LRA’s Odhiambo body brought for DNA tests

Sunday April 5 2015

Ugandan troops

Ugandan troops tracking the LRA rebels in the jungles of the Central African Republic last year. COURTESY PHOTO  

By RISDEL KASASIRA

KAMPALA.

The UPDF has flown to Kampala the body of one of the Lord’s Resistance Army top commanders for DNA testing to confirm whether it belongs to Okot Odhiambo, the late deputy commander to Joseph Kony.

Highly placed sources in the military say the body was brought to Uganda from the Central African Republic by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) two weeks ago.

The sources said UPDF was assisted by Bridgeway Foundation, an American charity organisation that has been facilitating anti-LRA operations in Central African Republic.

“The body was brought home and DNA tests are being carried out here. The process involves tracing his relatives to get samples but the results will be out soon,” a senior security source told Sunday Monitor this week.

The UPDF and Defence spokesperson Lt Col Paddy Ankunda said yesterday he was in a meeting and could not discuss the issue.

In February, the UPDF announced it had found Odhiambo’s grave in Haut Mbomu in Central African Republic two years after he died of bullet wounds he suffered in a gun battle between the rebels and Ugandan troops.

Odhiambo was indicted together with LRA leader Joseph Kony, his then deputy Vincent Otti, commander Raska Lukwiya and commander Dominic Ongwen by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2005.

Security and military sources said the ICC team will arrive here next week to work with the Bridgeway investigators and UPDF in tracking Odhiambo’s genealogical lineage by DNA tests which the army has categorised as “classified” (secret security material).

The DNA verification process would have taken place long time ago but was delayed by logistical constraints, according to the sources.

Odhiambo’s grave, according to the UPDF, was found in February after LRA defectors guided the Ugandan troops to the location.

Should the body be confirmed to be that of Odhiambo, Kony will remain the only fugitive of the five. Vincent Otti and Raska Lukwiya were confirmed dead while Dominic Ongwen was recently apprehended in CAR and is currently on trial in The Hague.

About Okot Odhiambo
According to the LRA Crisis Tracker by Invisible Children and Resolve, a platform that documents LRA activities, Odhiambo probably joined the rebels in late 1980s and rose through the ranks to become an LRA army commander.

He was in charge of two separate rebel brigades when the LRA was based in current day South Sudan.

He demonstrated absolute loyalty to Kony, who rewarded him with senior positions in the LRA hierarchy, including that of army commander.

In 2005, the ICC indicted Odhiambo on 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Odhiambo, who former LRA fighters describe as a man of few words, profited from the well-known animosity between two other commanders Caesar Acellam and Vincent Otti, Kony’s former deputy, during the Juba peace negotiations in 2007.

Kony accused Otti of engaging in secret talks with the Uganda government and suspected him of treachery. He executed Otti in October 2007.
According to LRA Crisis Tracker, Kony handed Otti’s position to Odhiambo who had personally supervised Otti’s execution and that of his loyalists as Kony monitored from a house of his chief security officer.

Invisible Children says after Otti’s death, Kony reorganised the LRA command and at the start of 2008, Odhiambo and his deputy Bok Abudema left Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo with more than 100 fighters to create a new LRA base called Nigeria, close to the Congolese village of Bitima.

The base, according to LRA Crisis Tracker, was about 50 miles east of the LRA’s Camp Swahili in Garamba.

When the Ugandan military launched Operation Lightning Thunder offensive in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2008, Odhiambo and his fighters were the first to relocate towards the Central African Republic.

On Kony’s orders, Odhiambo stopped near the DR Congo-Central African Republic border in May 2009 and allowed Kony to cross first. Odhiambo followed Kony, but left Abudema behind with orders to meet with them later in the Central African Republic CAR.

However, Ugandan forces killed Abudema near the Central African Republic town of Djemah in December 2009 as he was tried to trace Kony and Odhiambo who were moving together.
Odhiambo was reportedly shot in combat in 2013 and later died of his wounds.

Lra commanders
Joseph Kony (hiding in CAR)
Vincent Otti (confirmed dead)
Raska Lukwiya (confirmed dead)
Okot Odhiambo (presumed dead)
Dominic Ongwen (on trial)

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