Zombo attack: Security officials contradict on invaders
Mystery about the attackers who raided the army base in Zombo District on Thursday has deepened after security agencies yesterday gave conflicting accounts on the identity of the group.
On Sunday evening, the Zombo Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Andrew Kajoyingi, told the media in Paidha Town that the attack was carried out by a new rebel group called Uganda Homeland Liberation Force (UHLF).
He addressed the press after attending a high-level security meeting on Sunday.
On Thursday night, an unknown group of about 200 attackers armed with guns, spears, machetes and other traditional weapons, raided a Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) base in Oduk Village in Zombo Town Council.
Five soldiers and 22 attackers were killed and 35 invaders captured in the immediate and subsequent clashes as the UPDF repulsed the insurgents.
Quoting intelligence information, Mr Kajoyingi told the press on Sunday that the new rebel group is led by one Howard Openjuru and the attackers had received training at a base in Kiryandongo forest.
“These youth were secretly picked from here that they were going to work in some coffee plantations in Kiryandongo District and little did we knew that there would be such a subversive movement in the district. Our intelligence report indicates that it is led by Howard Openjuru,” he said, adding that the group’s main purpose was to capture arms from UPDF.
Mr Kajoyingi said the recruits of the subversive group comprised the indigenous Alur in West Nile and Lendu from Democratic Republic of Congo who were ferried to their training ground under the cover of being casual labourers for export.
However, the UPDF yesterday gave a contradicting account, saying the attackers were a mere armed criminal gang.
The UPDF 4th Division spokesperson, Maj Caesar Olweny, dismissed the RDC’s statements as untrue and questioned the credibility of Mr Kajoyingi’s claims and source of information.
“Where did the RDC get his information? He has not been part of the investigations because we are the ones holding some of the captives who are yet to tell us who they are exactly. I appeal to leaders to desist from making unconfirmed statements without verifying with us. He has not been at the frontline,” Maj Olweny told Daily Monitor yesterday.
He added: “These are just a gang of criminals and although they can be dangerous because they also had some guns. We are not sure of that information from the RDC unless some of the captives are in his custody. We have not yet finished our investigations to make such conclusions. What we know is that these are a cult-like group. The situation is now normal.”
When Daily Monitor reverted to the RDC to respond to the UPDF denial of his claims, Mr Kajoyingi did not reply our repeated calls and messages (SMS).
The unresolved identity of the attackers appeared more complex when Mr Openjuru, the alleged leader of the insurgents according to the RDC, disassociated himself from the group and condemned the attack.
“These people who brought very senseless and unnecessary attack in Zombo District must be condemned for the stupidity. You can’t start a war you can’t defend… and think you are serious. Worst still it is your home place where your family, friends and relatives are. That is committing suicide,” Mr Openjuru posted on his Facebook account yesterday evening.
He added: “We have our revolution coming at any moment but it will not be a stupid one like that. We are well prepared, organided and God is with us. We shall be very successful and liberate Uganda….”
Surprisingly Openjuru signed off his post under the UHLM/F, giving credence to the RDC’s statement to the media on Sunday night.
The intelligence reports say each attacker was promised Shs500,000 upon a successful battle.
According to information from security agencies, Mr Openjuru was in 2018 arrested in connection with subversive activities and charged in the court martial.
He is said to have jumped bail and his whereabouts remain unknown.
After the attack, Uganda security forces linked up with their counterparts in Democratic Republic of Congo, who sealed their borders at Mahagi and Jalasiga, making it hard for some of the attackers to escape.
Prime minister of the Alur Kingdom Vincent Ocaya described the attack as barbaric, saying it defies the Alur people’s ideology of peaceful coexistence.
“This is a shock to the Alur kingdom and whoever is found guilty of engineering this act must be apprehended and tried in the courts,” he said.
Mr Simon D’Ujanga, the State Minister for Energy and local MP, condemned the attack which he said undermines the social and economic development of the area.
“We condemn this act and we want our people to be more vigilant to report suspicious activities in their areas,” he said.
Mr D’Ujanga said the youth were misled into believing that the charms from their witchdoctors, would make them bullet-proof and reap economic benefits if the rebellion progressed.
A group of civilians totalling about 80 in number mostly from Paidha, Nyapea, Zeu, Zaale, Songoli, Atyak and a few from Warr armed with bows, arrows, pangas and spears, Misled by some Congolese elements seeking guns for use for criminal activities in Eastern Congo, carried out an adventurous attack on our detachment in Zombo on the night of Friday 6 March 2020.
03 UPDF soldiers were killed by hacking with pangas and arrows. The assailants were mobilised by some group who were recently given amnesty by government including one Ovoya a witch doctor and other ring leaders like Atochon, Oketcha, Openji Openjuru and a UPDF veteran Coporal Tonifa Bosco.
17 of these attackers were killed, 26 captured some with bullet injuries now in the hands of military investigators. Many more are being arrested by civilians in Konga, Jangukuru, Awasi, Ageri, Konga Kona Angwen and Adhosi.
Our forces in collaboration with Congolese Forces and authorities are still pursuing those that went to Congo. Some have been already arrested.
The claim in the story in New Vision of Monday March 9, 2020 on page 4, that these people were trained in Kiryandongo forest is unauthentic. Investigations are ongoing to establish more details about the matter.
UPDF will continue with the operation to ensure the group is wiped out and the leaders both in Uganda and Congo are brought to book. We have increased our boarder operations across the entire frontier with DRC in this area and call upon the wanainch to continue working with security forces to keep our boarders and our people safe and secure.
UPDF salutes the people of Zombo for the massive involvement and vital information sharing in this operation. The entire district is safe and secure.
Lt Col Deo Akiiki, Deputy Defence Spokesperson