The elusive leader of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army-LRA, Joseph Kony is battling severe stomach ulcers, one of his former top commanders has revealed.
Regimental Sergeant Major, Peter Labeja Kidega told URN at the UPDF Child and Family Protection Unit in Gulu district on Friday last week, that Kony’s health gets unpredictable each passing day.
According to Kidega, Kony confided in his loyal commanders in Darfur Region in Sudan that he is battling severe stomach ulcers, ending years of speculation on his health. Kidega says Kony’s ill health and accumulation of mineral wealth are shifting his focus from warfare to personal survival as his troops dwindle to 120 personnel.
Kidega is among the few senior LRA commanders who were entrusted with the secret on Kony’s health. He defected to Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic Defense Forces on November last year. Kidege was abducted by LRA rebels from Kubwor Village in Parabongo Sub County in Agago district in 2003.
Lt. Hassan Ahmad Kato, the UPDF 4th Division Spokesperson says Kony has been weakened due the pressure from Ugandan troops pursuing him in the jungles. “For us as UPDF, we welcome the defections of abducted children and we are confident that we shall bring Kony himself to justice; so he can account for atrocities he committed on our civilians”, he stated.
Joseph Kony is on the International criminal Court (ICC) wanted list for war crimes and crimes against humanity he is alleged to have committed during two decades of conflict in Northern Uganda.
Kidega’s Narrow Escape
While in the bush, Kidega was known as Kidega PK since he has mastered the use of a PK gun. Asked whether they had access to defection messages distributed by helicopters by the US based charity Invisible Children urging soldiers to defect, Kidega said “only when you bump on one in the jungles. Kony himself has seen the messages but wouldn’t allow his soldiers to listen to radio”.
Kidega’s escape was triggered by the escape of three soldiers under his command as he went searching for his handbag. Fearing the worst punishment from Joseph Kony, he talked a Congolese, a Sudanese and three Ugandans including a wife to Joseph Kony into escaping the next day. “He [Joseph Kony] sent soldiers to pursue and kill all of us. In the course, two people were shot dead as we ran in disarray,” he said.
Speaking in broken English, Kidega said they learned languages such as Lingala, Sango, Arabic, English and Luo to survive in different areas, adding that he speaks Arabic whenever in Sudan.
New Report: ‘Kony Losing Grip’.
A new report by Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative and the Invisible Children Crisis Tracker published in mid-January this year, says Kony is fast losing control over the LRA. Titled “the Dominic Ongwen Domino Effect”, the report says the group has been fractured into two.
According to the report, “In November 2014, Achaye Doctor, a longtime LRA officer and one of Ongwen’s co-conspirators, orchestrated the escape of nine Ugandan fighters, while Ongwen remained in an LRA group under Kony’s command.”
Based on testimonies of defectors, the report recounts how Kony ordered Ongwen beaten and held in detention, only to see him escape weeks later with the help of LRA members sympathetic to his plight.
In January 2016, Kony executed Jon Bosco Kibwola, an LRA commander who had killed a Sudanese trader, prompting another long-time bodyguard, Okot Odek to defect. The report says the rift that accompanied Ongwen’s defection saw one commander identified as “Achaye Doctor”, Ongwen’s long time conspirator breaking away from Kony’s command in late 2014. He established a base in Eastern DR Congo where they continue killing and abducting women, men and children to expand its strength.
According to LRA Crisis Tracker, 2016, they shifted their operations into neighboring Central African Republic (CAR), where they abducted dozens of civilians, including 15 children. It also says Achaye’s group is the first to intentionally operate independently from Kony’s control for a long time and self-identify as a splinter group. Ugandan troops have been deployed in eastern Central African Republic in counter-LRA operations in recent years with substantial US support.
In 2011, former US President Barack Obama deployed dozens of US Special Forces advisers to help the UPDF dismantle the LRA and capture Kony. The Dominic Ongwen’s Domino Effect report says Ugandan and US military offensives and defection messaging have helped reduce the number of LRA combatants from approximately 400 in 2010 to less than 150 today.