Ugandan army take LRA rebel commander into custody
Uganda’s army said Thursday it had taken custody of a top Lord’s Resistance Army rebel captured in Central African Republic, and would transport him home.
Okot George Odek, once one of LRA supremo Joseph Kony’s most trusted aides, was held by Seleka rebels in CAR who on February 6 handed him over to US special forces, working alongside Ugandan troops hunting the LRA.
The Ugandan-led LRA has been blamed for the slaughter of over 100,000 people and kidnapping of more than 60,000 children during a three-decade-long campaign across five central African nations.
The Seleka said Odek was captured, while Uganda’s army said he surrendered.
“He surrendered to the Seleka and they handed him over to us,” Uganda army spokesman Paddy Ankunda told AFP, calling Odek “very senior” in the LRA.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) was helping to bring him back to Uganda, Ankunda added.
“There are arrangements with IOM to bring him to Uganda very soon,” Ankunda said.
It was not clear if Odek, himself abducted as a child from northern Uganda before rising in the LRA ranks to be a lieutenant-colonel operating one of its most feared units, would face trial or be pardoned.
Over 12,000 ex-LRA fighters — mainly footsoldiers who were themselves abducted by the gunmen — have been pardoned under a government amnesty designed to encourage those still in the bush to surrender.
According to UN estimates, the LRA slaughtered more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children in a bloody rebellion against Kampala that began in 1986.
Odek’s detention follows the arrest of another commander, Dominic Ongwen, in January 2015.
Ongwen however was sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Long driven out of Uganda, small bands of LRA fighters now roam forest regions of CAR, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and South Sudan.
Kony, who claims mystical-religious powers, has long been reported to be based in the Sudanese-controlled Kafia Kingi enclave.