KAMPALA, Dec 15 – Forces from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Sudan launched a joint military operation Sunday against Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in eastern DR Congo, a joint statement said.,
LRA chief Joseph Kony and his top lieutenants have frustrated recent efforts to finalise a deal bringing a definitive end to Uganda’s civil war and continued to commit atrocities in neighbouring countries.
"The armed forces of Uganda (UPDF), DRC (FARDC) and Southern Sudan (SPLA) in a joint intelligence-led military operation, this morning the 14th of December 2008, launched an attack on the LRA terrorists of Joseph Kony in Garamba forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo," it said.
The statement was signed by the chiefs of military intelligence from the three participating forces.
"The three armed forces successfully attacked the main body and destroyed the main camp of Kony code-named camp Swahili, setting it on fire," the statement went on.
The military chiefs did not provide details on the rebel leader’s fate but said the operation was ongoing.
Contacted by AFP, LRA spokesman David Nyekorach-Matsanga said he was not aware of the joint raid but condemned it nonetheless.
"If this is true, it is a highly regrettable provocation and the LRA will retaliate. This was perpetrated by militarists within the Ugandan army who want to destroy the peace process," he said.
"I met with the president of Uganda just this week and he assured me there would no attack on the LRA," Matsanga added.
On December 9, Kampala had accused Kinshasa of doing nothing to hunt Kony and his lieutenants, who has reneged on a peace deal already inked by the Ugandan government and has been hiding in the eastern DR Congo.
The UN peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo (MONUC) said it had been warned of the operation but was not actively involved.
"MONUC was not involved in the operation’s preparations but it had been informed by Uganda," spokesman Jean-Paul Dietrich told AFP.
"MONUC had over the past few months bolstered its positions with the DRC armed forces’ agreement to protect the northern population from the LRA. In that respect, we have provided significant logistical support," he said.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in the two decades of fighting between Kony’s LRA and the government.
Uganda’s civil war effectively ended in 2006 when a peace process was launched but Kony and his top commanders have remained elusive and continued to commit atrocities in remote areas of neighbouring countries.
The LRA supremo, a semi-literate former altar boy, took charge in 1988 of a regional rebellion among northern Uganda’s ethnic Acholi minority.
He is accused by the International Criminal Court of raping, mutilating and murdering civilians as well as forcefully recruiting child soldiers.
Despite failing to show up in the southern Sudanese jungle town of Ri-Kwangba last month to sign peace with Kampala, an LRA official had said recently that a phone call was planned between Kony and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
The Ugandan government has expressed frustration at Kony’s repeated no-shows and has previously warned it could launch military operations against him if he failed to comply to the terms of the deal agreed by his delegation in 2006.