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.

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