed and help can only arrive by plane or motorcycle, bumping for six hours along swampy tracks from Dungu, where the United Nations has a base.

Villagers are trickling in from the surrounding region seeking security but even Dungu offers little protection.

Burned-out buildings bear the scars of previous attacks by Kony’s followers. A hospital has few drugs and no anaesthetic.

This is a region well used to conflict. Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola all sent soldiers and support for a five-year civil war that claimed at least three million lives by the time it ended in 2002. Once again the tropical jungle here is being used for someone else’s war.

Governments in the region are slowly waking up the problem. Later this month the Congolese army will deploy 1000 soldiers to Dungu.

A secret intelligence document compiled by the United Nations mission to the DRC, known as Monuc, spells out the scale of the threat. It says the LRA cynically used the peace talks to organise itself into a more effective fighting force. The 670-strong band of fighters now has more than 150 satellite telephones, many bought with cash meant to aid communications during the talks.

“Simply put, Kony now has the ability to divide his forces into very simple groups and to reassemble them at will. When put together with his proven mastery of bush warfare, this gives him new potency within his area of operations,” says the report.

They were given tons of food by a charity, Caritas Uganda, to discourage the looting of villages, and sacks of dollars by Southern Sudan’s new leaders, whom they once fought.

Kony is stronger than ever, concludes the report: “Recent abduction patterns suggest that he is now in the process of perfecting the new skill of recruiting and controlling an international force of his own.”

Kony has long been something of an enigma. His use of child soldiers, tight control over his lieutenants and frequent movement meant few details of his life leaked out of the jungle. Commentators had to join the dots between a handful of disputed facts to form a fuller impression.

He was the altar boy who grew up to be a guerrilla leader. He was the wizard who used magic to protect his brainwashed adherents. And he was the deluded man from the bush who wanted to rule Uganda according to the 10 Commandments.

When he emerged blinking into the media glare two years ago for a meeting with the United Nations most senior humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, his wild, staring eyes and rambling words suggested a man with little grasp on reality.

Yet those who know him best say the simple picture of a crazed, self-proclaimed prophet is far from the mark.

“To describe him is very difficult for me. He is not mad,” said Patrick Opiyo Makasi, who was Kony’s director of operations until last year when he simply walked out of the jungle. “But he is a religious man. All the time he is talking about God. Every time he keeps calling many people to teach them about the legends and about God. Mostly it is what he is talking about and that is how he leads people.”

Colonel Makasi tells his story in soft, polite tones stumbling over the English language which he stopped learning when he was snatched from his home in Gulu, northern Uganda, at the age of 12. He was handed a Kalashnikov rifle and his school lessons were replaced by in by instruction in anti-tank mines, surface-to-air missiles and machine guns.

During the next 20 years he rose to become one of Kony’s must trusted confidantes.

Back then he was only a frightened little boy, missing his father and mother. His fellow child soldiers became his family and the process of brainwashing began.

“We stayed together and became like family. Even those who were in the bush were like your brothers,” he said in a non-descript café in a Kampala suburb, his words monitored by a government minder. “Because you are young you see some commanders like fathers. Things are happening fast and you need the others to help you. You follow what the commander says because there is no-one else to listen to.”

He impressed his superiors, eventually being given the nickname Makasi. He only learned later that the word means “difficult to break” in the Congolese language Lingala.

He insisted civilians were not his target. He waged war on the Ugandan People’s Defence Force, he said.

Yet the LRA has always needed civilians, stealing food, children and women at will.

Captured children were forced to beat escapees until they died. Once their hands were stained with blood they were told they could never leave – they would be killed by the UPDF.

Anyone suspected of badmouthing Kony had their lips sliced from their face; anyone caught riding a bicycle was liable to have their legs cut off for fear cyclists would raise the alarm as the LRA approached.

The abuses earned Kony the title of Africa’s most wanted man. The International Criminal Court in the Hague issued arrest warrants against Kony and four senior commanders in 2005.

A year ago Makasi simply strolled out of Kony’s camp, knowing that no-one would suspect the LRA’s director of operations of defecting. A day earlier Kony had murdered Vincent Otti, the LRA’s second-in-command, and Makasi knew the death of a key negotiator meant peace talks hosted by South Sudan were doomed.

Kony would never emerge from the bush he told senior commanders, and was becoming increasingly paranoid that he would face the death penalty for his crimes.

“He said the ICC was a very bad thing and if he went to the Hague he would die,” said Makasi.

For five days he struggled through the thick bush, skirting around lions, elephants and buffalo before arriving in Dungu.

He brought with him details of a staggering array of weaponry supplied by the Sudanese government in Khartoum, who once used the LRA as a proxy army in a doomed attempt to put down southern rebels.

Makasi said the LRA was given crates of AK-47s, mines, heavy machine guns and even surface-to-air missiles by the Sudanese armed forces.

“I know that because we were staying with them around their camp and we were the ones who would collect them from their lorry,” he said.

It took Makasi’s comrades eight months to bury the booty in caches dotted across Southern Sudan. They are now being excavated as Kony returns to war.

Makasi said senior officers also used to visit Khartoum for instruction. Some were flown on to Iran and Iraq to learn leadership skills, tactics and training on new weapons.

For all his bizarre beliefs and brutish tactics, analysts now believe Kony is acting with the rational behaviour of a cornered man.

“Political theorists have an expression ‘gambling for resurrection’ and that seems to be what he is doing,” said a military source. “He still thinks he can become president of Uganda, running the country as some sort of theocracy so it seems as if he is digging in.”

For Makasi though the war is over. Today he is part-prisoner, part-guest of the Ugandan government which he fought for two decades.

He said he wanted to continue his education and find work helping people. Something normal after a life lived in Kony’s alternative reality. He knows the LRA conducted staggering acts of brutality yet cannot quite bring himself to admit responsibility.

“I cannot say sorry because it was not my hope that my life was like this,” he said. “I was taken and forced to fight. It was not my will.”
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Here is a copy of the cut down version

From The Times
December 16, 2008

Lord's Resistance Army uses truce to rearm and spread fear in Uganda

Once seen as a ragtag brigade, the guerrilla force that claims divine leadership is organised and ready to renew fighting

Congo Durama 1

Christine Kutiote, whose niece was abducted by the LRA in March, with her remaining children at her home in the north east of the DRC (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Rob Crilly

For eight days Raymond Kpiolebeyo was marched at gunpoint through the Congolese jungle, not knowing whether he would live or die. At night he slept with eight other prisoners, pinned under a plastic sheet weighted down with bags and stones to prevent escape. Their sweat condensed on the sheeting, inches above their faces, before dripping back and turning their plastic prison into a stinking, choking sauna.

He was a prisoner of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a band of pitiless commanders and their brutalised child soldiers. “They told us that if one of us tried to escape we would all be shot,” said Raymond, 28, a teacher from Doruma, close to the border with southern Sudan. He had been captured by a raiding party looking for porters, sex slaves and soldiers to continue the LRA's 20-year struggle to overthrow the Ugandan Government.

His experience deep in the bush and interviews with one of the LRA's most senior defectors offer an extraordinary insight into the workings of the world's most bizarre guerrilla movement. The LRA is now in the world spotlight, as southern Sudan, Congo and Uganda have mounted joint operations to force it to negotiate or, failing that, wipe it out

This war is supposed to be over. After two years of negotiations, Joseph Kony, the LRA's reclusive leader, was expected to sign a peace deal in April. He failed to show up; his aides said that he was suffering from diarrhoea, before announcing that he would not be signing at all.

Negotiators still hope that a war that has forced two million people into squalid aid camps is close to an end. Many of its victims in northern Uganda have slowly begun leaving the sprawling shack cities where one generation was born and another died.

The border towns of the Democratic Republic of Congo tell a different story; one where slaving parties slog through the jungle, snatching children barely big enough to carry AK47 rifles. In the past few months an estimated 75,000 people have been forced from their homes in a fresh wave of attacks.

Defectors in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, say that General Kony - who claims to receive his instructions directly from God - never had any intention of laying down his weapons. Instead, he used the ceasefire to rearm, recruit and stockpile food donated by well-meaning charities and supporters abroad.

For the first time they have described a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

This year his fighters have roamed through southern Sudan, the Central African Republic and Congo, kidnapping more than 300 children and turning a Ugandan war into a regional conflict.

After walking for ten hours a day for six days with a sack on his back and another balanced on his head, Raymond arrived at a camp filled with children. “They were mobile. All the time they were organising,” he said, sitting in the office of Doruma school where he teaches primary-age children. “Some were leaving for other villages and others were arriving.”

General Kony is thought to have settled in Congo two years ago, disappearing into Garamba National Park in the far northeast of the country. It was part of a gentlemen's agreement with the Congolese Government: he was offered a safe haven from which to begin seeking peace, and in return his troops would stay away from locals.

Raymond said that the camp was a bustling town. Thatched huts stood in neat rows; labourers farmed sweet potato, maize and beans. At night a solar-powered television would be brought out and the young soldiers would cheer as they watched noisy American war films. Anything starring Chuck Norris was a big hit.

After six nights in General Kony's jungle headquarters Raymond had the chance of escape. He was woken by a tap on the head from another prisoner. It was the signal to leave. The two tiptoed over sleeping soldiers before breaking for the thick bush around the camp.

He was lucky to escape the LRA. Others have not been so fortunate.

Sitting on a low bamboo bench in the shade of a mango tree in Doruma, Christine Kutiote described how her 13-year-old niece, Marie, was taken as she tried to cross the river for a visit.Now, she keeps her own four children close to home.

“I'm a Christian and I pray for them and that security will get better,” she said. But her simple home told a different story. Its mud walls bore a pattern of white spots used by witchdoctors to ward off evil.

This is a region used to conflict. Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola all sent troops for a five-year war that claimed at least three million lives by its end in 2002. Once again the Congolese jungle is being used for someone else's war.

An intelligence document compiled by the United Nations mission to Congo, known as Monuc, spells out the scale of the threat. It says that the LRA cynically used the peace talks to organise itself into a regional fighting force. The 670-strong band of fighters now has more than 150 satellite telephones, many bought with cash meant to aid communications during the talks. “Simply put, Kony now has the ability to divide his forces into very simple groups and to reassemble them at will,” the report says. “When put together with his proven mastery of bush warfare, this gives him new potency within his area of operations.”

They were given tonnes of food by a charity, Caritas Uganda, to discourage the looting of villages, and fistfuls of dollars by southern Sudan's new leaders, whom they once fought.

General Kony is stronger than ever, the report concludes: “Recent abduction patterns suggest that he is now in the process of perfecting the new skill of recruiting and controlling an international force of his own.”

The general has long been an enigma. His use of child soldiers, tight control over his lieutenants and frequent movement mean that little is known of his life.

He was the altar boy who grew up to be a guerrilla leader. He was the wizard who used magic to protect his brainwashed adherents. And he was the deluded man from the bush who wanted to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments.

Yet those who know him best say that the picture of a crazed, self-proclaimed prophet is far from the mark. “To describe him is very difficult for me. He is not mad,” said Patrick Opiyo Makasi, who was General Kony's director of operations until last year when he walked out of the jungle. “But he is a religious man. All the time he is talking about God. Every time he keeps calling many people to teach them about the legends and about God. That is how he leads people.”

Colonel Makasi was snatched from his home in Gulu, northern Uganda, at the age of 12. He was handed a Kalashnikov and his school lessons were replaced by instruction in anti-tank mines, surface-to-air missiles and machineguns. Over the next 20 years he rose to become one of General Kony's most trusted confidants.

Then, a year ago, Colonel Makasi strolled out of the Kony's camp, knowing that no one would suspect the LRA's director of operations of defecting. A day earlier General Kony had murdered Vincent Otti, the LRA's second-in-command. Any chance of peace was finished.

Colonel Makasi brought with him details of an array of weaponry supplied by the Sudanese Government in Khartoum, which once used the LRA as a proxy army in a doomed attempt to put down southern rebels. The LRA had been given crates of AK47s, mines, heavy machineguns and even surface-to-air missiles.

The colonel's comrades spent eight months burying the booty in caches dotted across southern Sudan. They are now being excavated as General Kony returns to war. Senior officers also used to visit Khartoum for instruction, he said. Some were flown on to Iran and Iraq to learn leadership skills, tactics and training for new weapons.

Now the general is displaying the behaviour of a cornered man. “He still thinks he can become President of Uganda, running the country as some sort of theocracy, so it seems as if he is digging in,” a military source said.

Africa's most bizarre and brutal war seems no closer to a conclusion.

Congo Durama 2

Photo: Raymond Kpiolebeyo, a primary school teacher who was abducted by the LRA but managed to escape (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Congo Durama 3

Photo: Patrick Opio Makas. A former LRA commander, he deserted after being abducted when he was just 12 years old (Kate Holt/eyevine)

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Photo: A young boy sits crying on a bed while his mother undergoes a caesarian operation in the hospital in Dungu. The boy and his mother travelled 100 km to get to the nearest hospital (Kate Holt/eyevine)

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Photo: An old woman lies dying surrounded by family in the hospital in Dungu. Aid organisations withdrew from the region because of frequent attacks and abductions carried out by the LRA (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Have Your Say - A reader's comment

"Africa's most bizarre and brutal war seems no closer to a conclusion."
Indeed, without the involvement of the Khartoum regime in both times of peace and war; this enigma would continue probably unabbated for a while. I thought regional effort would involve the Bashir's Sudan as well.
BOB ACELLAM, HOIMA, UGANDA

Copyright 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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Rob Crilly is a freelance journalist writing about Africa for The Times, The Irish Times, The Daily Mail, The Scotsman and The Christian Science Monitor from his base in Nairobi. Currently, after spending Christmas in Somalia and seeing in the new year on a Mexican safari while helping to build an earthbag house, Rob is travelling in the USA and writing a book about the war in Darfur, Western Sudan.

Some posts at Rob's blog From The Frontline'
11/12/08: Who'd Have Thought It? Certainly not Tony Blair, Paul Kagame’s new best friend and adviser, who has said Rwanda does not control Laurent Nkunda and his rebel army

15/12/08: So my brief guide to African beers appeared in The Times this morning. Crilly's Cool Ones...

16/12/08: Finding Peace in Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic

21/12/08: My African Predictions for 2009
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Further reading

Moonlight in Dungu, N.E. DR Congo

Photo: Two young children stand outside their hut in the moonlight in Dungu, in North Eastern DR Congo, on 19 June, 2008. (Kate Holt) Ref. Sudan Watch 14 Dec 2008: Govts of Uganda, Sudan and DR Congo today launch joint offensive against Uganda LRA rebels in DRC, Uganda says.
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DR Congo: Dungu, Orientale Province Situation Report No. 4
From United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 29 Dec 2008 - excerpt:
According to unsubstantiated information, the LRA controls seven villages around Doruma: Batande (7km North East of Doruma), Manzagala (5km North East of Doruma), Mabando (7km of North East of Doruma), Bagbugu (8km South East of Doruma), Nakatilikpa (12km East of Doruma), Nagengwa (8km North East of Doruma) and Natulugbu (6km North of Doruma). The population of these villages is moving towards Watsa, Banda and Ango (Bas Uélé).
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(Cross posted today to this site's sister blog Uganda Watch and parent blog Sudan Watch)

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