A coalition of three American civil society organisations has accused the Sudanese government of resuming assistance to Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, designated by the US government as a terrorist group.
An official of the Sudan embassy in Kampala, however, dismissed the allegations as “fabrications”, saying President Omar Bashir’s government is actively involved instead in regional and African Union’s counter-LRA initiatives.
The latest allegations against Sudan are contained in a new joint report that The Resolve, Enough Project and Invisible Children released yesterday in which they note that between 2009 and February, this year, Kony lived in Kafia Kingi, a disputed border area with South Sudan presently under Khartoum’s control.
“According to LRA defectors and other sources, the rebel leader Joseph Kony himself first travelled to the Kafia Kingi enclave in 2010.
He returned to Kafia Kingi in 2011 and was present there throughout parts of 2012,” notes the report co-authored by The Resolve’s Executive Director Michael Poffenberger and his policy director Paul Ronan.
The Uganda military last year raised similar unproven allegations, which Khartoum denied.
The new report says military officers and diplomats assigned on counter-LRA mission are aware of Khartoum’s renewed support, but reluctant to speak out openly.
It notes: “In the absence of effective diplomacy, Sudanese government officials have refused to cooperate fully with regional counter-LRA initiatives and have denied allegations of the LRA’s presence in Kafia Kingi with impunity.”
Mr Khalid Osman Maouia, the chargé d’affaires at the Sudan embassy in Kampala, questioned the timing of the report and motive of its authors, noting th at the recycled allegations are aimed at smudging the reputation of his government.
“Sudan never, and will not, assist Joseph Kony. Sudan considers LRA as a terrorist group, Mr Maouia said, “Sudan is part of African Union and regional initiatives to counter and fight the LRA.”
Before, he said, Khartoum signed a bilateral agreement with Kampala allowing Uganda People’s Defence Forces – then working side-by-side with Sudan’s military - to pursue LRA insurgents inside Sudan’s territory from 2000 to 2006.
What became known as Operation Iron Fist dismantled LRA camps in South Sudan, which by then was part of the Republic of Sudan, forcing Kony and his fighters to flee to Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo in August 2005.
The 2006 peace talks between LRA and the Uganda government remained inconclusive, and Uganda in December 2008, raided the rebels’ lair in Garamba Forest, thus fleeing to Central African Republic and Chad.
Kony and his top commanders, who are wanted by the International Criminal Court, survived the offensive which has now morphed into an AU-sanctioned regional counter-LRA offensive, following reports of the rebels’ continued plunder and atrocities in loosely-governed corners of three countries.
Partly influenced by the unyielding lobby of the three US civil society groups, one of which later produced the (in) famous Kony 2012 movie, President Barack Obama in October 2011 deployed about 100 US NAVY who have camped in the jungles to help regional militaries with high-tech equipment and intelligence gathering.
The intention is to remove wanted Kony and his top lieutenants who have eluded capture or death since 1987.
In the report, the authors claim Kony is now hiding in Central African Republic and there is a possibility of his return to Kafia Kingi enclave.
They, however, acknowledge no evidence exists to incriminate Sudan in supplying arms to LRA or its military officers actively working with Kony other than hosting him.
Since the 1990s, Bashir’s government was believed to use LRA to fight Ugandan government.