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Ugandan Army outlines OLT achievements on LRA rebels in 2009

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By Richard Ruati

January 10, 2010 (Kampala) - The Ugandan has tabled Operation Light Thunder's (OLT) achievements for the year 2009, the tabling come one year after the Armies of Uganda, south Sudan and DRC allied together to disarm General Joseph Kony and his vicious fighters.

Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye (photo Richard Ruati) The Spokesperson of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces, Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye has said that "the military operation against Joseph Kony and his Lords Resistance Army rebels in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan has been a huge success in 2009 and it will continue in the New Year.

Kulayigye says that despite the failure to capture Joseph Kony, the army has managed to kill and capture a number of LRA rebels in the past one year.

He says Uganda commends the efforts by the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, DR Congo forces and UN Security Council among other partners in ensuring the restoration of peace in northern Uganda.

The Ugandan army has killed 305 Lord's Resistance Army fighters since it launched a joint military offensive on the rebel bases in Garamba in eastern Congo and southern Sudan a year ago. Sudan Tribune has learned from the Ugandan Army.

In a document obtained by Sudan Tribune listing the UPDF's achievements since Operation Lightning Thunder was launched mid December, 2008, the Ministry of Defence said another 41 rebels were captured while 52 fighters defected.

Over 513 abductees were rescued in the operation that was jointly conducted with the armies of Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Army also rescued 69 children now undergoing reintegration program in northern, adding that, "twice that number from DRC, CAR and South Sudan have been rescued.

However a good number of abductees do escape from the heinous acts of LRA rebels.

The Ugandan army revealed out that several commanders were either killed or captured, while others defected to UPDF reception points in the war zone. Those killed include 'Lt Col' Okello Yapee and 'Lt Col' Okuti, while 'Col' Thomas Kwoyelo was captured, the statement said.

The first day of the New Year started on a high note for the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) with the killing of senior LRA commander 'Brigadier' Buk Abudema.

Among those who defected were 'Lt Col' Charles Arop, 'Maj' Joseph Okot Atiak, 'Capt' Obali, 'Lieutenants' Michael Ojok and Francis Opira, and Second Lieutenants Geoffrey Okwera, Onen Quinto and Christopher Ochora. Under Operation Lightning Thunder, the UPDF and its allies attacked the LRA hideouts with helicopter gun-ships and Mig23 jet-fighters.

They rounded the rebel camps in Nyere, Fuke, Piripiri, Baate and Bawesi in Garamba National Park. The main camp, code-named Swahili, was destroyed, according to the army.

The operation, commanded by Brig. Patrick Kankiraho, was backed by the air force, paratroopers and infantry.

General Otema took over the command against the LRA rebels from Brig Patrick Kankiriho.

The army said it recovered 257 sub-machineguns and rifles, two pistols, four tins of SMG ammunition and three tins of PK machinegun ammunition.

Other items recovered during the operation included eight laptops, one printer, five satellite phones, three global position systems (GPS) and twelve mobile phones.

In addition, the joint forces captured 11 solar panels, four generators, four tents, 16 batteries, 14 pairs of camouflage uniforms and four life jackets.

Ministry of Defense and Ugandan Army Spokesperson Lt Col Felix Kulaigye said that, "the destruction of 15 square miles garden full of food items cultivated by Kony crippled the re-insurgence."

"Our objectives were: Kony to sign the Juba Negotiated Peace Talks, to weaken the fighting machinery of LRA, get Kony out of Garamba National Park in DRC and rescue abductees," says Kulaigye.

Kulaigye said the rebels' command structure was depleted and they ran out of combat weaponry. "The LRA's capacity to create havoc is no more. That's why the alleged threat of Christmas attacks on the Congolese, as announced by some NGOs, was empty," he commented.

"They are looking for a safe haven where they can train, re-organize and start to create terror again."

However, acknowledged some of the objectives not achieved: "the failure of the elusive Rebel Leader to ink the agreement and stoppage of LRA carnages on civilians though it has scaled down." Two weeks, the army in Southern Sudan announced that the rebels have reached Darfur and are regrouping.

The SPLA spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Kuol Diem Kuol, said the rebels have established training camps in southern Darfur with support from Khartoum.

"There is Sudanese army and they still are having this connection."

In fact LRA is re-grouping and gaining intensive training in Sudan. They are training in Dimo in southern Darfur.

This fact is known to the intelligence community," Maj. Gen. Kuol told Sudan Tribune on December 23.

Last month, former LRA director of operations Charles Arop told The New Vision that LRA leader Joseph Kony had ordered his troops to move to Darfur and report to the first Sudanese army detachment to get protection and logistical support.

The Sudan Government through its Kampala embassy, however, denied it continues to assist the LRA.

Meanwhile, a new UN report released last month outlines a series of attacks carried out over a ten-month period, during which the LRA killed at least 1,200 people, abducted 1,400, including some 600 children, and displaced around 230,000 people.

"These attacks and systematic and widespread human rights violations carried out by the LRA may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity," the report says.

It echoes a second report, also issued yesterday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on a similar pattern of LRA attacks in neighboring Southern Sudan.

The second report documents 30 LRA attacks between December 2008 and March 2009 in which at least 81 civilians were killed, 74 abducted and 11 villages pillaged.

South Sudan region also remains seriously concerned by the attack of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal rebel group from northern Uganda ". Based on the 2005 agreements in South Sudan has a temporary administrative autonomy while the south awaits referenda votes in 2011.