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.

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