By Fortunate Ahimbisibwe
and Gerald Tenywa
THREE defected LRA fighters have confirmed that deputy LRA commander Vincent Otti is dead.
Otto Sunday, Richard Okema and Odong-kau, who have been calling local leaders in Gulu from their hide-out in Congo, said the second-in-command was killed on instructions of LRA leader Joseph Kony at 10:00am on October 2, together with many others.
They named other commanders killed as Ben Accelam, Otim â€˜Recordâ€™ and Swaib Adjumani.
The three, who have contacted the UN mission in Congo in the past days with a view to surrender, said their group of about 300 had fled after the killings.
They described the way Otti was murdered as â€œtoo horrific to discuss on phoneâ€. The commanders, they said, were killed by firing squad and their bodies were left unburied for three days â€œto strengthen Konyâ€™s spiritâ€.
â€œOtti pleaded with Kony to talk to his son at Makerere University before being killed but Kony refused,â€ the defectors told several people in Gulu.
The executor, they said, was Abudema, the commander who also killed Konyâ€™s former deputy, Otti Lagony, in December 1999.
The defected fighters, whom Kony said he had discharged, are currently waiting at the Congo-Sudan border for reassurances regarding their protection.
They also want assurances that they will be given a presidential pardon, since some of them received amnesty before and later re-joined the rebellion.
â€œWe have reports that a number of LRA want to surrender but we have not yet received themâ€, confirmed the head of MONUC in Kampala, Olamide Adedeji, who returned from eastern Congo last evening.
â€œThere is nothing conclusive but we are hopeful that they will report to MONUC. There might be one or two things delaying them but we are waiting.â€
She said the reports they received indicated that there were over 200 LRA rebels willing to surrender, including women and children.
UPDF spokesman, Maj. Felix Kulaygye, confirmed the mass defections, putting the total number of LRA expected at 300.
â€œMONUC told us they were expecting 300 LRA combatants to assemble on Friday in Buniaâ€, he said last night.
â€œThey had been scattered in various parts of eastern DRC and they had made contact with various MONUC detachments, expressing their desire to surrender. Among them is Ocan Bunia, the commander of one of Konyâ€™s brigades. â€
He said Gulu RDC Walter Ochora was preparing to fly to eastern Congo to collect them.
Kony told Gulu district chairman Norbert Mao by satellite phone two weeks ago that Otti was under house arrest, while others had been sent away, for â€œconspiring with the enemies of LRAâ€ and plotting to kill him.
Opiyo Makasi, one of those accused of rising up against Kony, surrendered to MONUC last month and was flown back to Uganda on October 31, where he was granted amnesty.
Makasi told Sunday Vision shortly after his arrival that he escaped after he had been tipped off about the impending arrest.