by DAVID AXE
Ugandan troops on Saturday captured a senior leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group. Self-styled “major general” Caesar Acellam, a 20-year veteran of the brutal Ugandan group, was grabbed near the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.
A spokesman for U.S. Pres. Barack Obama called the capture “an important step forward.” Based on an earlier statement, the LRA probably considers the arrest yet another example of illegal U.S. hegemony in Central Africa.
While highly ranked within the rebel structure, Acellam is not one of the five LRA officers — including top leader Joseph Kony — who were indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Netherlands in 2005. At least two of the wanted men are now believed to be dead. Kony is at large along with some 200 hardcore LRA fighters and potentially hundreds of captives and camp followers.
In a statement to reporters, Acellam encouraged remaining LRA fighters to turn themselves in, fueling speculation that Acellam’s capture was, in fact, a defection.
In the years since the Ugandan army pushed the LRA out of its country of origin, the rebels have killed thousands of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands in an unbroken chain of brutal attacks. Briefly a proxy force serving the Sudanese government, today the is all on its own. Many observers believe the group’s will and manpower are dwindling.
Last year the U.S. military deployed 100 Special Forces troops to assist the armies of Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and CAR in tracking and defeating the LRA. The deployment followed a lengthy lobbying campaign by human rights groups that culminated in the U.S. Congress passing, and Obama signing, a law that compelled the U.S. to act against the LRA.
This year the aid group Invisible Children attracted millions of viewers with its “Kony 2012” online video recalling the LRA’s crimes, including the abduction and forced enlistment of children.
Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney hailed Acellam’s capture. “The capture of Major General Ceasar Acellam is a testament to the resolve of Uganda and its military forces to work with regional forces to end the threat posed by the LRA,” Carney said in a statement.
“While the capture of Acellam is an important step forward, the LRA continues to pose a deadly threat to civilians,” Carney continued.
Justine Nyeko Labeja, an LRA spokesman with debatable ties to the group, has not yet commented on the arrest. But in April Labeja released a lengthy statement lambasting the Kony 2012 campaign and the deployment of U.S. troops to Central Africa. “In Uganda, the Invisible Children has been used to cover up on many occasions for the vile acts of the U.S.-supported military regime of Uganda in its dirty war activities that its army has carried out against the civil population,” Labeja wrote. [Read: LRA Response to Kony 2012]
Labeja accused Invisible Children of running interference for the U.S. government’s secret war against Chinese interests in Africa. “The increasing Chinese presence in the strategic Nile and Congo River valleys and basins/lands and in Central Africa has seriously unnerved the U.S. and made it necessary or compelled the USA to press its panic button. Consequently all [U.S. forces] have been called into active service.”
Carney obviously casts U.S. efforts against the LRA in a different light. “The United States is committed to supporting the people and governments of the region in their collective efforts, in coordination with the African Union and United Nations, to protect civilians and end this [LRA] threat.”