Troubling new information emerging from the surrender negotiations of two commanders of the Lord's Resistance Army indicate that the deal is collapsing.
While the Congolese government is telling the world that LRA chief Joseph Kony and about 250 rebels are trapped in a swamp in the Garamba jungle in north-eastern DR Congo, word comes from the Daily Monitor in Kampala that one of the commanders is under arrest by Kony.
The commander, Okot Odhiambo, was reportedly severely wounded and about two weeks ago called the aid group, International Organization for Migration, to help negotiate his surrender along with a small force of soldiers and captives.
While no one knows if the arrest claim is legitimate, it means someone is trying to block the deal. That would most likely be Kony, who would see his army cut in half and leave him isolated. Or, it could be one of his supporters on the outside, who are trying to block or delay his capture.
Along with Odhiambo, his other top commander, Dominic Ongwen, has also asked for a surrender. It hasn't happened yet and word has been scarce. And, since the flow of information to the public is being carefully controlled by the Ugandan government, we're not going to be told the truth.
But, if Kony does have Odhiambo in his grasp, it means certain death for Odhiambo. Kony killed his former deputy, Vincent Otti, in October 2007 after Otti pushed too hard for the peace deal with Uganda and was prepared to take his followers, about half of the LRA, out of the bush.
If Kony has reasserted himself into the situation, it would be typical Kony tactics. By "arresting" Odhiambo and executing him, he would be enforcing his brutal and blood form of discipline, insuring that any others who want to desert stay with him out of pure fear.
The call regarding the arrest does not square with comments by Congo spokesman Lambert Mende who told AFP news agency, “They have no way out of these swamps except to surrender,” regarding the LRA.
He also said that a UN peacekeeping force in Sudan, UNMIS, had been preparing their return to Uganda. Was this all a publicity stunt to help a mission that has failed to kill or capture the LRA leaders?
“For reasons that remain unclear none of the combatants had presented themselves at the designated rendezvous as of Saturday afternoon,” said David Gressly, UNMIS regional coordinator for southern Sudan.
Odhiambo and Ongwen are wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes.