APRIL 5, 2010: LRA Rebel Pins Sudan on Support

LRA Rebel Pins Sudan On Support
Source: New Vision

By Henry Mukasa

Kampala — THE Sudan government is in touch with the Lord's Resistance Army command and has given the rebels fresh supplies of food and medicines, a captured commander has said.
The LRA political commissar, Okello 'Mission', told journalists in Kampala that he was part of the LRA team that trekked to the Darfur region in Sudan where they met officers of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on October 4, 2009.

He said their delegation was led by Caesar Acellam and they met with the SAF brigade commander in Darfur, Col. Hamdou, and an un-named lieutenant colonel said to be the regional chief of intelligence.

He said Khartoum solicited for the meeting.

"The subject of the discussion was to resume the partnership with the government of Sudan," Okello Mission said.

He first narrated that the SAF commanders told them they were welcome to Darfur as long as they disarmed.

When pressed, he said SAF promised to give the LRA a "safe corridor" to central Sudan, as well as food and medicines.

The Khartoum government has been denying reports that the LRA is in Darfur or that Sudan is still supporting the rebels.

"These claims are merely irresponsible accusations, disinformation and propaganda against Sudan," the Sudanese embassy said in a statement last month.

"In his recent visits to South Sudan, President Omar el-Bashir made it very clear that Kony will not be given refuge inside the country. He vowed to arrest him if he entered Sudan territory and hand him over to Uganda," it added.

Army spokesman Felix Kulayigye yesterday said the Government takes Okello's statements seriously but they would be addressed at state level.

He said Okello confirmed earlier intelligence information that the LRA group met Khartoum officials in Darfur.

The LRA has been under military pressure from the joint operation by the armies of Uganda, Congo, Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.

The combined air raids and infantry assault on the LRA bases in the densely populated Garamba forest in eastern Congo in December 2008 sent the rebels in disarray.

They have been oscillating between Congo, Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic. Many commanders were killed, captured, or surrendered.

Okello Mission, 30, was captured by UPDF soldiers at Ezo in Southern Sudan after a brief shoot-out in the evening of March 31. Okello was in a unit of 10 rebels, led by Felly Otimi, an escort to LRA leader Joseph Kony.

He graduated from Makerere University in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in computer science and joined the LRA as a peace negotiator in 2006. A relative of Kony, he hails from Lalogi in Gulu district and holds a Democratic Party (DP) membership card.

He joined the Juba peace talks at the same time with Santa Okot, Peter Obina, Yusuf Adek and Quinto Kidega. He said he remained with the rebels to explain the draft final peace agreement to Kony.

Okello told journalists at the CMI headquarters in Kitante that he sacrificed himself for the sake of peace, adding that the Government was aware of his mission.

He said he volunteered to go to Kony after President Museveni raised concerns that people in the diaspora claiming to speak for LRA were out of touch with reality.

"I was arrested on March 31 when I was assigned to convey a message to the Government requesting for (the resumption of) peace talks," he argued.

However, Kulayigye refuted the story, saying Okello would be charged with treason.

"The man faces prosecution since he joined the LRA voluntarily. He launched war on a legally elected government," he remarked.

Okello described the multi-pronged attack by the regional armies on LRA as the day he thought he would die. "It was my first time to see air strikes. The whole sky was full of gunships."

Asked about the Christmas massacres conducted by the LRA in Congo in the aftermath of the attacks, Okello said Kony was avenging the onslaught on them.

He described life in the bush as horrific. "I did not expect I would ever live such a life. It's too painful. You walk from morning to sunset. You get problems like knee pain. We fed on wild fruits."

Asked about the whereabouts of the LRA leader, Okello said Kony was in eastern Congo with his army commander, Okot Odhiambo. He estimates the number of fighters left at 200.

The army yesterday also paraded 'Second Lieutenant' Geoffrey Okello, 'Sergeant' Geoffrey Okonga and 'Captain' Jasper Moroto who surrendered on March 16 in DRC.

They reported to the UPDF with three guns and an abducted girl, Agnes Amune, who came back with two children.

Okonga is the son of Yusuf Adeke, a member of the LRA peace team who the army described as "a big LRA collaborator in the north".

Okonga, 23, said he was taken to Garamba in April 2007 by his father, purportedly for a mental ailment which only Kony could treat.

He said he was supposed to come back to Uganda but his return was overtaken by the launch of Operation Lightning Thunder.

"The chairman (Kony) told me since they have launched an operation on him, I should stay and do duties he would assign me," Okonga recalled.

He said he was trained to shoot a gun and later given a weapon which he said was to protect himself from enemies.

"I left because I didn't go there for any job. I went to get healed," he pleaded. Okonga, who had just finished his 'O' Level classes at Kitgum High School, said all LRA fighters go through rituals to protect them while fighting.