APRIL 14, 2010: Army Links Netted LRA Man to FDC

Army Links Netted LRA Man to FDC
SOURCE: Observer

By Michael Mubangizi

The man who the Army paraded on April 5 as a top leader of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army has been identified as an opposition FDC activist.

The Army Spokesman, Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, told The Observer on Friday that the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence was always aware that Okello 'Mission' who was captured by the Army in Southern Sudan on March 31, was indeed an FDC activist.

The revelation has caused a scare among some FDC youth activists who previously worked with Okello, saying he could be used to wrongly link senior party members to rebel activities.

FDC President, Col. Kizza Besigye, already has a pending treason case in which he is accused of plotting to overthrow the government of President Museveni, using a shadowy rebel group called the People's Redemption Army (PRA).

The case stalled after Besigye challenged the credibility of one of the state witnesses, Alfred Onen Kamdulu, a former top LRA commander. Kamdulu was supposed to testify that Besigye, as leader of the PRA, had negotiated with the LRA to wage a joint war against the Museveni government.

Kamdulu is currently serving a long jail term after he was convicted for armed robbery thereafter.

Several FDC activists told The Observer that they were shocked by Okello's confession that he was, until his capture, the LRA's Political Commissar.

They say Okello was active in their party programmes from 2004 to around 2008. Worried that Okello could be up to some deal with the government, some panicky party activists have deleted his telephone contacts from their sets.

"I deleted his number the moment I saw him on TV confessing that he was in LRA. There is evidence of communication between him and us, and even with Col. Besigye. They could use that to implicate us," said a frightened party activist.

But Kulayigye said that Okello would be charged with treason and only those FDC members who are "guilty" should be worried.

"We had been told that he has been a supporter of FDC, but I didn't mention it [during the press conference] because I didn't have evidence. But it is good that people are now confirming it. The guilty are the ones who should be worried," he added.

He dismissed as "nonsense and absolute rubbish," claims that Okello might have been induced and coached to wrongly link the main opposition party leaders to rebellion in the run-up to next year's presidential elections.

Kulayigye, who paraded Okello before the press at the CMI headquarters in Kampala, said that Okello had been captured by the UPDF at Ezo in Southern Sudan in the company of 10 rebels, led by Felly Otim, Joseph Kony's aide.

Okello, however, told journalists that at the time of his arrest, he was in the process of delivering LRA's request for a resumption of peace negotiations.

"I was arrested on March 31 when I was assigned to convey a message to the government requesting for peace talks," he told journalists. But Kulayigye insisted that he will be charged with treason.


FDC Spokesman, Wafula Oguttu, who told The Observer that he knows Okello, said he is being used by the government to frame FDC party leaders.

"When I saw his face on TV, I knew I had seen him somewhere either in town or here [at FDC offices in Najjanankumbi]. I used to see him and even talk to him before and after the [2006] presidential elections. He is not a guerrilla; it can't be. He is just being used," Wafula said.

He added that the government could be using him to link FDC officials to rebellion but warned that such a move will be futile.

An FDC youth activist, Ibrahim Kasozi, also claimed that Okello is being used by the government "to scare away young people from joining FDC and DP by portraying them as parties of rebels."

He was referring to Kulayigye's earlier claims that Okello was captured with a DP membership card on him.

Kasozi told The Observer that he first met Okello in 2004, around the time the National Democratic Forum (NDF) merged with PAFO and Reform Agenda to form FDC. He said that he worked with him in various activities until late 2007.

"I know him; he was under me for a long time. We used to do a lot of mobilisation together on issues like calling demonstrations, protecting the [FDC] president."

The FDC President, Col. Kizza Besigye, however, could not remember Okello, pointing out that he meets many people.

"I meet so many people, so it is hard for me to tell if I know him or not. But if it is another ploy to create cases, it will be a worthless effort," Besigye said by phone on Wednesday.

Besigye added that he is not bothered by Okello's confession. "There is absolutely no way I could be worried."

Told that the Army and some FDC officials had confirmed Okello's membership to FDC, Besigye said that even if it were true, he has no control over what his supporters or associates do.


"Even if I know him, as I knew [James] Opoka, who was actually my ADC, I could have absolutely nothing to do with what he (Okello) does because people make their decisions."

A former Makerere University Guild President, Opoka was reportedly killed by Kony soon after joining the rebel group.

Another FDC youth activist who met Okello in early 2000 at Makerere University, where they were both students, says he last met Okello in November 2008. "By then he told me that he was working with some NGOs in Southern Sudan.

But whereas some FDC youth are worried that Okello might be used to frame them, Kasozi is not.

"Our campaign has always been to use peaceful means to change government. I challenge anyone to bring any communication where we plotted to remove the government forcefully," he said.

He added: "They are instead making us stronger to confront them (NRM)."

People who have previously interacted with Okello said that they were surprised by his links to rebel activities.

"He wasn't the person you would find on the frontline. He would do his mobilisation and underground work, like writing letters, sending them and attending meetings..." said a former FDC colleague.

Kasozi describes Okello as a humble, intelligent and reconciliatory person.

"He was never aggressive, he wanted all issues negotiated and agreed upon," Kasozi said of his association with the new rebel suspect.

Another FDC youth described Okello as a talkative, smart man. "He appeared to be very busy all the time, but we wouldn't know what he was doing."

The New Vision recently reported that Okello graduated from Makerere University in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in Computer Science. The paper said that Okello joined the LRA as a peace negotiator in 2006 with people like Santa Okot, Peter Obina, Yusuf Adek and Quinto Kidega.

He says he remained with the rebels to explain the draft final peace agreement to Kony. Okello told journalists that he volunteered to go to Kony after President Museveni raised concerns that people in the Diaspora, claiming to speak for the LRA, were out of touch with reality.