Special Reports

Will Kony Surrender?

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CAR President Michel Djotodia told reporters in Bangui on Thursday that he had personally talked to Kony and some of his fighters and that the LRA had expressed desire to surrender.


UPDF publicist, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, said Uganda remains skeptical about the reports but was firmly behind CAR’s efforts to ensure Kony gives in.


He further said UPDF would not hurt Kony if the remaining LRA militia converged at a designated zone for demobilisation and disarmament.


The reports come against the backdrop of talks between President Museveni and his Sudan counterpart, Omar Bashir in October this year.


The two leaders agreed to work together towards a peaceful settlement of their grievances during a meeting on the sidelines of the AU Summit in Ethiopia.


Sources say Bashir pledged ensure LRA ends its hostilities and if possible disarm. Bashir also requested Museveni to withdraw support for Sudanese opposition leaders.


Khartoum has for the last two decades backed the LRA atrocities, leading to the killing of thousands of innocent people and displacements of over one million in Northern Uganda.


In response, Uganda supported the SPLA in its bloody secession war against Sudan, leading to South Sudan’s independence two years ago.


The support of LRA and SPLA continued to strain diplomatic relations between Sudan and Uganda until October when leaders of both countries held the first talks in ten years in Addis Ababa.


CAR


It is also possible that the government of CAR which is facing a humanitarian crisis following Seleka’s violent seizure of power in December 2012, could be working towards winning international support by appearing as mediating between the militia and Uganda.


Bangui is desperate for aid and international recognition after it was accused of being in bed with Kony.


Observers say by handing in Kony to Uganda, Bangui intends to clean its poor reputation on the international scene.


In December 2012 Seleka forces, a loose coalition of four rebel groups, under the command of Michel Djotodia, began their violent trek from the northeast region of the country toward the capital city of Bangui.


After rejecting the power-sharing arrangement that had been brokered in January in Libreville, Gabon, by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Seleka rebels were able to take the capital Bangui, by force on March 24.


President Bozize fled the country, and Djotodia declared himself president, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the national assembly. After significant pressure from the region, Djotodia chose to abide by the ECCAS-brokered arrangement with opposition leaders.


This agreement and a second ECCAS summit in April led to a new power-sharing arrangement, the drafting of an interim constitution, and the swearing-in of Djotodia as interim President of the Transition in August. In accord with agreements brokered by ECCAS, Djotodia also promised to hold elections by February 2015.


According to the State Department, Djotodia has never had strong command and control of his own Seleka forces and has been unable to sustain them in the field with salaries and stipends.


With the collapse of the former national armed forces, the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), and the absence of any other meaningful government authority outside of the capital, relatively autonomous Seleka commanders – including Chadian and Sudanese militia leaders with groups of loyal fighters under them — have become criminal enterprises preying on local populations.


Seleka’s targeted violence – including murders, rapes, robberies, looting and burning of villages has created inter-religious tensions in a country that had previously enjoyed excellent Christian-Muslim relations.

These Seleka abuses, in turn, have given rise to primarily Christian self-defense groups that have sought to kill both Seleka fighters and C.A.R. Muslims, creating a dangerous dynamic of inter-religious hatred and tension that risks spiraling out of control. For example, fighting in Bossangoa and Bangassou between Seleka and local defense militias in September and October 2013, although primarily an anti-Seleka backlash, has the potential to lead to large-scale atrocities.


So far, the conflict in the C.A.R. has internally displaced nearly 400,000 people and forced approximately 68,000 new refugees into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.), the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and Chad.


This has brought the total number of C.A.R. refugees in neighboring countries to over 220,000. During Seleka’s advance on Bangui, hospitals, schools, and warehouses were looted and entire villages destroyed.


In Fiscal Year 2013, the U.S. Government provided more than $24 million in humanitarian assistance in C.A.R. to support programs providing food and non-food items, health services, access to clean water, and more.


Fact or fiction?


According to a recent statement from Invisible Children, an NGO that tracks LRA operations, a small group of potential defectors from an unidentified armed force reportedly made contact with Central African officials in Haute-Kotto, CAR, and indicated that they were a part of a larger group located in the same prefecture.


The potential defectors made known their need for supplies and communicated the group’s desire to surrender. In response, a UN-facilitated delegation was sent to this area earlier this week.


Preliminary reports from the delegation showed no signs of a mass LRA defection.


Best estimates put the total number of LRA combatants in all of central Africa at approximately 250 fighters, in addition to 250 abducted women and children, making a mass defection of this scale highly implausible.


State Department said Thursday: “At this time, we have little reason to believe that Joseph Kony is part of this group,” adding, Kony and his senior commanders have used “any and every pretext to rest, regroup and rearm, ultimately returning to kidnapping, killing, displacing and otherwise abusing civilian populations.”


United States said in a statement on Thursday that it remained concerned about the continued activity of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in southeastern C.A.R.


This year, the LRA has continued to commit attacks against civilians across the Mbomou, Haut-Mbomou and Haut-Koto prefectures of the C.A.R.


According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), from January to September 2013, presumed LRA fighters committed 21 attacks, resulting in 33 deaths and 128 abductions in the CAR. According to UNOCHA, an estimated 21,000 Central Africans remain internally displaced and over 6,000 are living as refugees as a result of the LRA threat.

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