In the Western parts of a disputed border land between South Sudan and Sudan is believed to be Africa’s most wanted man. Joseph Kony, wanted by the International Criminal court to answer charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity is traced to Kafia Kingi, a long disputed border by the world’s youngest nation and Sudan.
Kony who has been a profile figure on the worlds wanted list, is a major dealer in Ivory trade, controlling trade parts in Congo and Central African Republic. A recent LRA defector, told Enough Project an NGO that they were picking up elephant tusks from Garamba transporting them through Central African Republic and finally selling them off to the Sudan Armed Forces in Kafia Kingi in exchange for ammunition and food. The accuracy of this information could not be independently verified.
Back in the LRA camps in Central African Republic, the setup of the force is estimated to about 500 people. Ugandan intelligence reports show that through the years, the force has lost most of its fighter mass dropping from 2,700 soldiers in 2006 to about 250 fighter soldiers currently.
Reports from United States intelligence also show only 253 of the soldiers are armed which has weakened the force further. The assault weaponry at LRA’s disposal is not enough to conduct offensives owing to a weak command structure as well.
LRA defectors have indicated in interviews that major reshuffles have hit the high command of the force replacing the aging old crop of commanders who majorly lost fighting morale with younger aggressive turks. Recently captured Caesar Achellam, a major general at the time of his capture was a beneficiary of the reshuffles.
In a report authored by The Resolve released last week, a group of LRA fighters is estimated from 8-20 fighting men with their families. Other groups such as those commanded by Okot Odhiambo span to 40 but are also broken down into smaller units to confuse attacking forces.
Some of the senior commanders known to the UPDF intelligence are Leonard ‘Lubwa’ Bwone, Francis Abuchingu and Alphonse Lamola who are all on the target list for the UPDF force.
HOW DOES LRA SURVIVE
From the forests of Garamba, leaders of the LRA are said to be commanding operations for the killing of elephants which are eaten and the horns sold as Ivory to leading regional dealers and Asian countries. This however is unproven speculation. Until recently, captives of LRA who have managed to escape say the camp continues to struggle with feeding which has left them factioned in groups of 20’s for easier survival.
Central African wildlife authorities say the poaching done in the Garamba forests and wild reserves is done by high caliber military choppers believed to be army fighter helicopters.
However, Ugandan army disputes these reports. Army spokesperson says the LRA’s top brass commander only identified as Binany was shot and with him were 34 tusks of ivory and a cup of gold which were the believed to be headed to LRA’s central command in Kafia Kingi.
Resolve LRA also notes in their report that the LRA has recently conducted raids in the Central African Republic and looted a great deal of food for their survival.
The deal to transact in ivory may have been Kony’s last call but it didn’t go down well with the Ugandan LRA commanders who accuse him of losing the LRA ideology. Previous military settlements of the LRA are believed to have resisted trade with local communities.
The dissenting commanders term this as ‘absolute banditry’ which is not in line with their fight and beliefs.
Weapon-wise, the LRA is rumoured to be brokering arms deals with the Sudan Armed Forces. Despite the Sudanese government denying repeatedly the presence of Kony or any dealings with him, intelligence reports point to the two in dealings.
Communication between the ranks of LRA has strongly broken down, prior to the operation thunder lightning by the Ugandan forces; Kony’s preffered mode of communication was radio call messages with which he kept close call with most of his commanders. However the UPDF has since then cracked down on many of the coded messages relegating him to emissaries and carriers.
Most of his personal command is currently the only left form of communication. Many of the LRA commanders at Kony’s disposal are used to transmit messages of promotions, demotions and executions. With hardly any communication left, some LRA groups have operated in total isolation for close to a year now and it is alleged that defections have occurred too.
Kony might be a regional threat but the last strands of the LRA are seemingly evident. The halt in military operations in Central African Republic due to change in government after a Seleka rebels’ coup is only temporary.
The United States Deputy defence secretary made a trip to Uganda in the past week to woe the UPDF in re-igniting the hunt for Joseph Kony. While here, Ash Carter met with high ranking military officers and sealed agreements to have a fresh run on Joseph Kony.
A strike at this time on LRA is predictably the most dangerous and increases the vulnerability of the force, top LRA commanders remain scattered in areas of Sudan, Congo and Central African republic but a major attack on Kony’s frontline could draw all of them to the same place. With no potential way of attacking in the Sudan, UPDF will resort to attacks in Central African Republic to further weaken the LRA command.
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi when interviewed on the fight against LRA said the government of Uganda will unceasingly pursue the LRA till the last of its soldier’s defects or is killed.
All may seem lost for junior cadres of the LRA; the seemingly strong up north army they joined in recent years has been reduced to a scattered fleeing mass of individuals with scarce food resources and a diluted ideology. This is one of the major factors directly attributable to the recent defections.
Many of the junior file of LRA have not earned promotions or better still earned money to start a sensible life under the Kony’s command. With no vision of ever returning to Uganda,increased military engagement and come-home messages from NGO’s the battle is over for them.
It remains to be seen if Kony will be captured from his Kafia Kingi enclave to face the numerous charges against him before the international criminal court.
Back home in Uganda, communities in Northern Uganda are slowly resettling and sensible living returns, Karamoja is fast rising as an agricultural hub for the Northern Uganda region all factors detrimental to Kony’s bush war.
The LRA will however remain inked as the only rebel group to have successfully sustained a war against Museveni’s government for over twenty years.