The Lord’s Resistance Army continues to reel from concentrated attacks by the joint military forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, and South Sudan. A group of 20 rebels surrendered to the Congolese army just three days after ten others were killed during a rebel assault on Megero airstrip in the northeastern DRC.
The three armies launched the offensive December 14. Code named, “Operation Lightning Thunder,” it has scattered the rebels and sent them fleeing deeper into the jungles of Garamba and into neighboring Central African Republic, where they have raided villages in the past. The LRA is believed to consist of fewer than 1,000 fighters now, the remnants of a force trying to overthrow Uganda’s government for over 20 years.
While the combined government operation has achieved notable success, destroying LRA bases with concentrated air and ground attacks, capturing two rebel commanders, James Onen and Peter Okot, and cutting supply lines to the remaining forces, LRA leader Jospeh Kony remains at large.
The rebels have also lashed out at civilians as they flee the government armies. They killed 20 people at a park ranger station in the town of Megero. In two other attacks Sunday, they raided a Protestant mission in Napopo and attacked Laso, a village in South Sudan. Over the Christmas holiday, rebels massacred about 100 civilians in the towns of Faradje and Tadu.
There were reports of brutal atrocities committed by the rebels in those attacks, unconfirmed but not unlike those for which Kony and two of his commanders have been indicted by the International Criminal Court.
If the combined operation can capture Kony or at least neutralize his militia, Joseph Kabila will have taken a major step toward stablizing the eastern provinces.