NOVEMBER 22, 2009: LRA's Joseph Kony to Seek Protection From Sudan Army

LRA's Joseph Kony to Seek Protection From Sudan Army
SOURCE: New Vision
By Els De Temmerman

Kampala — LRA leader Joseph Kony has instructed his troops to move into Darfur and report to the first detachment of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) seeking protection and logistical support.

This was revealed by the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) director of operations, 'Lt. Col.' Charles Arop, who surrendered earlier this month and was flown to Kampala last week.

"The last time we communicated, in August, Kony said all LRA units should move northwards, enter the first Arab defence and ask them to communicate that we are there," Arop, 32, told The New Vision.

According to Arop, Kony was planning to move along the Central African border to Chad and then enter into Darfur to meet SAF officers.

"He told me he was going to meet Fadil, the SAF officer who coordinates LRA activities. He wants the Arabs to give him logistical support and a safe haven."

Asked what pushed the LRA to flee to their long-time backers, Arop said: "Kony is desperate. Things are really hard. We were constantly on the move. Sometimes we would not rest for a week. The UPDF was pursuing us everywhere."

He estimates that there are only about 250 rebels left, half the number they had before Operation Lightning Thunder, the joint offensive of the armies of Uganda, Congo and Southern Sudan.

"Before the December 14 attack, we had about 500 fighters and 300 unarmed civilians. Most have died or defected since. We now have between 250 and 300 fighters left and not more than 100 civilians."

Arop, who was himself abducted from Gulu at the age of 16, believes that the LRA would have been finished by now had the UPDF not delayed deploying in the Central African Republic.

"When the LRA relocated to the Central African Republic, it took time for UPDF to catch up and take up positions. They gave Kony ample time to prepare and abduct more."

Kony's communication system has been seriously disrupted since Operation Lightning Thunder, said Arop.

"Since December 14, he no longer communicates on phone. He now sends one of his security men on foot to convey messages. They would move 10 to 20km away from him and then communicate on phone."

In the past week Arop has assisted the Ugandan army to get out the rest of his unit from eastern Congo.

A total of 34 rebels reported to the UPDF intelligence squad in Faradje on Thursday. As a result, Faradje area, the closest LRA location to Uganda, has been completely cleared.

Christmas Massacres

The atrocities committed by Arop's group have been widely documented by human rights groups and are among the worst the Congolese suffered at the hands of the LRA.

On Christmas day, his fighters killed at least 143 people in Faradje and abducted 160 children. According to survivors, the LRA crushed their victims' skulls with axes and bats. They also set fire to 940 houses, three schools and nine churches.

They killed another 86 people in the first week of January in the towns of Sambia, Akua and Tomate, to the south of Faradje.

The massacres were in retaliation for the participation of the Congolese army in Operation Lightning Thunder, said Arop.

"Kony said the December 14 attack was carried out by the combined forces, including the Congolese. If that is the case, he said, you should go to Faradje and attack them."

Earlier, the Congolese had annoyed Kony by handing over LRA defectors to the Ugandan army, he added, particularly around Duru.

Arop recalled that a few days after the joint offensive started, Kony selected him and 71 soldiers and gave them orders: to attack Faradje town on December 25.

"He told us that if there was one gunshot from the Congolese, anybody found in Faradje had to be killed; those able to be turned into soldiers had to be abducted."

Faradje, he said, was chosen because it was the nearest place where such massacres would have an impact and where they would get international publicity.

Asked why he did not defect with his fighters at that time, Arop said he was himself closely watched by a group Kony had attached to his unit.

"Kony gave 30 of his bodyguards to join my group. There was no way I could not execute the mission. They had a phone and were constantly reporting to him. If I refused, I would have been killed."

Asked how he felt about the killings, an uneasy Arop said: "It was painful but you have to do it. I want to ask the relatives of those we killed to forgive me. Whatever we did, we did it under orders."

Arop eventually escaped when he found himself with only one fighter left as they were trying to meet messengers Kony had sent. Earlier, after Kony had called back his 30 bodyguards, he had split up his unit in three.

Of the 14 in his group, three were killed; the rest got scattered after they were attacked, and reported to UPDF one by one.


Asked where they got their weapons, ammunition and new uniforms from, Arop said they received enough supplies from SAF, many of which were still buried in river banks and hills in Southern Sudan.

"For example in Apatalanga Hill, the mountain range overlooking Agoro Hills, we hid 200 submachine guns, 10 SPG9 missiles, seven 12mm machine guns and four multi-purpose grenade launchers. There are still a lot of arms caches the UPDF has not yet unearthed."

In Congo, Arop said, they seized weapons from the UN soldiers they ambushed and killed; and on January 2 this year, his unit overran a detachment of game rangers in Garamba National Park and opened their arms depot.

"We could not carry all the weapons. We picked 36 submachine guns, one G3-gun, two micro galil guns, two NATO guns, one PK machinegun and one rocket propelled grenade."

In addition, he said, they took solar panels, laptops, walkie-talkies, radios, compasses, raincoats and 170 pairs of uniforms.

"We also burned two planes we found at the airstrip. We saw some white people running away but we did not shoot at them."

As for food, before Operation Lightning Thunder they relied on the supplies given by Caritas during the peace talks.

"We would collect the food from Ri-Kwangba (the place where LRA fighters were supposed to assemble and be disarmed) and carry it to Garamba," he explained.

"Every month we received 200 bags of beans, 200 bags of rice, 200 bags of posho, 100 jerry-cans of cooking oil, 100 boxes of wheat flour, 100 sachets of salt and 100 boxes of soap."
Asked about his worst experience in captivity, Arop said the death and horrific injuries of his colleagues. He showed the nine bullets that hit him in the stomach, arm, shoulder and leg, three of which are still inside his body.

Like other commanders who defected before him, Arop said Kony keeps surviving because he never takes part in battles.

"Whenever attacked, he runs away and leaves his fighters to fight back. I have never seen him fight."

And like his colleagues, he does not believe Kony will voluntarily give up the struggle, even not when the ICC indictment is lifted.

"Kony wants to fight until he overthrows the Government of Uganda. He will never sign a peace agreement. He cannot believe that once he allows himself to be disarmed, he will be forgiven. Signing means you have lost the war and abandoned rebellion. But he does not want to abandon rebellion."