KAMPALA, Uganda, Feb 2 – Uganda said Monday it was conducting DNA tests to determine whether a body discovered is that of the wanted deputy of Uganda’s murderous Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.
Army spokesman Paddy Ankunda said what was believed to be the grave of Okot Odhiambo, the number-two of LRA leader Joseph Kony, had been found – although details about its location and the timing of DNA tests remain classified.
Like Kony, who is still at large, Odhiambo has been indicted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of butchering and kidnapping civilians.
“We have recovered the body,” Ankunda told AFP. “We have exhumed the parts. We are conducting DNA to ascertain whether it’s the one.”
Odhiambo is thought to have been hiding out with a group of hardcore fighters in the remote jungles of Central African Republic, in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo or South Sudan, but may have been killed in fighting about a year ago.
In February last year Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga said information from rebel defectors indicated that Odhiambo – described by the ICC as a “ruthless killer” and by former LRA members as “the one who killed the most” – may be dead.
“It will not be a surprise that he could be dead, because the UPDF (Ugandan army) has in the past killed many top LRA commanders and he cannot be an exception,” he added.
“The LRA’s strength has diminished and the remaining force, including Kony, are on the run.”
Odhiambo is widely suspected to have directed the killing of some 300 civilians during a February 2004 attack on the Barlonyo internally displaced persons camp in northern Uganda, one of the single largest massacres in the LRA’s brutal history.
The news comes only weeks after the surprise surrender of Dominic Ongwen, a former child soldier and top LRA warlord, to US troops who have been helping Uganda track down the rebels.
Ongwen made his first appearance before the ICC accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity a week ago.
The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in 1986, where it claimed to fight in the name of the Acholi ethnic group against the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
But over the years the LRA has moved across the porous borders of the region: it shifted from Uganda to sow terror in southern Sudan before again moving to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and finally crossing into southeastern CAR in March 2008.
Combining religious mysticism with an astute guerrilla mind and bloodthirsty ruthlessness, Kony has turned scores of young girls into his personal sex-slaves while claiming to be fighting to impose the Bible’s Ten Commandments.