Monday April 30 2012

Khartoum aiding Kony rebels again

Col. Joseph Balikuddembe (L), commander of UPDF troops hunting Kony in CAR, and US Navy SEALS commander Capt. Gregory speak to journalists at the Counter LRA Operations Fusion Centre in Obo

Col. Joseph Balikuddembe (L), commander of UPDF troops hunting Kony in CAR, and US Navy SEALS commander Capt. Gregory speak to journalists at the Counter LRA Operations Fusion Centre in Obo yesterday. PHOTO BY TABU BUTAGIRA 

By TABU BUTAGIRA

OBO, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

The Sudan government has resumed arming the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, a senior Ugandan army official has said. Col. Felix Kulayigye, the military spokesperson, who said rebel leader Joseph Kony is hiding in the Khartoum-controlled Bahr el Ghazal region, told a US-organised briefing on regional counter-LRA efforts, that Omar Bashir’s government is offering arms, ammunition and uniforms to the rebels.

“He had to run to his ‘god-father’, he said, citing information extracted from an unnamed LRA fighter captured by the UPDF. “The report we have is that they (rebels) are being supplied with arms, food and uniform.”

Uganda has previously admitted it supported Bashir’s adversaries, the former SPLA rebels, in their struggle for autonomy in part to avenge the Sudanese leader’s alleged use of Kony’s forces to seek to expand Islam south through a proxy war with Kampala.

Col. Joseph Balikudembe, commander of the Ugandan forces hunting the rebel fighters, yesterday contradicted Col. Kulayigye when he told a group of visiting journalists in Obo, the Central African Republic, that they believed Kony was hibernating in Djema, about 120 kilometres northwest of Obo.

Sudanese Ambassador Hassan Ali was unavailable for comment last night.
The contrasting accounts about Kony whereabouts come in the wake of yesterday’s declaration by Khartoum of a state of emergency in its border area with South Sudan.

Officials of the US military, which has 100 elite Special Forces deployed to remove Kony and his top commanders from the battle field, declined to discuss the whereabouts of the wanted warlord.

US Special Forces ground commander, Capt. Gregory, 29, said the elite Green Berets and Navy SEALS do not venture into the dense jungle to try and locate Kony.

Instead, they are stationed at four forward operating bases – in Obo (CAR), Nzara (South Sudan), Djema (CAR) and Ddungu (DRC) - gathering and analysing intelligence to give technical guidance to regional troops in tracking the fighters.

The rough terrain, dearth of communication infrastructure and existence of armed gangs in the heavily-forested and vast area are undermining efforts to locate the rebels, Capt. Gregory said.

US officials declined to discuss specifics of their ground action, and how that is aiding regional armies, on grounds that such a disclosure would tip off the LRA.
“Joseph Kony is not stupid to survive this long, said Navy Capt. Ken Wright, the US commander on the counter-LRA effort. “We are very careful about not giving them any ammunition to stay in the jungle a day longer.”

There were also contradicting accounts on engagements with LRA. Whereas the UPDF said its troops encountered the rebels as recently as last month, American Special Forces said it has not heard or known of any contact between the rebels and regional armies since they set up base there in December, 2011.

According to Col. Balikudembe, they have this year killed seven LRA fighters, captured one, rescued 14 abductees and recovered High Frequency radios, a solar panel, two Sudan Armed Forces uniforms and 10 SMG rifles.

tbutagira@ug.nationmedia.com

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