Uganda: November 6, 2002


: On 1 November, the Ugandan Army attacked the Lord's Resistance Army main camp between 11:30 and noon in the Isore Hills of Sudan's Kipyenyi valley, 20 miles from the Uganda border. Joesph Kony and his field commanders Charles Tabuley, MAJ Kenneth Banya and Onen Kamdulu barely managed to escape amid a rain of bullets. A lone hunter who saw the Ugandan troops shortly before they hit the camp reportedly tipped off Kony.

The UPDF officer in charge of hunting down Kony in southern Sudan, LTC Lucky Kidega, said Kony and Banya were leading about 400 fighters and captives in early morning prayers. There were twenty commanders total, who abandoned their arms in the hasty flight as the army was close on their heels. Three senior fighters later told The New Vision that many fighters had abandon their weapons during the crossfire. Captured were 48 sub-machine guns, 15 RPGs, eleven 82mm mortar bombs, 16 grenades and six boxes of bullets, as well as three 60mm mortars, 14 anti-personnel mines, two automatic rifles and a radio communications system. The press counted 24 rebel bodies (some female) after the battle.

This camp was on a vast plot of arable land, 8,000ft above sea level and that they had planted large gardens of beans and sweet potatoes. The Ugandan Army has recently overrun seven LRA camps, mostly in the Pomo hills and Kipyenyi valleys on Isore, north-west of Agoro hills. The Ugandan troops had walked for three days from the Ngong Hills before they encountered Kony's main camp.

Kampala Army Commander MG James Kazini flew to the area immediately afterward, to give his soldiers a pat on the back for a job well done. Kazini said the army had suffered 10 minor casualties, but this could not be independently verified. 
Ugandan Majors Michael Ondoga and James Rubahika, who commanded the army units involved in the attack, later admitted that the terrain slowed down their pursuit of Kony. 

Kony had recently escaped by a hair's breadth in southern Sudan when the army raided another of his camps. After the 1 November attack, five more rebels surrendered with more arms other than those captured in the camp raid.

The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) appears to have moved away from its earlier goal of killing Kony and instead resorted to destroying the LRA infrastructure. In recent months, the LRA had split its forces into small groups and spread them out to counter the Uganda Army attempt to enforce a border barricade. The Army was recently forced to abandon its earlier strategy of establishing a military detachment every 1.8 miles on the Ugandan-Sudan border, largely because of the shortage of troops. 

The Ugandan's Fourth Division covers the northern part of the country with 12,000 troops, but already has 10,000 troops in the Southern Sudan. Whether those troops are real or 'ghost soldiers' is a topic of debate. Unscrupulous commanders (throughout history) have inflated their muster roles, keeping the extra pay and allowances for themselves.

Even as Kony is kept at bay, trouble is brewing elsewhere in Uganda. The renewed conflict has postponed implementation of the $100 million World Bank-funded Northern Uganda Social Action Fund - meant to allow the north to catch up with the rest of the country. In western Uganda, the Commander of the Mountains Brigade, COL Dura Mawa, said the Allied Democratic Front is reorganizing its troops while the Peoples Redemption Army (led by ex-UPDF officers) prepares itself in eastern Congo. In Mid July, four men forced passengers to disembark from a bus in Central Uganda and burnt it, claiming it belonged to the National Democratic Army (led by ex-UPDF officer, MAJ Herbert Itongwa).

These tales of war coincide with the mysterious murders of nearly 20 prominent members of Kampala's business community a few months ago. The Ugandan government described these incidents as robbery, although in most cases nothing was taken (On previous occasions, the word "robber" has been a euphemism for rebels). Since the beginning of this year, at least 70 "robbers" had been killed, with an assortment of assault rifles and light machine guns recovered.

President Museveni deployed the military to counter this threat and since June, at least five soldiers have been killed in Kampala during operations to rid the city of the problem. Museveni also warned the "robbers" that they would be court-martialled, which would indicate a political dimension to the problem. Military sources say some officers are unhappy about planned changes in the army, which may call for 7,000 troops to be cashiered. - Adam Geibel 


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