The fall of Sudan’s longtime president, Omar al-Bashir, has sparked off speculation that the end of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, led by Joseph Kony, could become a reality. Bashir was on Thursday ousted and arrested by the military following months of protests over the country’s spiraling economic woes.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the LRA served as a proxy for the Sudanese government in its war with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), in southern Sudan. In turn, Uganda fostered close relations with SPLA that fought Sudanese forces until South Sudan achieved independence from Sudan in 2011.
Under increasing military pressure, Kony ordered the LRA to withdraw from Uganda in 2005 and 2006. Since then, the LRA has been operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and, reportedly, Sudan. Concentrated in eastern CAR and reportedly in Kafi a Kingi, a territory on the border of Sudan and South Sudan whose final status has yet to be determined, but militarily controlled by the former, the LRA raids villages to pillage food and supplies.
Army spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire, said Kony became a non factor the time they defeated him in CAR.
“Kony ceased to be relevant long ago as far as we are concerned,” Karemire said.
His views were re-echoed by Moses Khisa, the assistant professor of political sciences at North Carolina State University, who said Kony had been defeated and ceased being a serious security threat to the people of northern Uganda, even before the relations between Museveni and Bashir warmed.
“So, whether or not Bashir continued to support Kony is really immaterial because there is not much Kony can do to cause trouble in Uganda. The same support can continue without Bashir if the status quo does not change. If Bashir’s establishment remains in place, even when Bashir is out of the picture,” he said.
Asked what next for Kony after the fall of Bashir, Ofwono Opondo, the Government spokesperson, said it was still early to make conclusions on how events in Sudan will settle.
“First of all, there is a civil war going on in parts of Sudan. There is a possibility of the generals, who toppled Bashir, failing to agree or taking long to agree. And, that can spin out of control into the formation of militias, like what is in Libya. In that respect, groups like LRA can join any of those, either to participate in the wars there or in the hope that when they support they can get protection,” Ofwono said.
He also said the LRA rebels can lose support and political cover. He says they could become desperate and try to find a safe haven either back in DRC, South Sudan or Uganda
“The Uganda Government is watching and following the events keenly and, certainly, making the necessary precautionary measures just in case something spills over,” he stressed.