IN what is seen as a step closer to catching the leader of Lord Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony, Ugandan military has captured Caesar Achellam, one of the group’s top five rebels.
The Uganda People’s Defence Force announced yesterday that Achellam, a major general in Kony’s outfit of about 200 fighters, had been captured in an ambush on Saturday along the banks of the River Mbou in neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR).
They said Achellam had been armed with just an AK-47 rifle and eight rounds of ammunition. He was being held with his wife, a young daughter and a helper.
The army, which has a force hunting for Kony full-time in the jungles of CAR, backed by American troops, said the capture of Achellam would encourage other fighters to abandon the LRA.
“The arrest of Major General Caesar Achellam is big progress because he is a big fish. His capture is definitely going to cause an opinion shift within LRA,” said Felix Kulaigye, UPDF spokesman.
A Reuters reporter, who accompanied UPDF forces to CAR, said Achellam, who was paraded before media, was walking with a limp, which he attributed to an old wound.
He was returning from the Democratic Republic of Congo when he walked into the Ugandan soldiers’ ambush. UPDF said it had been on his trail for a month.
Kony, a self-styled mystic leader who at one time wanted to rule Uganda according to the biblical Ten Commandments but now accused of war crimes, fled northern Uganda in 2005, roaming first through the lawless expanses of South Sudan, then the isolated northeastern tip of Congo.
In December 2008, Uganda launched Operation Lightning Thunder, dispersing the rebels and pushing them north into CAR.
Analysts said Achellam was a close ally of Kony who had masterminded the group’s relocation from northern Uganda.
“From whichever angle you look at it, the loss of Achellam should be very troubling for Kony and a big boost for his manhunt,” said Angelo Izama, an analyst who has written extensively on the LRA.
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