KAMPALA : The military commander of Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Yadin Tolbert Nyeko, has been killed in battle in the north of the country, the army and church sources revealed.
“We killed Yadin Tolbert Nyeko along with 16 other (LRA commanders) on Monday in a battle between Opale and Kalawina in Pader district, and yesterday (Tuesday) we flew his body to Lacek Ocot displaced people’s camp for identification,” army spokesman Lieutenant Paddy Ankunda said by phone Wednesday from the northern town of Gulu.
Church sources who had met the LRA military commander confirmed that a photo of the deceased in military fatigues with a brigadier’s insignia and published in the state-owned New Vision newspaper on Wednesday was that of Nyeko.
Church sources described the killing of Nyeko as a setback to peace talks church leaders have been trying to broker between government and the LRA.
“For us it is a disadvantage to the talks efforts as he has been one of the moderates in the rebel ranks who was receptive to talks and he has met our team seven times,” an official in the Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative, told AFP on phone.
The source described Nyeko as one of the few in the LRA who was amenable to discussion, even if he had blood on his hands.
He added that it was early to determine the impact of Nyeko’s killing on the LRA’s war saying in spite similar killings of LRA leaders in the past, violence and massive displacement of civilians in the region had continued.
“A number of LRA commanders have been killed in the past, but the violence never stopped. I don’t think this marks the end to this war,” the source said.
But the military spokesman in Pader District where the commander was killed, Lieutenant Chris Magezi, described the killing “as a big signal that the LRA is no more. The killing of Yadin Nyeko will even erode the little morale still remaining amongst rebel fighters.”
Magezi said a helicopter gunship shell hit Nyeko in the leg as he was trying to escape infantry troops that had closed in on him and he died during the ensuing crossfire.
He said the army recovered six rifles, Nyeko’s pistol, a global positioning system, communications gadgets and LRA documents.
Nyeko had only commanded the LRA, a notoriously brutal organisation that reportedly seeks to replace Uganda’s government with one based on the biblical Ten Commandments, since October, after his predecessor, Charles Tabuley, was killed during an LRA advance in the northeast of the country.
On New Year’s day, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said government troops had “decisively defeated” the LRA and would soon kill its ultimate leader, the elusive Joseph Kony.
The LRA took up arms against Museveni’s government in 1988.