Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rock and a hard place

No news is bad news.

Despite the flurry of stories over the past couple of days on the defection and pending surrender of Okot Odhiambo, the deputy commander of the Lord's Resistance Army, we have heard nothing in the past 48 hours.

A uniformed Odhiambo is pictured above in the lower center, with former LRA deputy commander Vincent Otti to the left, whom rebel commander Joseph Kony reportedly executed in October 2007.

I took this photo at a meeting between the LRA and former peace talks mediator Riek Machar in July 2006, not far from Kony's camp near the border of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Odhiambo is supposedly negotiating with the Ugandan army and reportedly is demanding the same amnesty that Uganda has given more the 20,000 former fighters with the LRA.

That's an astounding number of former soldiers, considering that Kony's army has probably never been more than one or two thousand, but gives you an idea of how many people have been abducted by his army and forced to kill their families, friends, relatives and thousands of other innocents.

But if Uganda does give Odhiambo and his unit of 45 fighters amnesty, it will be putting itself between a rock and hard place. Odhiambo has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity since 2005.

Uganda first went to the ICC in late 2003 and asked the ICC to get involved, and it did. Now it's up to Uganda to turn him over to the ICC, when and if they get him. Only Uganda is balking, saying it's going to keep Odhiambo in Uganda and put him on trial there, assuming they don't give him amnesty.

Considering that Odhiambo is said to have been behind some of the worst massacres committed by the LRA, as well as the recent killing of more than 200 people in one village alone in the DRC, it is hard to beleive that Uganda would give him amnesty.

Uganda put itself in this situation and must show a little backbone and moral strength.

Meanwhile, the deafening silence surrounding the Odhiambo announcement gives credence to the accusations that this is yet another ruse by the LRA to buy time and secure food and medical supplies.

Odhiambo is said to have been badly injured in either the initial strike on Kony's camps on December 14th, or in subsequent gun battles. The Ugandan army said it has captured huge supplies of food that the LRA has been storing and which it received from the international community, supposedly to keep them at the peace table. It didn't work.

The LRA has been on a rampage since then, killing nearly 900 people according to the latest count from the United Nations, and has forced 130,000 people to flee.

With their food supplies gone, the Ugandan army on their tail, and most of the people in the region gone, the LRA is going to be hard pressed for food and ammo.

So maybe this is a feint by Odhiambo. We shall soon see. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The reported defection and pending surrender of Okot Odhiambo, the deputy of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, is a serious blow.

Long thought to be the militia's most ruthless commander, Odhiambo (left above) became deputy to leader Joseph Kony (right above) after Kony executed the former deputy, Vincent Otti who was a strong advocate for peace in October 2007.

Odhiambo is said to have been the LRA commander most responsible for the deadly attack in Feburary 2004 on the Barlonyo refugee camp near Lira in northern Uganda that killed more than 300 people, most of whom were burned to death in their huts, hacked to death or had their head crushed.

Odhiambo's force is thought to be about 45 fighters and about 10 kidnapped civilians. He reportedly has been suffering from serious wounds sustained in battles with the Ugandan army, which is pursuing them.

Odhiambo, along with Kony and a third commander named Dominic Ongwen, are wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Odhiambo took his force to the Doruma area after Uganda's Dec. 14 attack on the LRA's main camp in the Garamba National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Doruma, his forces are said to have killed more then 200 people, about 50 of whom were hacked to death while trying to hide in a church.

Now Odhiambo is demanding amnesty and to stay in Uganda, just like the demands that have been made for the past several years by the LRA as terms of its disarming.

Some sources suggest, however, that the surrender is bogus and only an attempt to buy time and seek aid. We will soon know.

However, if the defection and pending surrender are real, it could be the first of more defections and the beginning of the end for Kony and the LRA.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The photo above, by Peter Martell, of the UN's humanitarian news agency, IRIN, contradicts claims by the Uganda army that subcommanders in the Lord's Resistance Army want to surrender.

Led by the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium, Josephy Kony, the LRA has been on bloody rampage the past six weeks in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

At least 700 people, all innocent civilians, have been killed as revenge against a Dec. 14 attack on LRA camps in the DRC's Garamba National Park by the Ugandan army.

Pictured above are children now in South Sudan who have fled the LRA, some of whom were forced by the LRA to watch as their parents were hacked to death.

"The LRA [Lord's Resistance Army] attacked our village of Diko [on 4 January], taking 10 people with them," Saleh Sebit, a village elder, told IRIN. "We do not know where they are, and we fear they are now dead."

One eight-year-old boy said he was forced to watch rebel fighters chop the legs and arms off his father and a companion, before they beat the men to death with a wooden club, IRIN was told.

"The LRA attacked two tractors as [they were] coming with people to Mundiri," added Sebit. "They fired, killing one, and set fire to the vehicles."

Sebit and the boy are just two of an estimated 8,000 people displaced in a recent upsurge of attacks on farming villages in Sudan's Western Equatoria state. Many of the displaced, according to state officials, are now staying with relatives, according to IRIN.

These attacks also question the claims by the government of South Sudan that it has "closed" its border with the DRC, in an effort to prevent the LRA from entering the country and killing civilians.

Meanwhile, the Kampala-based Daily Monitor newspaper, quotes the Uganda military as saying that the LRA's sub-commanders want to surrender.

The army said it couldn't name the commanders because they they'd be killed by Kony, just as he did in October 2007 to his long-time deputy commander, Vincent Otti.

The reports were a progress report sent to the media by Capt. Deo Akiiki, the spokesman for the latest military offensive against the LRA dubbed, “Operation Lightning Thunder,” according to the Monitor.

“We assure Ugandans that this Kony nuisance will come to the end. We are in touch with some LRA commanders and soon or later they will surrender to us. Those who will persist will either be captured or killed in the jungles,” Capt. Akiiki said.

He said apart from contacting the army with a proposal to surrender; the rebel commanders have also approached some Non-governmental Organisations over the same matter.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

LRA was high tech in the bush

The ability of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army to stay a step ahead of the Ugandan army and other adversaries is evident with the recent capture of equipment pictured above.
With its wide array of laptop computers and at least a dozen satellite phones and other equipment, the LRA appears to have been able to stay abreast of international developments via the Internet.
Such capacities, however, require computer skills that neither LRA leader Joseph Kony, nor the vast majority of his fighters and commanders have.
Abducted as children from their villages in northern Uganda, most in the LRA have been living in the bush their entire lives. They lack formal education, certainly not computer training, and instead have undergone the bizarre indoctrination at the hands of Kony and his commanders.
So where did all of this equipment come from and who operated it? Satellite phones require the purchase of air time, and you can't buy it in remote villages in the jungle. Who was buying that for the LRA and how was that done?
The mere presence of this equipment and communications devices shows that Kony has an organized system of support far beyond the confines of his camps in the Garamba National Park of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It is this network that should be investigated by the international community as it is clear that this network in the Acholi tribal diaspora has been vital to the survival of the LRA.
Even Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has alluded to this network, as he explained why and how Kony was able to escape the Dec. 14 attack on his camps in Garamba.
Museveni said that among the equipment pictured above, was a radio that may have allowed Kony to monitor communications the Ugandan army and learn of a pending attack.
The Ugandan army know how to keep its communications secure? Or, has the Ugandan army been infiltrated with Kony sympathizers?
The existance of Kony supporters in the Acholi tribal diaspora was evidenced recently when Kony's former negotiators made public their distaste for the LRA's self-proclaimed new spokesman, David Matsanga.
These former representatives, most of them ex-patriots of northern Uganda, also alluded to the formation of a new rebel group called the Uganda People's Liberation Front and Army.
The Kony support network, some have suggested, not only purchased this equipment, but smuggled it in the massive shipments of food and supplies that were paid for by the international community and trucked to the jungle camps of Kony by the Catholic charity, Caritas.
Fortunately, this support for Kony by the international community has ended, and, as far as we can tell, so has Kony's access to electronics. Kony certainly kept a few sat phones as he fled his camp. But they won't last long without batteries, battery chargers, and airtime.
While Kony's ability to wage war may have been damaged, he has yet to be captured or killed. He is still out there, and his soldiers are still killing innocent civilians.
While the Ugandan government has obtained the support of the Central African Republic in the fight against the LRA, it also shows that Uganda is very worried that Kony will head to the CAR.
If he goes there, as many suspect he will, he will become harder and harder to capture or contain, with or without his high tech equipment.

Friday, January 23, 2009

CAR joins, Congo extends

Photo left: Uganda army special forces alight from an assault helicopter during an operation against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) camp in Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2008 ( Reuters) Photo right: destroyed village in DRC, photo by Doctors Without Borders.

According to a story by Radio France International, the Central African Republic will participate in joint military operations with the Ugandan army against the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

Led by self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony, the LRA has been on a killing spree in northeastern DR Congo since it was attacked on Dec. 14 by Ugandan forces. As it has in the past, the LRA is expected to cross into the CAR which has an undefended and porous border with the DRC.

The development comes as the DRC has agreed to let Ugandan troops remain in its country to hunt rebels for 21 more days, according to RFI.

Ugandan officials say the mandate for joint operations could be extended once more.

"Kony, if he was clever enough, he would either surrender, go to the designated area of Ri-Kwangba and sign the peace agreement," Captain Deo Akiiki, Ugandan army spokesman told RFI.

"If he continues fighting I don't believe he will succeed anyway. This is a different situation, a different territory and the successes against the LRA are evident," he added.

Akiiki told RFI that the LRA has no food because Ugandan troops destroyed its camps.

"I don't see where Kony's hiding. I am sure he will not get any other safe haven, not in the DRC, Southern Sudan or the Central African Republic," Akiiki said.

"We will not be diverted by LRA's tricks of breaking into two parts but we know where the main part of LRA is and we will go for them," Akiiki told RFI.

"Because of the pressure we are putting on them because of the many fighting squads we are having in their jungles" the attacks on civilians have stopped, he said.
But people in the region continue to flee for their lives, he said.

"Frightened people continue to move out of their villages, but at the moment at least we have all fighting mechanisms put in place to ensure that these destructions are not done," said Akiiki.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kony could strike back

The new investigative reporting publication, The Independent, in Kampala, Uganda, ( is reporting on growing dissent among the current and former military leaders in Uganda over the on-going operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The generals suggest that the strike against Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army, was designed as a short-term move. But since it has failed to turn up much, except for things like Kony's guitar, pictured here, the strike is looking more like it will be a long and bloody affair.
As Independent's managing editor Andrew Mwenda notes, it would seem like the operation could and should be a success. After all, the Ugandan army is backed by the UN peacekeeping force to the south. To the north it has the South Sudan army, and on their side is the Congolese army.
Kony is supposedly boxed in.
But according to one unnamed general, a long-term war in that remote location could be disastrous for the Ugandan army. A sustained campaign could work to Kony's advantage.
First of all, the general points out, the Congolese and South Sudanese contributions to the effort are limited. It's unlikely they will have the stomach for an drawn-out war.
Secondly, the LRA is accustomed to working in small, highly mobile, and independent units. They survive by attacking and looting villages and are not interested in taking and holding territory.
But most importantly, to sustain such a war, Uganda will need to establish base camps and supply lines treacherous and remote areas.

“This will leave our army badly exposed,” the general told the Independent, “because LRA will now be able to attack UPDF supply lines to loot food (and therefore feed off our backs) and to make it difficult and expensive for us to sustain our troops" in Garamba National Park where Kony is still thought to be.
"It would be almost impossible (and if possible extremely expensive in money and soldiers) to secure the vast distance ..., " the general said. "There are no roads, there are few human settlements and most of the place is either forest or bush. No commander would love to be in such a situation.”
Not only is the future bleak for the innocent civilians in the area who have suffered, but also for the Uganda military.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's east African roots

We all know about President Barack Obama's father being Kenyan, but now claims are being made that Obama's grandfather was a Ugandan.

In an article published in the Kampala newspaper, the Daily Monitor, and written by Angelo Izama, a group claims that Obama's Luo tribal connections extend to regions of Kenya that were once part of Uganda in the 1920s when it was a British protectorate.

According to the Monitor, the information came in a statement signed by Nelson Umah Tete about a book titled “The Luo” by George William Alenyo.

The organisation, Luo Community [Ugandan Chapter], is however an unregistered entity whose real membership remains unknown, the Monitor said.

“By 1926 when Obama’s grandfather Onyango Obama was born in Nyanza province [it] was still part of the Uganda protectorate whose boundary extended up to the Rift Valley in Nakuru” the statement said, adding that the boundaries were not altered until 1926.

As we all know, Obama’s African roots have been a source of excitement in the region, and a beer has been named after him in Kenya. Children born on the day he won the presidency have been named after him.

DVD’s with his speeches are selling like blockbusters and his acceptance speech has been turned into a cellular phone ringtone, the Monitor reports.

While ‘Obamania’ has shown no signs of ebbing, it holds a special significance to ethnic Luo group.

It must be noted that the Luo tribe in western Kenya is closely related to the Acholi tribe in northern Uganda, of which Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army is a member.

The Acholi as well as the Luo, as they're known, both speak the Luo language, which in northern Uganda is also simply called Acholi.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New focus on Africa needed

The suspense and anticipation is palatable as the U.S. swears- in Barack Obama as its first African-American president.

It is a milestone, of course, and a colossal turn-around in American governance and policy.

While Obama surely will bring about change on many fronts, one of the places it is sorely needed is Africa.

But leveraging change in Africa won't come immediately, as Obama's priority must be the crumbling U.S. economy. As the world's economic engine, the U.S. economy drives the fortunes of the world.

Some levers for shifting gears are already in place in Africa. Specifically, the U.S. military's new African Command, Africom.

While it does not necessarily mean more troop involvement, it well could. In announcing the new command, generals said that U.S. forces in Africa would support humanitarian aid efforts there.

This has led to complaints about the militarization of foreign aid, which is a legitimate concern. However, given the state of most Africa countries, the carrot-and-stick approach could prove effective.

Having lived in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Africa, I know well the failure of foreign aid. Providing aid without demanding results and accountability is not only wrong, it perpetuates the conditions that created the need.

The best example we have is with Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army, now rampaging through northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo where it has killed more than 600 innocent people, abducted hundreds of others, and raped and mutilated scores more.

This is the same army that was pampered and fed by a collection of European countries for more than two years as an inducement to negotiate. But after two years, Kony and his LRA made fools of the international community by not signing a peace deal on three separate occasions.

And now Kony's on what is the most bloody rampage in his army's horrific 22-year existence.

Chances are slight that the U.S. will get involved in the hunt for Kony that continues by the Ugandan Army.

What we can expect quickly, however, is some action in Darfur. During his campaign, Obama called for direct action in Darfur, and this has been reiterated by his designated Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

First is the likely imposition of a no-fly zone over Darfur, which will be enforced by U.S. air power already based in the region. This would effectively ground Sudan's fleet of Antonov bombers and attack helicopters, and would go a long way toward stopping the destruction of Darfur's villages.

Other actions have been suggested, as were leaked in a recent White House memo, such as jamming Sudan's communications system and blockading Sudan's ports -- a move that would halt the flow of Sudan oil which President Omar al-Bashir uses to fund his war in Darfur.

While the world's attention to Africa will soon shift to Darfur, it would be nice if some of that attention would spill over to the bloody corner of the DRC where Kony and his LRA continues kill innocent people with impunity.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Death toll climbs

According to a story in the New Vision newspaper in Kampala, Uganda, hundreds of civilians were burned to death on Saturday by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.

The rebels set ablaze a church called Bima in the Democratic Republic of Congo at midnight as the faithful prayed, according to the New Vision.

It is not yet known how many were in the church at the time, according to Radio Okapi, the UN's radio network in Congo. The rebels reportedly attacked others with axes and knives, slitting throats and crushing skulls.

The massacre occurred in the towns of Tora and Libombi, and two nearby mining communities located 130km from Dungu, the base of operations for the Ugandan military which is chasing the LRA.

According to the president of the civil society of Dungu, Felicien Balani: “The LRA entered around midnight. They surprised the faithful of the church who were in a prayer vigil. They burned them in the church,” said Balani.

The rebels also burnt several houses at the gold mine town of Tora. So far recorded are five deaths and six injured.

Civil society organisations working in Dungu said over 100 people had fled the area by yesterday.

“In Doruma, it was really awful. They had killed at least 300 people. We were in a village where there are only six survivors, all the others were killed,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, of Human Rights Watch.

“One of the few survivors, a 72-year-old man who arrived late for Christmas lunch, hid in the bushes and watched in horror as his wife, children and grandchildren were killed,” Woudenberg told New Vision.

After the massacre, the rebels “ate the Christmas feast the villagers had prepared, and then slept among the dead bodies before continuing on their trail of destruction and death” through another 12 villages.

Another 86 people were massacred in the most recent incidents.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More time, more trouble

Ugandan officials are going to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital of Kinshasa this week to ask for more time to hunt rebels.

Uganda had approval from the DRC to chase the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army for a month that ended Jan. 14, 30 days after the military first attacked the LRA camps in the Garamba National Park on Dec. 14.

Even though the deadline passed, Uganda made no moves to withdraw its troops.

Neither has it produced evidence that a month of fighting has done anything to slow, stop, kill or capture the LRA and its leader Joseph Kony.

Instead, the death toll among the civilian population of northeastern DRC continues to mount, with the UN saying more than 600 have been killed, about 400 more abducted and more than 100,000 people displaced.

It is also somewhat gratifying to see that the Enough project, has finally joined me and a growing chorus who have condemned the Ugandan operation as a dismal failure, despite the government's claims to the contrary.

Uganda's request for an extension signals what I predicted shortly after the attack began. Uganda will only create the same disastrous situation that it did in northern Uganda when it conducted a "war" against Kony and the LRA.

As has been widely reported in the Ugandan news media and as I amply demonstrate in my new book on the LRA (First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army), the war in the north was poorly fought and undermanned.

This was due to the massive fraud perpetrated by the Ugandan army's high command which listed thousands of "ghost soldiers" on it's pay rolls as fighting in the north, when they didn't exist. The generals and commanders pocketed the money.

Meanwhile, the Acholi and Langi people of northern Uganda were herded into 200 refugee camps and bore the brunt of the LRA's endless attacks on these poorly guarded camps, which became the LRA's favorite soft targets.

Since the Ugandan army was unable to capture Kony or defeat the LRA after more than 20 years of war, why does it think it can do so in the DRC which is more difficult terraine and more remote?

It can't. Ultimately the Ugandan army will be forced to set up its own military camps and from them wage war against the LRA.

As a sign of things to come, Ugandan army spokesman Paddy Ankunda told the French Press Agency, that, "It's going to take a little more thinking to figure out how civilians are going to be protected."

Fortunately, most of the regional population already has fled. Those who remain will be herded into defensible civilian camps, much like those in northern Uganda. Viola! We're right back to where we were in Uganda: an endless war with endless bloodshed.

Meanwhile, the situation swirling around this botched campaign is taking on ever more bizarre dimensions.

The LRA's self-proclaimed spokesman, David Nyekorach-Matsanga, told AFP that a ceasefire agreement was imminent.

This is as credible as Matsanga's previous claims.

"There is a ceasefire coming soon because the Ugandan army knows it has not achieved its objective. The LRA will never be defeated through fighting, only through dialogue," he told AFP.

Matsanga, who says he is in regular contact with the elusive Kony, said talks are ongoing between Kampala and former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, who serves as the UN special envoy to LRA-affected areas.

Ugandan officials don't beleive Matsanga because there is need. What is the point of a ceasefire? A peace agreement has already been negotited and now only needs to be signed, something Kony has refused to do three times.

A ceasefire will only give the LRA time to regroup. Uganda knows that.

"There will only be a ceasefire if Joseph Kony himself gives categorical assurances that he will sign the Final Peace Agreement," Uganda's deputy foreign minister, Okello Oryem, told AFP.

"The communication must come directly from Kony," Okello told AFP.

Ankunda, meanwhile, was quick to reject the claim that Matsanga and Kony recently spoke. "David Matsanga is not in touch with Kony. That is a fact," he said.

That certainly hasn't stopped Matsanga from getting all the press he wants.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Condemnation, but no action

The United Nations Security Council has once again condemned the atrocities that are currently being committed by the Lord's Resistance Army.

On Friday, the UNSC issued a press statement, read aloud by the Council President Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, which chairs the council this month.

Here it is:

"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned the recent attacks carried out by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which have resulted in over 500 dead and over 400 abducted, as well as the displacement of over 104,000 people. The members of the Council expressed their grave concern at the scale of these atrocities and emphasized that those responsible must be brought to justice.

"The members of the Security Council reiterated the statement of the President of the Security Council 22 December 2008. The members of the Council expressed their deep concern that the Council’s previous calls for the LRA to cease its attacks, and recruitment and use of children, and to release all women, children and non-combatants, have not been heeded.

"The members of the Security Council demanded that the members of the LRA cease all attacks on civilians immediately, and urged them to surrender, assemble, and disarm, as required by the Final Peace Agreement."

Does the world need yet another strongly worded statement? It seems that the LRA, and its leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium, has committed enough atrocities in the past twenty-two years to warrant more than grumbling from the UN's guiding council.

The French like to present themselves as the bastion of "liberty, fraternity, and equality," but they're disinclined to do much to enforce those values.

It's not as though France couldn't.

As I stated last week during a interview on BBC radio's The World Today show, putting an end to Kony and the LRA's endless rampages will take more than letting the Ugandan army wander around the jungles of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It will take a well-trained and well-equipped force authorized by the UN and composed of international troops with the specific goal of capturing or killing Kony.

This is not without precedent. It's been done before in other African countries, including eastern DRC when the inept horde of UN peacekeepers there, which number an astounding 17,000 soldiers, were unable to keep the peace. The UN authorized a limited European Union force to enter the country, settle the situation, then pull out. It worked.

Such a force is sitting very close by. It's called European Force, or Eufor, and is about 5,000 EU troops, mostly French, who are in eastern Chad on the border with Sudan.

They're positioned as a deterrent to any further invasions by the Sudan-backed rebels who attacked the Chad capital of Ndjamena last February. And, some speculate that the force may be there to help protect Chad's oil fields, which are pumping out crude that is piped to the west coast of Africa via Cameroon.

But, there's not much for them do these days. Why can't the UN send them in for one-month mission? It's clear the Ugandan army needs help, as does South Sudan and the Central African Republic, where most say the LRA is headed.

The Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA), which is South Sudan's army, has found dozens of body of people believed to be killed by the Ugandan Lord Resistance Army (LRA) after being abducted.

And, the BBC reports that rebels attacked a village in the DRC this week, killing four people, including a girl of four and abducting a boy of nine. A bishop in South Sudan says two men had their hands and legs chopped off and were beaten to death, as boys watched.

The BBC noted that the LRA now operates in at least four countries in the region, and that the CAR has sent troops to its border with DR Congo in an effort to push back the rebels.

The survivors of the LRA attacks told a UN agency that the rebels looted and torched their houses, forcing them to flee into the forest.

"What we saw was shocking," David Nthengwe, UNHCR spokesman for eastern DR Congo, told the BBC. "People live in fear in the forest. Many of them are unable to move, as they fear that the LRA is going to attack them."

Clearly the Ugandan army is not making much progress. Yet, the Eufor sits there in Chadian desert, just an hour away by air.

Friday, January 16, 2009

LRA in disarray, again

My friend and fellow reporter, Henry Mukasa of the New Vision newspaper in Kampala, this week contacted the former spokesman for Lord's Resistance Army's former negotiating team.

The former spokesman, Obonyo Olweny, says that the self-proclaimed spokesman and chief negotiator for the LRA, David Matsanga, does not represent the LRA and never has.

By so doing, Olweny has shed light on the chaos behind the scenes of the LRA, which has been under attack by the Ugandan army since December 14, and at this point appears to be scrambling for its life.

Most significantly, in his response to these charges, Matsanga has revealed that a new rebel group may be emerging in northern Uganda called the Uganda People's Liberation Front/Army.

Who are these people and what do they want? Matsanga says they're an Acholi cabal based in London and headed by a man named Ladit Balgara.

If the Acholi diaspora are forming a new rebel group, does this mean they've written off LRA leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium meant to lead the Acholi?

Could Uganda President Yoweri Museveni be on the verge of victory at last?

These issues will be dealt with in future dispatches.

Olweny is a former English teacher and currently a resident of Nairobi, I believe, and Henry and I spend a lot of time with him in July 2006 when the peace talks were beginning between the LRA and Uganda in Juba, South Sudan.
After Olweny and the leaders of the former negotiators, Martin Ojul, in particular, were supposedly fired by Kony in early 2008 -- in a surprise announcement made by Matsanga, not Kony -- Olweny dropped out of sight, only to re-emerge this week.

Ojul, by the way, now lives in Kampala on a Ugandan government salary.

The Olweny-Matsanga dispute has revealed one reality of the LRA: Kony keeps his own council.

According to sources at the late November meeting between Kony and the Acholi religious and cultural leaders, Kony knew nothing about the peace agreement that has been negotiated for two and a half years. When his fellow Acholi tried to explain it to him, including the Catholic archbishop from Gulu, Kony became angry and called them traitors.

“Kony never saw the text of the agreement until the day of signing. Is that normal?” Olweny told New Vision. Now, to be fair, Olweny here may be confirming earlier reports, but could also be simply repeating them.

But what he also said is more interesting:

“Since the attack on LRA bases in the DRC, I don’t think he (Matsanga) has talked to Kony. Kony is under pressure. He hardly talks to anyone,” Olweny said.
“Kony sees Matsanga as responsible for the attack. He misled him,” he added.

This is an amazing charge, but probably true. Matsanga should be looking over his shoulder. Yet, Matsanga continues to speak for the LRA.

As I've said before, Matsanga is in this for the money. As previously noted, Matsanga was stopped in the airport in Juba this past April, just a couple of days after he has successfully duped the entire international community into believing Kony was prepared to sign a peace deal.

Matsanga had $20,000 in cash, his pay for three months work as the LRA negotiation team leader. Matsanga then fled, and deputy, the Dr. James Obita, a western educated Acholi, took over.

Obita managed to pull yet another layer of wool over the world's eyes, and convinced everyone that Kony would sign the deal in May. Again Kony didn't show. Obita dropped out of sight. Obita then accepted amnesty from the government and reportedly is also collecting govenment money.

Would Matsanga keep quiet if Uganda offered him a job and a house in Kampala? Hmmm.

In the interim from May to about October, Matsanga saw an opening, and with no one openly disputing his claim, he re-emerged and convinced the world that Kony would sign a deal at the end of November.

Despite Olweny's remarks, Matsanga maintains that he is in contact with Kony, despite a statement said to be from the LRA "high command" this past weekend, that Matsanga was fired.

Matsanga explained it this way: “This group of former LRA delegates have teamed up with self-confessed paupers and senior militarists in Nairobi and London, namely Obonyo Olweny and Alex Oloya, under a new outfit called Uganda Peoples Liberation Front/Army (UPLF) headed by Ladit Balgara based in London to cause mayhem for the people of northern Uganda,” Matsanga said in an email sent to The New Vision.

“They issue unsigned statements using the LRA letterheads that Obonyo acquired during his spokesman tenure one year ago.”

“Those who have plotted against me have lost in the past and will lose on this round. They have been advised (by Kony) to desist from such malicious acts and work with me to bring peace in northern Uganda,” Matsanga said.

When asked to describe Matsanga's motivations, Olweny said, "He is the one asking for money in the name of LRA and the blood of the suffering people in the north. We began the peace process in Juba and he came from London begging to join the LRA delegation. You tell him he has failed to deliver the peace agreement he promised to his paymasters,” he added.

It is clear that Olweny is enjoying Matsanga's failures, because his "paymasters" are the UN, which has been funding the peace talks.

Asked whether it was true that he had joined a new rebel front (UPLF/A), Olweny said: “I think Matsanga is running out of his mind.”

That is not a denial, rather it's an attempt to disparage the messanger.

Matsanga blamed what he called “merchants of conflicts in Uganda based in London” for sowing discord in the LRA to derail the peace process.

Sowing discord in the LRA? That assumes there has been unity.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rampage or runaways?

More conflicting information, or perhaps non-information, is coming out of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo as Uganda's army pursues the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

In a story written by Henry Mukasa, the government-owned daily, New Vision, quotes Gen. Patrick Kankiriho as claiming to have "engaged" forces led by the LRA's deputy, Okot Odhiambo, 30km north of Doruma on Monday.

That would put them right on the border with South Sudan, or even in that country, and he claims that two were killed and two were captured two."

Speaking from Dungu, the general said that now eight LRA fighters have been captured and 38 killed since the offensive was launched on December 14, 2008. Over 21 rebels have surrendered to the allies in various parts of Congo and South Sudan and nine captives were rescued.

“We have reached a stage of ‘search and destroy’ for fighters and rescue for captives. We rescue the abductees and the combatants who want to fight us, we engage them,” Kankiriho explained.

The commander said after the battle, two sub-machine guns, four full magazines, two empty magazines and two Sudanese uniforms were recovered.

In another battle on Sunday, Kankiriho said four rebels were killed south of Lagoro. One was captured, two women rescued north of Doruma, while another rebel surrendered with his gun at Yambio in Sudan.

Kankiriho explained that the joint forces had tightened their noose around Kony and his scattered fighters in the vast and densely- forested Garamba National Park in Congo.

“You think he is asking for ceasefire for nothing? The man is under immense pressure. Big, big pressure. We shall get him,” he stressed.

Despite this tough talk, the UN is reporting a different side of the story.

Reuters news agency says that the UN now puts the total civilian dead at the hands of the LRA at 537, since the Dec. 14th attack on LRA camps in northeastern DRC.

Another 408 people had been kidnapped by the rebels, according to UN High Commission on Refugees, and more than 104,000 people are thought to have been forced from their homes into the bush by the violence.

"The displaced population is in dire need of food, shelter, medicines, clothes and other aid items. The area, which by itself poses immense logistical challenges due to the lack of roads or their poor condition, remains highly volatile," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in a statement in Geneva.

As most are wondering, what has happened to LRA leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium?

The Ugandan general refused to say, arguing that this would pre-empt army action drive the Kony further underground. He advised the critics of the military offensive to wait for photographs that show the recent successes.

The New Vision also reported that the Central African Republic (CAR) began deploying more troops on its border with Congo to guard against incursions by the LRA.

Kankiriho said the group was composed of families of rebel commanders and a few fighters guarding them, led by Odhiambo, who is reportedly wounded.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kony fires Matsanga, others

In a statement said to be from the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and issued in Paris this weekend, the guerrilla force has apparently fired what's left of its negotiating team, according to the Sudan Tribune, on-line edition.

This is a simpering end to a bizarre and tortured history of negotiations between the LRA and Uganda that has had little or no credibility since they began two-and-a-half years ago in Juba, South Sudan.

The most immediate effect is that it means the end of David Nyekorach-Matsanga's claims that he speaks for the LRA.

As mentioned in an early edition of this blog, Matsanga's credibility was sabotaged in last spring when he announced that he was heading a new team of LRA negotiators

He claimed to be in touch with the LRA's leader, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium Joseph Kony, who had agreed to sign the peace deal with Uganda that had been negotiated by the earlier, and perhaps even less credible team.

Matsanga even convinced the international community to fly him to The Hague, Netherlands, along with a couple of Kampala lawyers, to make an appeal to the International Criminal Court.

The court has indictments against Kony and his remaining two top commanders for war crimes and crimes against humanity pending since 2005.
These Matsanga
claimed were why Kony wouldn't sign.

Therefore the court should drop the indictments and let Kony go free, he said. The court didn't, of course, and sent Matsanga packing.

Reality dawned on the international community in late April 2008 when Kony didn't show at a pre-arranged site to sign the peace deal, despite the presence of hundreds of "officials" to witness the event.

When it was revealed that Matsanga had never talked with Kony and had duped the entire assembled cadre of blithering apologists for this, Africa's most vicious and demonic cult, he fled the jungle enclave.

As the Sudan Tribune notes, he was arrested at the Juba airport with a letter from Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and $20,000 in cash. The money was his pay from the international community for his "work" as team leader. The letter showed that Matsanga had been used by Museveni.

But the lunacy didn't stop. Others in the so-called negotiating team said it all had been a misunderstanding and that Kony would sign the deal a month later. Again, Kony's didn't show.

By this time, Kony's marauders had already completed an extended raid across portions of South Sudan and into the Central African Republic, killing, looting and abducting hundreds of people to bolster its force.

Then Matsanga resurfaced, again claiming he was the spokesman for the LRA and that Kony would sign the deal. Then for the third time last year, people from northern Uganda, the UN, and the international community traipsed to the jungle.

Again, Kony didn't sign, and as mentioned in earlier entries, threatened the ethnic leaders from the north, calling them traitors.

Kony was finally attacked on Dec. 14 in his camps in northern DRC by the Uganda army, which propelled Kony's LRA on the bloodiest rampage in the militia-cult's history.

The apparent official statement, meanwhile, ends all contacts with Matsanga and a couple of women named Miss Abalo and Justine Labeja, both presumable from northern Uganda.

The statement was also reportedly sent to all of the official parties who have been involved in the so-called negotiations, including the United Nations, African Union, non-governmental organisations, UN special envoy to the talks, Joachim Chissano, and presidents of the DRC, Kenya, Southern Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda, and various international observers.

What this means is unclear, but one can guess. First of all, it means that Kony has finally acknowledged that the peace talks were a farce and nothing more than a ruse for him and his negotiating "team" to collect per diem payment from the international community.

Rumors were that in order to be part of the team, one had to share the cash with Kony. This was in addition to the tons of food that was shipped to the jungle each month for Kony by the Catholic Charity, Caritas, and paid for by the blithering apologists.

Now that he has been attacked, Kony has realized it's over and the gravy train has stopped rolling his way.

What is next, is anyone's guess. My prediction is that Kony will regroup his beleaguered forces and take them to the CAR. In the meanwhile, he'll be desperately reaching out to anyone willing to provide him arms and cash, as he continues to loot and kill innocents in the region.

What we can expect is a slow but steady devolution of the region into the same bloody no-man's land that Kony created for 20 years in northern Uganda.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Offensive Against Kony Backfires

The December 14 assault on Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) camps in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) surprised many.

The offensive came after LRA leader Joseph Kony had rebuffed the international community three times in 2008 by failing to sign a peace deal with Uganda that had been negotiated over the previous two years.

The latest one came at the end of November.

I was on the plane from Entebbe, Uganda, to Juba, South Sudan, on Thanksgiving Day with the delegation of some 15 elders and cultural leaders from northern Uganda who had been summoned to the jungle by Kony.

Kony had called for them for last-minute consultations before signing the agreement –or so many thought -- on Nov. 30 or Dec. 1.

I sat beside one of the elders, who smiled and shrugged when I asked if Kony would sign this time.

His doubts proved to be well founded. Sources at the elders’ meeting with Kony said that he knew little of the agreement and threatened them for pressuring him to sign it.

Kony’s latest snub gave Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who was prepared to sign the deal if Kony did, the excuse he needed –along with the blessing of the international community and cooperation from DRC and South Sudan – to launch an assault.

But it was botched, as some had feared. Uganda has only created a bigger problem for the region and the prospect of a protracted and bloody conflict repeating what northern Uganda has suffered for 20 years.

The first hint that the offensive was mishandled came when word spread that Ugandan ground forces arrived at the main LRA camp two days after Ugandan jets and helicopter gun-ships bombed it.

They found nothing but burned huts.

Only recently has Uganda found some mass graves, which some say contain the bodies of LRA fighters killed in the attack. And, only in the past week has Uganda reported accepting escaped captives of the LRA and some defecting fighters.

This, however, has prompted Kampala to claim the offensive, which is ongoing, a success.

On New Year’s Eve, some two weeks after it began, Museveni was quoted in the New Vision newspaper as saying, “Our aim was to disrupt Kony and it was successful. Our initial plan was to scatter and stop him from causing terror.”

But the assault appears to have had the opposite effect. Kony has killed more people and sewn more terror in the following two weeks than during the entire preceding year.

Museveni calls that a success?

And the killing continues, with the latest reports that Kony is headed to the Central African Republic, to yet another failed African state where he can regroup.

One of the most bloody alleged LRA massacre took place in the village of Gurba, about ten kilometres from the town of Doruma in northeastern DRC.

Details are sketchy, but according to United Nations reports, the LRA hacked to death between 45 to 60 people who’d sought sanctuary in a Gurba church.

According to witnesses, body parts were scattered in and around the church. This alleged atrocity typifies the LRA’s methods.

For me, it was particularly disturbing. I had been to Doruma in June and met and talked with people there. I’d spent a couple of hours with a young school teacher there named Raymond Rpiolebeyo, who taught third grade at the Ecole Primer Ndolomo, a Catholic school.

On Easter weekend last year, he had been cycling to Gurba to spend the holiday with his family when he was abducted by the LRA, who then proceeded to loot the village.

Raymond escaped, however, and returned to Doruma. I spoke to him at length about his experiences with the LRA. He confessed that he was nervous because he knew the LRA could come back and he didn’t want to contemplate that fate.

The UN reported that about 200 people were killed in Doruma and the surrounding villages by the LRA in the days after Christmas. It is impossible to know if Raymond is still alive, and perhaps I’ll never know. I can only hope.

While the Doruma area appears to have suffered the brunt of the LRA’s senseless slaughter of civilians, estimates are that more than 500 people now have been killed by the widely scattered LRA units.

The coming year promises to be deadly for those unfortunate to live in the region where the DRC, South Sudan and the CAR meet.

Museveni’s stated aim of “scattering” the LRA has certainly been accomplished, but that of stopping LRA terror has not. By not planning and executing an effective attack on Kony, the Ugandan leader has inadvertently fueled the rebel’s terror campaign.

And he has set the stage for the same abysmal conditions that existed in northern Uganda for 20 years.

Scattered LRA units are now operating semi-independently, and this time reportedly killing, looting and abducting villagers in three countries.

From 1986 to 2006, Museveni was unable to capture or control Kony in northern Uganda or South Sudan. Even though the LRA is now being pursued by forces from DRC, South Sudan as well as Uganda, the result undoubtedly will be the same.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

LRA kills 50 in South Sudan

The rampaging Lord's Resistance Army on January 5 killed another 50 people in South Sudan, according to officials in the regional capital of Juba.

The UN's news service, IRIN, reports that the fifty are feared to have been killed and at least nine abducted in attacks on villages in southwest Sudan, near the border with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"We received reports from the state that they abducted seven men and two women," Bashir Bhandi, head of the Southern Sudanese Parliamentary Committee on Communication, told IRIN on 6 January.

Since mid-December, the LRA has killed some 500 people following a Dec. 14 attack on the LRA camps in the Garamba National Park in northeastern DRC.

The surge in violence follows a Ugandan-led offensive, with Southern Sudan and DRC forces, against the rebel group after its reclusive leader Joseph Kony failed once again to sign a Sudan-mediated peace agreement in early December.

"The number of people they killed or kidnapped has gone above 50," Bhandi told IRIN. "They loot and kill. They take them to the forest. None of the people they have taken to the forest has been found alive. They kill them."

"I am told that our military is not ready to face the LRA and the citizens are digging up guns they kept in the ground for their own defence," Jimmy Wongo, an MP from the area said.

"How the LRA can manage to abduct seven men and two women yesterday I don't understand." The Southern Sudan Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Martin Ellia Lomuro, said officials had done everything to try to halt the killings.

"We did not only close our borders, we supported also the regional initiative to control the LRA," Lomuro told IRIN. "What is happening in Western Equatoria is very strange," he added. "It is a serious matter of concern to both the Legislative Assembly and the executive."

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has reported that LRA groups had mounted raids in different locations in north-east DRC in the first days of January.

Also in northeastern DRC, a team from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reached the town of Faradje, which the LRA attacked on 25 and 26 December, killing some 70 people and prompting 40,000 to flee.

"Our mission found Faradje pillaged and destroyed by fire," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva. More than 800 houses, three schools, government buildings and health centres had been burned, with most families losing their annual harvest in the fire, according to UNHCR.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

LRA attacks park, rampage continues

Some 20 people were killed in an attack by the Lord's Resistance Army on a park ranger station in northern Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

The attack apparently came last Friday when dozens of LRA fighters fired on the headquarters of the Garamba National Park in the town of Negero, in Congo's Orientale province.

"Ten people were killed, including two women, two park rangers, an electrician and five other civilians who have not yet been identified," Orientale's Deputy Governor Joseph Bangakya told Reuters.

In addition, 10 LRA fighters were killed in what was described as a four-hour gunbattle with armed park rangers and Congolese soldiers based at Negero's airstrip.

The soldiers were stationed there as part of a three-week-old multinational assault on LRA strongholds in northeastern Congo.

But that is not all. In two separate attacks on Sunday, according to Reuters, LRA gunmen attacked the Congolese village of Napopo and attacked Laso, a village in Sudan. It was not immediately known if anyone died in the incidents.

The continuing attacks are yet further evidence that the multinational operation has been a failure and that LRA leader Joseph Kony is not only alive and well, but able to organize attacks at will in various locations in the DRC.

The death toll now in the wake of the botched Dec. 14th attack on Kony's camps is now well over 400, with the BBC reporting that the dead may be as many as 500 people -- all innocent civilians.

"The number of dead just keeps going up. Since the beginning of these operations, it is the civilians who are dying," said Felicien Balani, who heads a coalition of civil society groups, according to Reuters.

Estimated to number between 800 and 1,000 fighters, Ugandan and Congolese officials say the LRA has now splintered into smaller groups. Some are believed to be heading towards neighbouring Central African Republic, where the rebels have carried out raids in the past.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Uganda on UN Security Council

Uganda begins a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council this year, and it signals perhaps a new emphasis on African issues for the UN and the world at large.

Uganda’s new position will give it a stronger voice than ever on African affairs as the UN’s leadership councils faced increasingly complex East African issues: Somalia, Darfur, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as Uganda's lingering problems with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

Uganda's presence on the council may prompt more active involvement of the UN in the on-going hunt for the LRA's leader, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium, Joseph Kony.

To date, however, the UN has only served a support role in this military action, which began Dec. 14 with a Ugandan air force strike on Kony's camps in and around the DRC's Garamba National Park.

Kony's scattered forces, thought to be moving to an even more remote and lawless region of the Central African Republic, responded to the attack by killing more than 400 civilians in the region.

Although the hunt for Kony includes Congolese and South Sudanese forces, the fact that the LRA escaped with unknown casualties and can still commit grievous atrocities, shows that these forces need help.

According the East African newspaper, the Uganda's UN ambassador, Francis Butagira, made it clear that Uganda supports international intervention in Somalia, where it has already stationed troops, but curiously wants the UN to leave Zimbabwe alone.

One can speculate here that President Yoweri Museveni, who in 2005 forced the Ugandan parliament to change the constitution, allowing him to be president for life, has his own interests at heart.

If the world steps in to remove Robert Mugabe from control of Zimbabwe, it might set a precedent that Museveni fears. After all, his election in 2006 to a third term was not by a huge margin.

And, it is well known that Museveni maintains a firm grasp on Uganda, which also explains why he discounts any talk of "power-sharing" in African countries, even though this would be a good solution for Zimbabwe, fearing that such will be proposed for Uganda.

The issue of Zimbabwe does not have an international security dimension and thus “does not warrant intervention by the Security Council,” Butagira told UN radio.

Butagira also indicated he supported a delay in International Criminal Court’s pending charges of genocide against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, but added that this should not be viewed as “a blanket endorsement” of Sudan’s policies.

This of course begs the question: how do you solve the on-going genocide in Darfur if you don't pressure the Sudan leadership?

Uganda is not fond of clear answers or firm, decisive action. Regardless, it should be interesting to see how Uganda plays its new role in the UN.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Kony slips into South Sudan

Despite all the tough talk by leaders of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, the self-proclaimed prophet and leader of the Lord's Resistance Army Joseph Kony is alive and well.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told reporters on New Year's Eve that Kony had been tracked into South Sudan a week earlier, south of the town of Maridi.

Maridi is a regional center and a stopping-off point for negotiators who frequently trekked on to Nabanga, a small village where they met representatives of the LRA.

That Kony was there a week ago means that he is most likely well beyond at this point, and as the BBC reports, headed to the Central African Republic.

Kony has wanted to be based in the CAR for a long time for the same reasons that he located his army in the DRC's Garamba Park: it is virtually a lawless land and beyond the reach of most authorities.

Kony's desire to decamp to the CAR was revealed by defectors who made detailed public statements about the death of the LRA's former deputy commander, Vincent Otti. According to the statements, Otti refused to move to the CAR because it would make peace negotiations impossible.

Kony solved that problem by killing Otti and the peace talks as well.

Kony's movement toward the CAR further complicates the situation with the LRA. First of all, it makes a liar out of South Sudanese officials who said they've "sealed" the border to prevent Kony and his soldiers from crossing in.

If Kony does settle in the CAR, further negotiations will need to be made with the CAR to allow Ugandan forces chasing Kony into the CAR to conduct military operations.

Meanwhile, Museveni told reporters that Kony escaped one more time when a helicopter gunship held off firing on the rebel leaders because civilians were near.

“On December 24, Kony was to be killed," Museveni told reporters, according to the government-owned New Vision newspaper. "We were tracking him in Southern Sudan with an army chopper, but he was saved by the villagers who came out to wave at the chopper. The pilot could not fire because he would have killed innocent people,” he said.

Museveni went on to say that the villagers did not know that Kony was hiding in their area. “The people did not know that there was a snake in their area, which saved Kony. We have now airlifted enough commandos to Garamba and he will not survive this time,” he said.

Museveni said he has asked the Central African Republic to join in the fight against Kony, but did not reveal the CAR's response.

As has been widely reported, fleeing LRA rebels have killed more than 400 civilians in Dungu, Doruma, Faradje, Bangadi and Gurba in the DRC and Maridi in South Sudan.

Museveni continued with his tough talk. “If they come back to fight, that will be the quickest way for them to go to hell,” he said.

We'll see.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ceasefire is not serious

Calls for a ceasfire from Joseph Kony, leader of the rampaging Lord's Resistance Army, are hard to take seriously since they come from the discredited group's spokesman, David Nyekorach Matsanga.

Matsanga claims to have talked with Kony -- a claim he has made in the past and proved to be untrue -- who has asked him to appeal for a ceasefire.

“Kony called me and told me he wants to talk peace. I am calling upon President Museveni to call for a ceasefire. We should re-open the negotiations,” Matsanga said to the New Vision newspaper.

When such a ceasefire is declared, a neutral venue and chief mediator should be found, Matsanga has said.

Kony has apparently decided that the former peace talk mediator Riek Machar, whose forces from South Sudan have joined in the hunt for Kony and his army, is no longer the neutral figure he apparently once was.

Instead, he wants UN envoy Joaquim Chissano to take over.

This also is very difficult to take seriously, especially since the LRA is being pursued now more vigorously than ever by a combined force of Congoleses, Ugandan and South Sudanese forces.

It is curious that Kony now is turning to Chissano, whom he has refused to meet in the past, as a far as most know, has never met.

It seems that the LRA negotiators, led by Matsanga, have tired of the food and accomodations given to them by the international community in Juba, South Sudan, where the talks have been based for two years.

Matsanga and whoever is now part of the ever-changing cast of so-called negotiators, want the talks resumed and moved to what they're saying is a neutral location, such as Kenya, Tanzania or even South Africa.

But what is the point? Why would Kony sign anything now or in the future when he has not done so on three occassions this past year?

The answer is clear and simple: he won't. This call for renewed talks is only an effort by Matsanga and a new set of negotiators to collect a wad of cash and live large on someone else's money.

Uganda isn't buying it.

“If Kony says he is ready to sign, that arrangement can be made but only if he is going to assemble at Ri-kwangba,” said Capt. Chris Magezi, military spokesman.

Magezi was reflecting the thinking of Uganda President Yoweri Museveni who has also said the only safe thing for Kony to do was to assemble his cult at Ri-Kwangba and sign the peace agreement.

“The operation will see the end of Kony, either peacefully by him walking to Ri-Kwangba or by being violently killed or captured,” Museveni said. “As an old fighter, I would not want to be in Kony’s position. The combined arms operations about to begin will decimate him.”

It is tough sounding talk, mostly, and Kony does not seem weakened by the offensive, since he has killed more than 400 civilians since his forces were first attacked on Dec. 14.

The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon has condemned the atrocities committed by the LRA and demanded that the rebels respect the international humanitarian law.

Ban’s special representative, Leila Zerrougui, on Tuesday met with Congo’s national security council to discuss the government’s needs. “She informed them of UN’s willingness to support them,” MONUC said in a statement.