The UPDF yesterday attacked the LordÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Resistance Army rebels, ending a 29-month ceasefire and signalling the complete failure of peace talks meant to end the two-decade old insurgency in northern Uganda.
According to a statement issued by the UPDF, soldiers from the Congolese army and that of the Government of South Sudan took part in yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s operation against the rebels in Garamba, in north eastern DR Congo. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The armed forces of Uganda (UPDF), DRC (FARDC) and Southern Sudan (SPLA) in a joint intelligence-led military operation, this morning the 14th of December 2008 launched an attack on LRA terrorists of Joseph Kony in Garamba forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo,Ã¢â‚¬Â� the statement released by UPDF spokesman, Maj. Paddy Ankunda said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The three armed forces successfully attacked the main body and destroyed the main camp of Kony codenamed camp Swahili setting it on fire,Ã¢â‚¬Â� it added. No details were available about casualties on either side, if any.
The statement added that military operations were continuing against the rebels. It was signed by chiefs of military intelligence from the three armies: Brig. James Mugira (UPDF), Brig. Mutual Majok (SPLA) and Brig. Deodenne Kitenge (FARDC).
Talks to end the war collapsed last month when rebel leader Joseph Kony failed to turn up for the third time this year to sign a deal earlier agreed upon by both sides. In a separate interview Maj. Ankunda told Daily Monitor last night that the attack was prompted by the rebel leaderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s failure to sign the deal. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He continues to kill and abduct so, we decided to move and rescue the women and children,Ã¢â‚¬Â� Maj. Ankunda said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“This operation is also intended to implement the warrant of arrests issued by the International Criminal Court against Kony and his top commanders.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
The UPDF spokesman said the DR Congo government, which had blocked previous attempts by the UPDF to cross the border and attack the rebels, had given a green light to the latest action. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We want to thank the DRC government for exhibiting the highest level of cooperation and allowing regional governments to conduct a joint operation to end LRAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s brutality,Ã¢â‚¬Â� Maj. Ankunda said.
Outgoing Internal Affairs minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, who headed the government negotiating team at the peace talks said last night: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The search for lasting peace in Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, DRC and the Central African Republic areas affected by LRA insurgency will continue.Ã¢â‚¬Â� Dr Rugunda was on Friday appointed UgandaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. He is expected to lobby the Security Council, on which Uganda will sit for two years starting Jan 1, 2009, to keep pressure on the LRA.
Military sources told Daily Monitor yesterday that the attack followed months of planning for a Ã¢â‚¬Å“plan BÃ¢â‚¬Â� and reconnaissance missions inside the vast Garamba National Park which is over 1000 kilometres from Gulu, the largest town in northern Uganda.
A combined force of infantry, the air force, and Special Forces are believed to have been involved in yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s attack. Brig. Patrick Kankiriho, who has been the UPDF 3rd division commander based in Moroto but was appointed by the President to lead the military crack unit against the LRA was reportedly in charge of the operation while Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the commander of the Special Forces, was also involved, military sources said last night.
A spokesman for the LRA, Mr David Nyekorach-Matsanga told Daily Monitor last night that the attack would be a Ã¢â‚¬Å“tragedyÃ¢â‚¬Â� to the prospects of peace for northern Uganda.
Mr Matsanga said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was in Kampala and I met President Museveni and he assured me that these attacks are not going to take place. If they took place this is a tragedy for the country and tragedy for Northern Uganda. If the UPDF have attacked the LRA they have violated the Cessation of Hostilities agreement we signed with the government.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
He added: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think a military option will bring peace to Northern Uganda rather it is a long route that will take the people of Northern Uganda back to the camps. If these attacks indeed took place it is a sign that the government wants the peace negotiations to collapse.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
Reported by Grace Matsiko, Paul Amoru and Risdel Kasasira in Kampala