Kony rebels returning to Garamba, says UN report

The United Nations says the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels are regrouping to re-occupy Garamba forest, a year after the Ugandan military chased them from there.

Tuesday April 27 2010

By Tabu Butagira & Betty Kyakuwa

Kampala

Monuc, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in its April 11-17 weekly security update, reports that no one knows Joseph Kony’s whereabouts but “there is more evidence of LRA group operating in the Faradje area.” “LRA may be moving back to arms caches in the Garamba national park; LRA appears to have re-established themselves in the Faradje area [east of Garamba],” notes the 27-page report.

It adds: “As previously assessed, information indicated that Kony might have returned to DRC. The LRA appear to be trying to regenerate themselves and there is an assessed increase in [their] numbers within DRC.”

Enough, a Washington D.C. –based project dedicated to ending genocide, on March 11 chronicled previously unreported but intensified LRA atrocities in eastern DRC from late last year to early this year. “The LRA continues to pose a severe threat to civilians in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo,” says the report compiled by Enough’s Field Researcher Ledio Cakaj.

“Since the LRA began attacking civilians on Congolese soil in September of 2008 through the end of 2009, it has killed approximately 1,800 civilians with 300 deaths during December 2009. More than 100 people were killed during January 2010.”

Arua in sight
The Ugandan military at the time swiftly denied the findings on grounds the rebels have been decimated and have no ability to carry out such signature raids.
Yesterday, Defence and Military Spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye said of the Monuc report: “I cannot comment on the matter because we don’t have the information you are looking for.”

If the rebels are in Faradje as reported, that places them some 226 kilometres away from Arua border District, taking the Ariwara-Aba-Faradje route – but a much shorter distance when travelled through the bushes. The UPDF, saying it worked with the armies of DRC and South Sudan, dislodged the rebels from their lair in Garamba during the Operation Lightning Thunder launched on December 14, 2008.

However, internal political disagreements forced President Joseph Kabila to ask the Ugandan troops to withdraw, leaving behind an intelligence contingent reported to be doing tracking of the LRA oscillating between DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Captive’s tale
Monuc, quoting an 18-year-old woman reportedly set free by the LRA at Li-Ika on March 31 following her abduction from Bamokandi on March 20, says the rebels feed on beans, rice and maize flour grabbed from villagers’ homes or their farmlands.

Female abductees are compelled to ferry loot, provide forced labour and serve as sex slaves for commanders, according to the report officially restricted to only UN staff.

The woman, the report says, was, while in captivity, in the company of “fifty-six well-armed LRA fighters with good military uniforms; six other women and a number of abducted boys who carried weapons and were associated with the operations.”

It also emerged that the rebels dropped a letter originally written in Kiswahili and dated April 7, 2010 in which they denied massacring civilians; pleaded with Congolese President Joseph Kabila to let them stay unchecked and blame the antipathy towards them on First Lady Janet Museveni who “does not want us”.

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