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19 LRA Members Surrender to Ugandan Forces in CAR

  • VOA News

Nineteen members of the renegade Lord's Resistance Army have surrendered to Ugandan forces in the Central African Republic.

Ugandan army spokesman Paddy Ankunda confirmed the surrender in a statement Wednesday, after aid group Invisible Children reported the incident on its website.

Invisible Children, whose goal is to prevent LRA atrocities, says this is the single largest defection from the LRA in five years and represents a "severe blow" to the group's strength.

The LRA, which battled the Ugandan government for 20 years, is believed to now have no more than a couple hundred fighters roaming through central Africa. They are being chased by Ugandan forces, assisted by about 100 U.S. military advisors.

The 19 LRA members, including four women and six children, surrendered on December 6 near the town of Zemio.

Invisible Children says the group came out of the bush and approached a fisherman, who took them to his village and contacted Invisible Children representatives, who in turn alerted the Ugandan military.

The aid group says the defectors received medical care and were interviewed with the goal of locating other LRA groups that may want to come out of the bush.

Lieutenant Colonel Ankunda said the Ugandan military "will remain open handed to receive LRA defectors who abandon violence."

Invisible Children says the 19 LRA members included a commander, Okello Okutti, who had been with the LRA since being abducted in 1989. The Ugandan statement made no mention of Okutti.

The LRA's leader, Joseph Kony, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The group is notorious for attacking and looting villages, and killing or kidnapping their residents. Specific charges against Kony include murder, enslavement, pillaging and rape.