Uganda captures LRA chief


Col. Thomas Kwoyelo consulting LRA high command through satelite link in 2006. Photo by Charles Akena

The army last night announced it had captured Col. Thomas Kwoyelo, the LRA field operations commander.

Brig. Patrick Kankiriho, the Operation Lightning Thunder commander, told Daily Monitor last evening that the “stubborn” rebel was captured in Yakuluku Village, North of Duru, an estimated 50km south of Ri-Kwangba, the initial target of the UPDF operation where Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony had his headquarters.

He said Col. Kwoyelo was injured in the stomach.

“He is now with us, and my message to the remaining ones is that they should report. We want them alive not dead,” Brig. Kankiriho told Daily Monitor by telephone.

Col. Kwoyelo is understood to be the LRA fourth-in-command after Kony, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen.

“He was one of the stubborn ones,” Brig. Kankiriho said last evening.

The UPDF in December mounted a joint operation with DR Congo and South Sudanese forces to flush out the LRA, which has been based in northern DR Congo’s Garamba National Park for two years.

The operation, initially designed to last for a short period has however dragged on after the initial UPDF attacks missed LRA leader, Joseph Kony, who was supposed to be killed in air strikesThe LRA has since killed an estimated 300 civilians in indiscriminate attacks on the population in DRC.

The United Nations has expressed concern, “that the joint military counter-operations, unless properly planned and executed, could lead to further human rights abuses being perpetrated against the civilian population who are, in effect, caught between the conflicting parties.”

President Yoweri Museveni is expected to meet United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in Kasese today to discuss the operation, in the light of the UN concerns.

The joint operation had until yesterday failed to capture top LRA leaders, but the army says it has crippled the rebels’ capacity to cause more havoc, dismantled their command structures, destroyed communication channels and cut off their food supply.
Last evening, Brig. Kankiriho indicated he had no doubt that he would ultimately deal with the LRA if they do not surrender.

“We have killed 15 in the last three days. The other day, Matsanga said he had UPDF prisoners of war, let him parade them,” he said.

Dr David Matsanga, an on and off LRA spokesman said in a statement on Sunday that the LRA had captured allied forces soldiers, including UPDF, a claim that Brig. Kankiriho roundly dismissed yesterday.

About Kwoyelo:

Kwoyelo is understood to have been a blue-eyed commander of Vincent Otti, the LRA deputy commander killed in October 2007. After Otti’s death, he took a low profile.

Kwoyelo, who ended up at the rebels’ Garamba base in the DRC, is said to have been a “fierce” guerilla fighter.

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