Friday, February 13, 2009

Escapee: Kony is angry

As information dribbles out regarding Uganda's faltering military operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo against Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army, we learn that Kony is angry.

Well, why not? His camps were bombed and now his top two commanders are negotiating their surrender.

In a story from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, we learn from an escapee who was with the LRA camp when it was attacked, that Kony was already gone.

"The first day of the attack I was in the camp," said 21-year-old Jackline Apio, who had been in captivity for six years.

"LRA leader Joseph Kony had told us a day earlier there were plans to bomb the camp and ordered all his commanders and other soldiers to leave immediately."

This begs the question, how did he know? It also confirms earlier suspicions that Kony has informers close to the government.

Apio continues: "At about 11 a.m., after we had cooked, we heard the sound of approaching helicopters. Minutes later they [the helicopters] started bombing the camp. We all ran away. "

Why did Kony not have everyone abandon the camp? There have been strong fears that Kony would use the hundreds of abductees as human shields in case of an attack, which is why many in the international community have resisted attacking Kony long ago.

Here we can clearly see that Kony sacrificed these civilians to cover his escape and those of his fighters and commanders.

This should also provide insight into the kind of man we're dealing with.

Apio: "After two hours the rebels came back [to the camp] and collected food, medicine and weapons they had abandoned. The rebels, women and children later joined Kony."

Now it gets interesting: "He was looking enraged, and we started walking towards [the] Central African [Republic]," Apio says.

"Kony later changed [his] plans and ordered everyone to split into groups of 10, including the women and children. He said we should all remain in [DR] Congo. I don’t know where he went, but he remained somewhere with a few soldiers."

Again, Kony's cunning becomes apparent. He knows that others know he has wanted to go the CAR for a long time. Most suspected he would. Knowing that, however, he reverses course, and decides to stay. The only way his army can survive, however, is for them to break into small groups -- again his standard tactic, but quite effective.

But, there is a risk, of course, and that is losing his command and control.

"Our group was led by Dominic Ongwen [Kony’s deputy]. We were 30 and were attacked several times by UPDF [Ugandan People’s Defence Forces] soldiers. On 22 January in the afternoon, our group was attacked by UPDF; we had walked the whole night and were resting," she continues.

"I was shot in my left thigh. Then the [UPDF] commander appeared and ordered [the] soldiers not to shoot children or women.

"The other rebels ran away. We were five, two babies, two young children and I. I thought I would not survive; everyone was screaming and children crying. I said my last prayer because Kony [had] told us that anyone caught by the UPDF would be killed."

This is what Kony tells his captives in order to keep them under his tumb.

Ironically, it is Ongwen and Kony's latest deputy, Okot Odhiambo, who now want to surrender. As I have mentioned, this will be a serious blow to Kony's forces, and if nothing else, will cause others in his camp to do the same.

However, Kony is still out there.

As Apio explains, "It is difficult to get Kony, he keeps changing his location. Not even his commanders know his real location because he does not use satellite phones."

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