AN estimated 189 fighters of the Joseph Kony-led Lord’s Resistance Army have arrived in the Central African Republic, Daily Monitor has learnt.
Intelligence information obtained by Daily Monitor indicates that the group, which comprises women, children and fighters, set off for the Central Africa Republic, CAR, on February 12 – from the Assembly point of Ri-Kwangba, at the Sudan-DR Congo border – and arrived at the CAR border six days later.
“They arrived in Obo District on February 18 in Central African Republic and proceeded northwards in the same rebel controlled area,” the source said.
The Ugandan army confirmed the information yesterday and accused the LRA of attacking a town on the Sudan-CAR border.
“We can confirm that LRA entered CAR last week and yesterday (Saturday) they attacked Ezo town, killing a number of civilians and retreated back to CAR,” said Capt. Paddy Ankunda, the Defence and Army spokesman. He challenged the LRA to prove “that all their troops are in Ri-Kwangba.”
However, LRA chief negotiator in the South Sudan provincial capital Juba David Nyakorach Matsanga dismissed the reports as fabricated and diversionary. “All our fighters are in Ri-Kwangba. Soon we will be going to meet the chairman (Kony) and all those fabricating these diversionary allegations will be embarrassed,” he told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview from Juba.
Last week, Daily Monitor broke a story about hundreds of LRA rebels moving towards the Central African Republic. The story quoted Mr Jeseph Ngere, the Deputy Governor of Western Equatoria Province as saying that the LRA were shifting camp.
Earlier, the United Nations Mission in Sudan, UNMIS, reported in February 2007 that some 400 LRA fighters were making their way from the Ugandan LRA main base in the Garamba National Park in DR Congo, through Tambura in southwest Sudan and across Mbokou River into CAR to join up with the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) fighters.
But it also emerged yesterday that indicted LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony has remained behind, in a Congolese village 60km west of Ri-Kwangba.
For the last two years, the Ugandan warlord has hidden in Congo’s Teak Forest.
The southeastern region of CAR, where the LRA are relocating to, is controlled by the rebel Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) fighting CAR President Gen. Francois Bozize.
Gen. Bozize, who has a gentleman’s agreement with his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni to fight dissident groups, has accused Sudan of supporting the APRD. But what is puzzling keen observers of the LRA movements is their continuous movement northwards to the Chadian border – where the Darfurian conflict between the Khartoum government and a faction of rebels there is escalating.
The area, covering the three borders of DR Congo, CAR and Sudan, is occupied by Sudan’s only Bantu tribe, the Zande, who are reportedly more supportive of the Khartoum establishment than the semi-autonomous government of Southern Sudan.
This is also the only area in southern Sudan where Khartoum has maintained a minister only answerable to the National Congress party of President Omar El-Bashir. Observers fear that if the reports of the LRA relocation are true, they could jolt the Juba peace process, which is seen as the best chance to end the devastating war peacefully.
After a tortuous process since the talks began in mid-2006, the progress made in the recent past has been amazing – especially with Saturday’s signing of a permanent ceasefire. The ceasefire will commence 24 hours after the signing of the final peace agreement which is expected soon.
The LRA revolt against President Yoweri Museveni since 1986 has ravaged northern Uganda, killed tens of thousands of people and displaced nearly 2 million.
Source: Daily Monitor Kampala