Friday, March 20, 2009

Intrigue, lies and more

In a document recently circulated, the former spokesman for the Lord's Resistance Army peace team reveals the web of intrigue and lies behind the rebel group's failed peace talks with Uganda.

Written by Obonyo Olweny, a writer and teacher based in Nairobi, and dated Feb. 20 of this year, the analysis describes why the two-plus years of talks failed and what might be done to restart them and bring Kony to the peace table.

What Olweny proposes is certainly a long-shot, especially since he says that the reasons Kony won't sign the painstakingly negotiated deal, which he did three times last year -- is that he doesn't want to stand trial in either The Hague or Uganda, believing that doing so would be an admission of guilt.

So what does Kony want? Does he want to be absolved of any guilt and live in a Kampala mansion, surrounded by a bevy of his abducted "child-brides?" Hmmm. It's not a far leap to ascertain this man's broken psyche.

Fortunately, Olweny lays some blame squarely at Kony's feet:

"Kony and his fellow military commanders in the LRA failed to understand and appreciate peace talks as part of a complex political process. This caused him to miss out on this so far best opportunity to take advantage of the situation to end the war.

Olweny goes on:

"Twenty years in the bush with little contact with a changing and modernizing outside world was a long time. While they honed and perfected their war strategies and tactics that won them battles, built a fearsome reputation and ensured their continued survival even against a combination of national armies, the LRA leaders lacked the diplomatic and political preparedness necessary to navigate through peace talks with a leader as wily as (Uganda President Yoweri) Museveni.

"Kony thus failed to take advantage of the Juba peace talks to improve his standing not only in the communities in northern Uganda, but also nationally. This lack of understanding on Kony’s side made it easy for their opponent at the negotiating table to manipulate and outmaneuver them."

And outmaneuver them, Museveni certainly did. According to Olweny, the LRA peace delegation was riddled with spies and plants by Museveni and packed with people whose only motivation was their own self-enrichment.

Olweny writes:

"From the very start of the peace talks, the LRA delegation was riddled with government operatives. Some had served in the state security apparatus; others were ruling NRM party functionaries. As soon as the media published the list of the first delegation, an official of the Ugandan High Commission in Nairobi boasted that they had their men in there. The LRA military leadership was informed about this but chose to ignore it to the detriment of the peace talks."

But this is just the beginning. As I and others have written, the latest so-called leader of the dubious LRA peace team, David Mastanga, was suspect from the start. Olweny continues:

"The entry of David Nyekorach Matsanga from London into the LRA delegation in April 2007 and his eventual takeover of the delegation leadership was a disaster for not only the LRA but the peace process as a whole."

Matsanga as chief mole

"By planting their own man to lead the LRA delegation, the government had pulled off the highest form of covert operation in peace talks negotiation. Some of those who knew him in London believe that Matsanga is an operative of Uganda’s External Security Organization (ESO) and one of the foreign intelligence services.

"It is further believed that he was brought in with the mission to steer the peace talks in the direction desired by the Uganda government: to have a watered down peace agreement and deliver Kony and fellow commanders apprehended for the ICC.

"That explains why during the last round of negotiations in February 2008, he rushed to sign three critical agendas in a span of less than two weeks without any consultation with Kony.

"Far from representing the interest of the LRA fighters in the bush and the suffering displaced people in northern Uganda, Matsanga has secretly visited Kampala several times, and not once the IDP camps.

"Forget about his occasional tongue bashing of Museveni over the radio and television designed to hoodwink the gullible international public, Matsanga was in effect the government’s hatchet man at the talks.

"As he shuttled between Nairobi, Kampala, Garamba, Juba and London, Matsanga’s primary objective was to hijack, derail and destroy the Juba Peace Talks. The result of his work is there for all to see: a disintegrated/factionalised LRA delegation, a rushed Final Peace Agreement (FPA), four times refusal of Joseph Kony to sign the FPA, and the disastrous UPDF attack in Garamba."

Olweny also explains how the LRA was so easily compromised:

"There were delegates whose principal interests were simply the allowances and perks that came with the position, rather than identifying with and arguing strongly the case for the displaced and suffering people back at home as much as for the LRA.

"Some of those who lacked confidence in themselves feared being overshadowed by those who were more articulate and focused. One delegate even said that this was the opportunity to ‘eat’ (i.e. make as much financial/material gains as possible) since the talks would go nowhere.

"With members who were more interested in personal gains and gratification than meeting the difficult challenges of peace talks, it was easy for the government of Uganda and other agencies to compromise them."

That subversion reached to the highest levels of the LRA as Olweny confirms the rumored secret meeting that took place with the LRA in Mombasa.

The Mombasa deception

"A secret meeting in Mombasa from March 31 to April 6, 2007 between a select 5-man group of delegates led by its chairman Martin Ojul and a 4-man Uganda government delegation led by General Salim Saleh, then Minister of State for Micro-finance and Dr. Sam Kagoda, Permanent Secretary Internal Affairs and a key member of the government delegation in Juba, was a strong case of corruption and underhand negotiating tactics [Pax Christi statement, 11 April 2007].

"Other LRA delegates, some of who were in Nairobi at the time, had not only been excluded but were purposefully kept in the dark altogether. This division reflected a rift between the top military commanders. While Vincent Otti sanctioned the meeting, Joseph Kony appeared to have been unaware of it."

As a result of this meeting, Otti was eventually killed by Kony.

So what's next? While Olweny reveals some interesting details and backgroud, it does little to suggest a way forward that will bring about justice for the people of northern Uganda.

He calls for serious talks that address the so-called legitimate grievances of northern Uganda, specifically the "marginalized" Acholi. But he fails to recognize that these same Acholi were the primary victims of Kony's atrocities, and that Kony's alleged political agenda does not exist.

Kony is leading a cult of killers. Nothing more.

This is grossly clear given the fact that Kony has killed nearly 1,000 people in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo who had NOTHING to do with Uganda, the war, or anything related to the LRA.

To blame this killing on Uganda's attack on Kony last December is absurd and demented as Kony himself.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Salvation comes

Catherine Ajok, one of the 30 girls abducted in October 1996 from St. Mary’s College in Aboke returned this past week after 13 years in the captivity of the Lord's Resistance Army.

Pictured above in a photo taken by Martin Ssebuyira and published in the The Daily Monitor newspaper in Kampala, Ajok arrived in Uganda after being flown from northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“I’m very happy that I have returned back home," Ajok told the press. “I can’t say anything but I’m happy to be back home,” she added.

Ajok arrived with a child fathered by LRA leader Joseph Kony, she says.
However, she had not seen Kony for the past three months, she said, because she was considered a risk because she was caring for a young child and could slow Kony's movements in the bush as he fled the Ugandan army which is pursuing him.
After escaping in an attack on LRA forces, Ajok finally reached UPDF base after one month of wandering in the jungles of Congo. She was in the region of Doruma, which is west of Kony's base in Garamba National Park, and was part of a group led by Col. Binangi Swoop.
Ajok was found with her 21-month-old baby, Happy Odonga. “We were over 30 wives of Kony. About 13 had given birth and the rest hadn’t.”

Ajok was the sole remaining of the 30 Aboke girls who had been abducted by the LRA in 1996. All had eventually escaped, and reportedly two had died.

From the plane, Ajok and her baby Odonga, were whisked to an unidentified home in Kampala were she will get psychological treatment before being handed over to her parents.
Ajok, 26-year-old is the daughter to Dr Alfred Alyai and Lucy Namataka of Aboke in Apac district.
“This marks the history that we can’t easily forget, for shameless Ugandans to subject such beautiful young girls to abject sufferings,” said military spokesman Felix Kulayigye.

Ajok’s painful story begun on October 9, 1996, the night she was abducted along with 149 girls when rebels attacked their school.
The deputy head mistress of the college, Italian nun, Sister Rachele Fassera, went into the night in search of them, and eventually secured the release of all but 30 who remained with the LRA.
Now, her ordeal is over.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The depths of depravity

The call supposedly came from this man, Okot Odhiambo, pictured above as published in the Sunday edition of the New Vision newspaper in Kampala.

The photo accompanies an article by staff writer Barbara Among that delves into the issue of the calls and/or calls several weeks ago by Odhiambo, the number two man in the LRA, to the International Organization for Migration, that he and the LRA's nubmer three man, Dominic Ongwen, wanted to surrender.
Among says the call was a hoax and cites a number of sources inside the Ugandan intelligence community.
Security sources have idenitifed the caller as a man named Richard Komakech, who is suspected to have been making calls pausing as Odhiambo offering to surrender, Among writes.
“This man is a former rebel and had a satellite phones and Global Position System (GPS) which he has been using,” a source said.
When news broke of the call, there was a flurry of excitement because it would have been a major blow to the LRA and an even greater victory for the stalled Ugandan operation to kill or capture LRA leader Joseph Kony in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Just as quickly as the story sufaced, it died, leaving the IOM gasping for air, as Among points out.
The IOM has been tight-lipped regarding any information on Odhiambo, Among writes, except for a press statement on February 3 that it did not have any knowledge of Odhiambo’s whereabouts.
“IOM has no authority to arrest any individual… Nor does it have any information on Odhiambo’s whereabouts,” read a press statement on its website.
Questions abound as to whether the organisation was at any one point in touch with Odhiambo, Among correctly writes.
“I highly doubted it was Odhiambo," Gulu Resident District commissioner Col. Walter Ochora told New Vision. "You can’t pick a phone and say ‘I am Odhiambo’, when still under the command of Joseph Kony. That would be madness. Odhiambo could not make that mistake.”
Military intelligence concurred with Ochora, saying the announcement was a military tactic, initiated by Kony’s supporters from outside Uganda.
“Those are tactics. At the time, the forces had mounted pressure on him and he needed a breather,” said a security officer, who preferred anonymity told
Among, adding that Komakech could have been pausing as Odhiambo for the reason security is yet to establish.
I would offer that the reason is simple: we're dealing with the deadly and depraved people here, people who will do and say anything to anybody, any where and at any time, if they think they can benefit from it.
But even more disconcerting is that this apparent hoax could be part of an even more deeply established organization that supports Kony by trying to derail the Ugandan army as it pursues Kony.
This organization, which is inside and outside of Uganda, condones the recent killing of at least 900 innocent civilians in northeastern DRC who have had nothing at all to do with the LRA or its so-called war against Uganda.
After all, no one yet has offered a reasonable explanation as to why or how Kony was tipped off the day before the attack on his camps on Dec. 14.
This of course has led to speculation that it was intentionally leaked, thus allowing the Uganda military operation to continue indefinately and for international money to flow into the Uganda military machine indefinately as well.
There is plenty to wonder about with this operation to find one of the world's most wanted men, but topping the list is, What are the depth of depavity?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Devil's Resistance Army

Stories are beginning to filter out, coming from people who have been freed or have escaped the clutches of the Lord's Resistance Army's in northeastern Democractic Republic of the Congo.

One of the most compelling has been reported by journalist Modest Kizito Oketa, reporting from Yambio, South Sudan, for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

He was able to talk with five South Sudanese who had been abducted by the LRA during the past two years, who were now on their way home, thanks to the Ugandan army.

Ironically, these abductees had been taken into their captivity at a time when the LRA was negotiating a so-called peace deal with Uganda as it continued to insist that it was not adbucting people -- a blatant lie swallowed only by the weak-kneed international community.

As reported by IWPR, the abductees, including three young women, two of whom gave birth in the bush, fled the LRA during recent battles between the rebels and the Ugandan army.

The clashes followed the mid-December joint Ugandan, South Sudanese and Congolese offensive against LRA bases in the Garamba National Park in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, codenamed operation Lightning Thunder.

Ugandan soldiers brought the abductees to their base in Dungu, the regional capital of northeastern DRC, from where they were airlifted to Yambio, Western Equatoria, in late February.

Together with their allies, the Ugandans have been pursuing the LRA fighters since their surprise attack on rebel camps in Garamba on December 14, as we have extensively reported.

The attack failed to defeat the rebels, however, allowing them to rampage across the region for the past two months, leaving an estimated 900 Congolese and South Sudanese civilians dead.

The escapees talked of their time of horror during which they had developed a healthy distaste for LRA leader Joseph Kony, who as many now know, learned of the attack ahead of time.

“[He] told his men a day earlier there were plans to bomb the camp and ordered all his commanders and other soldiers to leave immediately,” said John Isaac, a 20-year-old former resident of the South Sudan town of Ezo, who had been abducted in March 2008.

"The first day of the attack, we were in the camp,” he said to IWPR, explaining that many non-combatants remained even though Kony and his fighters had left.

“It seems he talks with his devil gods,” Isaac said. “We prefer him to be called the leader of [the] Devil’s Resistance Army." The escapees spoke of their wretched life in the rebel camps," he told IWPR.

"All the period we have spent in the hands of the notorious LRA, we were beaten, forced to do hard labour and to kill one another," said Isaac.

Isaac and some others escaped during the chaos of a rebel encounter with Ugandan forces. He said that the LRA fighters scattered as fighting broke out, enabling him and five Congolese children to run to safety.“I thought I would not survive,” said Isaac.

“Everyone was screaming and the children were crying. We were all praying to Almighty God to protect us.”

They came across some local people, he said, who took them to Ugandan army units based nearby, "We felt joyful when we escaped into the hands of Congolese civilians."

Once the escapees reached the Ugandan army soldiers, they said they knew they were safe. "The soldiers took us to Dungu the following day," said Isaac.

It's an amazing story, but now what? Kony is still out there, as are his top two commanders who just a few weeks ago said they wanted to surrender. Really?

And, now, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has an agreement from DRC Presdient Joseph Kabila to contine the operation, but for exactly how long, is unknown.

With Kony reportedly headed for, or already in the Central African Republic, it could go on forever, just as the war in northern Uganda did.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

LRA commander captured

The Ugandan army is once again beating its chest in over the capture of what it claims to be the fourth ranking commander of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

Thomas Kwoyelo was captured in the Democratic Republic of Congo's northeastern Garamba National Park on Tuesday, army spokesman Major Felix Kulayigye told news media by phone.

"We had contact with the rebels yesterday. Thomas was injured and is now in our custody. We also have some of the fighters who were with him, while others ran away," Kulayigye told the French Press Agency.

This is a much-needed and overdue success for the struggling Ugandan strike force now in its third month of chasing the elusive rebels army and its leader Joseph Kony.

Kony is reportedly on his way to the Central African Republic these days, after his other top commanders, No. 2 Okot Odhiambo and No. 3 Dominic Ongwen called an aid group saying they wanted to surrender.

Apparently they didn't and are still at large, roaming around the remote jungles of northeastern DRC.

While the capture of Kwoyelo denotes some progress, it is far short of anyone claiming that that so-called Operation Lightening Thunder has been a success.

Some 900 people have been killed and the culprits are still on the loose.

The capture does give Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni some small bargaining chip, however, as he meets today with DRC President Joseph Kabila to discuss the future of the operation.

It should also be an interesting meeting, however, since Museveni was instrumental in putting Kabila's father in power in the DRC, only to see the Ugandans stick around and exploit DRC minerals for half-a-dozen years.

Kabila has to be wondering what the Ugandans really intend to do.

KAMPALA (AFP) — Uganda's army announced Wednesday the capture of a commander of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, the first top insurgent to be arrested in a three-month-old regional military drive against the militia.
Uganda, DR Congo and south Sudan armies launched a joint military operation against the rebels in December after elusive LRA chief Joseph Kony refused to sign a final peace deal with the Kampala government.
Kony is yet to be arrested and his fighters have killed hundreds of civilians while fleeing the onslaught.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila are to meet Wednesday to review the operation and decide whether Ugandan troops will remain in DR Congo.
Kabila had said Ugandan troops were to leave DR Congo by the end of February, but they have yet to withdraw.
Kony's rebels are accused of having raped and mutilated civilians, forcibly enlisting child soldiers and of massacring thousands during two decades of conflict.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spreading to the CAR

I apologize for my two-week absence. I've been on the road since mid-February promoting my new book on Joseph Kony and the LRA titled First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army.

If you haven't already, order it now at

So far, the tour has been a success with stops in February across the Midwest at the University of Iowa, Magers and Quinn Bookstore in Minneapolis, U of Wisconsin at Madison, Northwestern, DePaul, Columbia College, Seminary Coop Bookstore in Chicago, U of Indiana, and finally Ohio State.

The tour continues this month:
  • 7 p.m. Monday, Mar. 9, at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle;
  • 6 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 11 at Powell's Books in Portland, Ore.;
  • 5:30 p.m. Thursday at UC Berkeley's journalism school;
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 14 at Book Passage in Corte Madera, in Marin Co. north of San Francisco.

For a complete listing, see the book's webpage at


As many others including myself have suspected, Kony is taking his band of killers into the Central African Republic, Reuters news agency reported last week, after the fighters apparently ambushed a national army patrol.

The clash triggered fighting that killed several fighters, according to a colonel in the republic's forces. The attack took place in the remote southeast of the country, which is sandwiched between Congo and Sudan.

"They were routed by the heavy retaliation from our soldiers," the colonel said. "One of our officers and a soldier were injured ... I cannot give the exact number we killed, but those who survived were chased to the other side of the Sudan border," he said.

As we have been reporting and discussing for months now, the LRA has killed nearly 900 civilians in northeastern Congo in retaliation for the Ugandan army attack on the LRA's camps in mid-December.

Kony has long wanted to move his base from the Garamba National Park in the DRC to the remote and lawless lands of the CAR, but was previously prevented from doing so by his late deputy commander, Vincent Otti. Kony killed Otti, according to defectors who witnessed the execution.

If Kony is moving to this region, it would add a new dimension to the conflict, which has spread death and destruction all over the northeastern DRC, and would embroil the CRA more deeply into the problem than ever before.

Fearing they would cross the border, Central African Republic sent extra soldiers last month to beef up patrols in its remote southeastern region, where LRA fighters last year invaded and kidnapped hundreds and looted dozens of villages and towns.

Those attacks continued sporadically for most of 2008, and tried the patience of the international community, which finally consented to the attack on Kony after his third and final failure to sign a peace deal with Uganda.

Kony's clash with the CAR makes it clear that he still has ammunition and weapons, which makes him a lethal force. Speculation had been growing that Kony was out of ammo since his killers had resorted to hacking people to death with machetes.

Several question still linger, however.

  • Will the Uganda, CAR and South Sudan forces pursue Kony north into the CAR?
  • How far can the Ugandan operation be stretched before it breaks?
  • How many troops does Kony have?
  • What happened to the widely reported offer to surrender by Kony's two top deputies, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen?
The surrender was being negotiated with the aid group, International Organization for Migration, a Swiss-based group with operations all over the world.

  • What happened?
  • Did Kony kill Odhiambo, as has been rumored?
  • Did Okot die, since he was reportedly wounded badly?

Stay tuned.