Fugitive African warlord Kony stays a step ahead of pursuers

KAMPALA, Uganda — The foot soldiers searching the deep jungles on the hunt for African warlord Joseph Kony were convinced they had cornered his deputy as they exchanged gunfire with a band of Lord's Resistance Army rebels.

When the shooting subsided, the soldiers found a pair of lifeless rebels and two children deserted by insurgents.

But the deputy — Dominic Ongwen, the subject of an international arrest warrant — had escaped, leaving his pursuers to rue a missed opportunity.

The shootout in August in the Central African Republic highlighted the limitations of African efforts to eliminate the leadership of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal gang of jungle militiamen with no real political aim except violence and destruction.

Roughly one year after 100 U.S. Special Forces troops arrived in four Central Africa nations to advise African soldiers in their pursuit, Kony is still on the run and his exact whereabouts unknown.

Ugandan officials now say he is hiding in a place called Kafia Kingi, along the volatile Sudan-South Sudan border.

When President Obama announced in October 2011 that he was sending in the forces, American policymakers and Africa specialists warned that, even with the extra U.S. assistance, the hunt for a killer in an expansive jungle the size of France would be difficult. The warnings have proved to be true.

Despite a spike in LRA defections and statements by the State Department that significant progress has been made, those most interested in the Kony hunt are calling for even greater U.S. involvement.

A ‘challenging’ endeavor

Kasper Agger, a researcher with the U.S.-based anti-genocide group the Enough Project, said in a recent report that U.S. forces must “play a more operational role” in the hunt. American forces now don’t participate in the physical hunts and engage in combat only in cases of self-defense.

Mr. Agger said the mission to catch LRA leaders is impossible without more troops on the ground and greater investment in human and aerial intelligence.

Ugandan officials want America to provide more advanced technology that might make it possible to map LRA movements.

Military spokesman Col. Felix Kulayigye praised the U.S. for supplying helicopters and troops for helping to drive defections from the Lord's Resistance Army, but he asserted that “they need to invest more in technology.”

Isolating LRA rebels has proved difficult in a jungle teeming with cattle keepers and illegal hunters, as well as other militias that have nothing to do with the rebel group, Col. Kulayigye said.

“How do you tell that these are the LRA and these are civilians looking after their cattle? It’s a challenge,” Col. Kulayigye said.

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