Uganda’s operation “Lightning Thunder” is in danger of faltering because actions of the army are being directed determined by President Yoweri Museveni, the Commander in Chief of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces who is not in Garamba- a highly placed military source has said. “He should allow the ground commanders to do their job and stop interfering” said the source who cannot be named directly criticizing the President’s role in the effort to get Kony.
The Daily Monitor has published that the Ugandan army did not act quickly to reap the element of surprise immediately following aerial bombardments over a week ago when the operation commenced. This according to confidential military sources, loosened the noose on the rebels which evidence showed fled with their wounded even.
Two events have lent added concerns about the operation. On the one hand a Ugandan fighter jet went down in Congo, around Isiro, the army says is an accident, the first reported casualty on Kampala’s side. Earlier President Museveni told the nation the rebels had eavesdropped into the bombing operation of over a week ago. There are other media reports that the rebels may have been tipped off before the operation got underway.
All point to operational readiness and forecast that unless some gains are made in the next week, the military campaign will now take much longer than was planned for.
LRA’s David Matsanga also claims the leadership of the LRA escaped the bombing campaign. In any case, a skirmish involving two civilian deaths was attributed to the rebels around the Sudan border.
According to one source pursuit of the rebels as well as delay in rescuing a group of women and children which the army’s aerial surveillance flights identified could be missed opportunities for the army if the current delays continue.
Over a week since the operation begun the army has not engaged the LRA and the aerial bombardments remain the only significant military action by the national army. Army reinforcements out of their operational support base in Koboko have continued and the campaign may no doubt seek fresh gains against the rebels but operational challenges including coordinating the action of three militaries are bound to slow things down a few more notches.
“Lt Col Muhoozi [ Kainerugaba] is facing a critical test of his career but his own forces are also pre-occupied with his own security making them less flexible in taking risks” the source added.
The operation which begun with an aerial raid is meant, according to the army, to “break the back” of the LRA. The rebels appear to have fled in disarray according to evidence the army has recovered from their abandoned camps.
“It’s true the overall command of the operation is with his Excellency the President. He is closely monitoring, supervising, guiding and giving advice to the team. He has full confidence in his commanders on the ground” said Hon Okello Oryem, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs [International Cooperation]
” I would be surprised if his father would allow Col Muhoozi’s presence there to affect the overall objective to do the job. Muhoozi has few people protecting him who are not involved with the overall operation” he added.
Military sources say the President is briefed twice a day by Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen. Aronda Nyakairima and is reportedly in direct telephone contact to the UPDF Overall commander, Brig. Patrick Kankiriho according to a senior UPDF commander close to the operation.
According to this source Gen. Aronda and the Chief of Military Intelligence, Brig. James Mugira brief the president on military and intelligence operations by holding direct meetings with him if possible daily. Where there is no direct meeting, the two officers talk to him by telephone.
Another military officer said, the President has personally called Brig. Kankiriho, his deputy, Col. Moses Rwakitarate and Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba to brief him on the air force and Special Forces’ activities sin Garamba. It is because of the access that Museveni was the first person to receive photographs of the raids, when the Special forces entered LRA main headquarters at Camp Kiswahili, the source said.
“This operation is one of the key areas the President right now monitors on regular basis daily,” one of the commanders said on Monday. “In handling such sensitive operation, the President opens up many channels,” the commander explained.
Capt. Chris Magezi, the Spokeman for the operation however declined to disclose the level of interaction between Museveni and the field commanders. “Your question on whom the military commanders report to is of operational nature and I think it is not supposed to be exposed to the media,” Capt. Magezi said.
Adapted from an article submitted to the Daily Monitor reported by Angelo Izama & Grace Matsiko.
The time-lag on the operation, which is predicated on permission from the Congolese government for Ugandan troops to enter the country, says several things. The realities of the operation, terrain and all may have slowed things but evidently the same can be said for the man-made challenges that the Ugandan side is facing. If the LRA recover to conduct an unconventional campaign of their own it could drag things out longer.
The Ugandan authorities may well require that the operation period be extended and deepened which could test how secure the alliance against the rebels is. Uganda has a bad reputation with the Congolese from past military expeditions.
The “survival” of the LRA and Joseph Kony for over a week means that the rebels and their backers may find ways to improve cohesion and supply routes that could lead them to remain at large longer straining the current set up for their hunt.
All the LRA needs is to survive while the three nation operation against them must, if they must succeed, act quickly to tighten the noose against the rebels.