Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 10 September 2003

Kony Rebels: is Sudan Being Honest?


By Emmy Allio, New Vision (Kampala)

September 10, 2003

Diplomatic relations have deteriorated and Uganda has asked its observers to return home
Joseph Kony (r), leader of the Lord's Resistance Army
KAMPALA — A bodyguard to the late Vincent Otti (Kony’s deputy) has revealed that Sudan and other Arab countries have opened two new camps for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Juba.

The 19-year-old, Otti’s bodyguard for nine years said the camps have been opened for Kony in Nisitu, less than three miles south of Juba. Kony has named the camps as Wat Odwogo (Luo for relationship is back) and Lubanga Odwogo (Luo for God is back).

He also said a house is being renovated for Kony in Juba town and that the rebel chief has been given two army green Toyota pick-up vehicles. He said Kony’s new camp in Sudan had 400 fighters, members of Kony’s family and other top LRA commanders under ’major’ Venancio, from Nwoya in Gulu. Other commanders in the camp are: Akoca, Otim-Latim-Muno and Acana.

He said weapons given to LRA by Khartoum include; B-10, SPG-9, Milan for destroying tanks, 107mm anti-aircraft guns, anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. "By the time I escaped on August 19, from Lubanga Odwogo, the type of guns Kony had hidden in Uganda included; 86 B-10 guns, 42 SPGs, five Milan type of guns and some Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs)," he said.

Okello said the Sudanese were giving Kony a lot of military intelligence on the UPDF. He said some children who escape from the LRA camp in Sudan and found themselves in other Sudanese army barracks in Alduman, Khartoum and Bharka, were sent back to Kony. Some of these children are often sexually abused.

Another ex-rebel, John in senior four, was captured on May 23, 2003 as he rode a bicycle from Gulu town to Opit in Omoro county to collect school fees from his benefactor. Together with other captives, they trekked to a place inside Pader where they were joined by 50 abducted children, mainly girls, who were guarded by about 70 LRA fighters, under the command of Ocan Bunia.

Ogwang said, "Ocan told us that we were going to help to fight and topple the government of Museveni. Then we murmured in disapproval. This annoyed Ocan who ordered each of us to be given 50 strokes of the cane. We cried in pain and after that day, we just followed orders. We were not allowed to speak to each other. We are always on the move walking through the bushes. The only resting time is when we settle to cook. But still we are always on the look out for the UPDF soldiers on foot or in a helicopter which throws bombs and kills many of us," said the boy now in Soroti.

The rebels want to use educated youth to command LRA because these they claim will become ministers after they capture of Kampala. The LRA is structured in such a way that when the children are abducted, they are observed for about six months to ascertain whether they have adapted to the hostile lifestyle and whether they have abandoned any plans of escaping.

The youth are then sent for military training. Those who are ruthless are promoted to the rank of commanders and are entitled to their choice of girls for wives among the captives and eating meat.

The rescued boy said, "Ocan told us that in Teso there is a lot of food which they will need to transport to Sudan. We attacked trading centres to get soap, sugar and medicine. We raided homes for children, clothes and food. Those who resisted were killed," he said.

He said the best chance to escape is always when the UPDF attacks from air and ground. This is when many children run to hide.

"One day, I was carrying a heavy load of food. We reached wide road leading to Soroti town. It is LRA rule that we cross roads one by one. There was a UPDF truck patrolling the road. When my turn came, I threw the load of food on the road and run after the UPDF vehicle," he says sadly.

The stories show that Sudan has resumed full scale aid to Kony. These developments come shortly after Ugandan senior security officials recently said that they knew of Khartoum’s plans to resume full aid to Kony. Deteriorating diplomatic relations were exhibited early this month, when Uganda asked its observers in Khartoum to return to Kampala. Uganda later asked Sudan to recall its observers in Kampala.

Despite these ugly developments, the fragile protocol of March 2002, which allowed the UPDF to operate inside southern Sudan, still stands. Embassies in both countries are operating normally. Under Operation Iron Fist, the UPDF destroyed five of Kony’s camps, which included Lubanga-tek, Bin-Rwot, Lala in southern Sudan. But the arms captured worth sh3b were returned to Sudan government. Uganda said that the return of the arms was part of the terms of the agreement.

Sudan government admits that some of its officers support Kony. Khartoum’s response is meant to indicate that there are unguarded armouries and lack of accountability in Sudan where any officer can give away arms. It is supposed to also show that the Sudan People’s Armed Forces has no control over its commanders.

The truth, however, is that Sudan has a formidable might with a professional army.

It appears that the Sudan government accepted to start peace talks with Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/ Army (SPLM/A) and signed a protocol with Uganda government for three reasons. In the first place, Bashir’s government was guilty of backing the LRA and Allied Democratic Forces, which were listed by the US as terrorist organisations. Sudan is desperate to be got off the list of terrorist countries.

Secondly the presence of American warships in the Red Sea, off the coast of Yemen and the deployment of US marines in Djibouti gave the impression that as America prepared for war with Iraq, Sudan could have also been a target. During the 1991, gulf war, some of Saddam Hussein’s planes and equipment were kept in Sudan. Reports in 2000/2001 indicated that Iraq was building two chemical factories for Sudan, one of them was to be based in Wau in Southern Sudan.

Thirdly, Sudanese President Omar Bashir is a tactician. He knows that his friend-turned-foe Hassan Turabi had reached an accord with SPLM/A in Europe. That agreement would have led to a coup in Khartoum since Turabi has a big influence in the army. He also knew that Kony was a creation of Turabi. So, he chose to place Kony in the cold, signed an agreement with Uganda where he would never lose.

The Uganda-Sudan agreement allowed UPDF to patrol only SPLA held parts of Sudan, there would be no UPDF planes to bomb inside Sudan, arms captured from LRA were to be returned to Sudan government and Uganda was to stop all assistance to SPLM/A.

The agreement with Uganda allowed Bashir to reorganise the army as he weeded out the pro-Turabi officers. The most logical thing would have been for Bashir to arrest Kony and hand him over to Uganda.

In another strategy, Bashir kept SPLM/A busy in peace talks in which he had no faith. Thus enabling him to re-organise his army and plan.

One cannot rule out the current global geo-military politics being played in Uganda. The Arab and Sudan support to LRA is likely to rise as soon as UPDF troops are deployed in Iraq. Why? If what Otti’s bodyguard says is true, then Bashir has now brought Kony back.

It means Kony is not fighting to topple the Kampala regime, but to abduct more children so as to swell his army: to keep the UPDF too busy to think of helping SPLA and to fight SPLA at the rear when Bashir will resume the war. The rebels are also in Teso gathering food to feed them during training inside Sudan.

It is in Sudan’s interest to keep extending the agreement with Uganda knowing fully well that it is absolutely hard for Uganda to capture Kony or destroy his fighting force in the dense forested and mountains expanse of Southern Sudan.

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