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.

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