|09KAMPALA352||2009-04-07 13:18:00||SECRET//NOFORN||Embassy Kampala|
VZCZCXRO1596 RR RUEHRN RUEHROV DE RUEHKM #0352/01 0971318 ZNY SSSSS ZZH R 071318Z APR 09 FM AMEMBASSY KAMPALA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1303 INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 KAMPALA 000352
1. (SBU) Summary: This cable is a periodic update on the
regional military operation against the Lord's Resistance
Army (LRA) known as Operation Lightning Thunder (OLT). This
report is not meant to provide an overarching narrative or
polished analysis of OLT, but rather offers spot information
gleaned in Uganda only, from credible U.S. Mission sources
here. We recognize the regional scope of OLT and the fact
that our sources may be limited in their knowledge and
perspective on OLT. End Summary.
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2. (C) In a revealing meeting requested by the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, the Ambassador, DCM, and DATT met April 6
with Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa, Defense Minister Crispus
Kiyonga, and Security Minister Amama Mbabazi. Also in
attendance were Chief of Defense General Aronda Nyakairima
and Chief of Military Intelligence Brigadier General James
Mugira. The Ambassador used the meeting to push for clarity
on the government,s strategic outlook for OLT. Kutesa said
that the Government of Uganda (GOU) maintained a "total and
unwavering commitment" to the success of the operation. The
slow speed of progress, he acknowledged, stems from
constraints imposed by the operation,s political coalition
with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Government
of Southern Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR).
It is also physically constrained by the terrain in and
around Garamba National Park.
3. (C) Expounding on this, Aronda acknowledged that it was
hard to see dramatic progress from a distance when looking at
counter-insurgency operations like OLT. Militarily, Aronda
said that OLT was following the lessons learned by the
Ugandan Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) in Operation Iron Fist,
which drove the LRA out of northern Uganda between 2002 and
2006. The keys, he said, are shrinking the area of movement
for the LRA, depriving it of food, and learning the terrain.
It takes time to create these conditions, said Aronda, but
the process is ongoing now, with the kind of incremental
success one would expect from this kind of operation. Under
counterinsurgency doctrine, Aronda said, high-risk, large
scale assaults are to be avoided. But OLT is not, he
emphasized, at a stalemate. LRA food supplies have been
found and destroyed, and the LRA leadership is on the run.
When asked, he said he thought final victory was "months
away." Aronda suggested that if there is confusion or doubt
about UPDF goals, strategy, or tactics, he would welcome
regular visits from U.S. policymakers and analysts from
Washington and Africa Command for face-to-face briefings on
the status and progress of OLT.
4. (C) Aronda underlined the importance, and also the
constraints, of working with Uganda,s coalition partners.
Sudan Peoples Liberation Army troops are "in need," he said.
The operation is now nominally Congolese, he said, and has
been re-named "Rudia II". The Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC)
has promised to insert another brigade in support of OLT.
When this brigade arrives and in what condition remain to be
seen, acknowledged Aronda. But both he and Kutesa underlined
the importance of the political coalition to the overall
effort. Drawing an analogy to the efforts of the USG to get
NATO to commit more troops to Afghanistan, he noted that the
UPDF is doing the best it can to maintain the momentum given
the constraints imposed on it by the coalition. DRC
President Kabila, Aronda reiterated, agreed at the Mponde
Summit on March 4 that the bulk of the UPDF forces that left
the DRC after March 15 should stay in the vicinity, and that
they could be called back into action from southern Sudan if
conditions require it. UPDF intelligence squads inside DRC,
he reiterated, are combat troops who are engaging LRA units
regularly. (Note: See ref A for further details on the size
and location of UPDF forces in the Garamba theater, as
reported to us earlier by Aronda. End Note).
5. (S NF) Meanwhile, Ugandan military officers have relayed
their concerns that the Congolese military has not engaged an
LRA group led by Lt. Col. Charles Arop which is operating
southwest of Faradje. This group has become the de facto
headquarters and supply element for the LRA and is extremely
dangerous. This group is responsible for a number of attacks
on villages in the area aimed at re-supply.
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MEDIA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
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6. (U) On April 5, the New Vision carried an interview by
internationally respected journalist, Els De Temmerman, with
Katto Kpenze, a Central African Republic abductee, who served
as LRA leader Joseph Kony's "doctor" for the past year (Ref
B). Kpenze escaped from the LRA on March 30 near Sakure, a
village on the border between Sudan and the DRC. In the
interview, Kapenze describes Kony's eccentricities and
appalling atrocities against civilians committed by the LRA
over the past year. He also describes life in the bush as
difficult after the launch of OLT in mid-December 2008. He
recounts being "constantly on the move" because UPDF soldiers
"were hot on our heels." He describes the decision to
withdraw Ugandan forces as "bad news for the population"
because the Congolese army "is not doing much to fight the
rebels" and the LRA is not afraid of them. Kpenze also
confirms the lack of contact between Kony and his deputy,
Okot Odhiambo. Finally, Kpewenze says that Kony has survived
through is instincts and the use of diversionary tactics to
throw off his pursuers.