By David Lumu & Agencies
UPDF spokesperson, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda Wednesday said 19 LRA fighters have surrendered, having given in to a UPDF detachment at Zamio in the Central African Republic.
Ankunda revealed that among them are six children who will be rehabilitated and counseled.
The number is a sizeable victory in the hunt for the elusive jungle insurgents, news agency AFP reported.
The Ugandan army is leading a US-backed African Union force tasked with capturing the LRA's leaders, several of whom are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The "19 members of the LRA belonging to the group commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Obur Nyeko, alias Okuti, defected and reported to a detachment of the Ugandan contingent," on December 6, the AU said in a statement released late Tuesday.
The fighters surrendered with their guns and ammunition, it added.
Last month the United Nations Security Council expressed concern that chaos in CAR could disrupt the hunt for LRA rebel chief Joseph Kony, who is blamed for 100,000 deaths in a two-decade rampage through the region.
Kony, who launched a rebellion in Uganda two decades ago, is wanted by the International Criminal Court along with fellow top commanders on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges including murder, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.
Since August 2013, AU troops have "rescued a number of civilian abductees, destroyed several LRA camps in CAR and in Democratic Republic of Congo, disrupted the group's logistical networks and diminished its fighting capacity," the statement added.
CAR's presidency said last month it has attempted to negotiate the surrender of the rebels. Some African Union officials said, however, that this was a ploy by Kony to buy time and move his fighters.
UPDF soldiers searching for warlord Joseph Kony in central Africa. FILE PHOTO/Matthias Mugisha
Long driven out of Uganda, LRA fighters now roam remote forest regions of CAR, Sudan, South Sudan and DR Congo.
Last month the LRA attacked five villages in South Sudan's Western Equatoria province, killing three people and looting food and medical supplies, and forcing several hundred to flee, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report.
The attacks were the first reported in South Sudan since August 2011.
"An offensive launched against LRA bases in the Central African Republic in October may have pushed the LRA eastwards in search of supplies," the UN report added.
A STATEMENT BY UPDF SPOKESPERSON, LT. COL. PADDY ANKUNDA
Following intensive UPDF offensive against LRA rebels which resulted in the killing of Col Samuel Kangul, several LRA fighters have since surrendered.
The latest LRA group of 19 fighters under the Commander of self styled Lt Col Obur Nyeko surrendered with 9 SMGs. They surrendered to a UPDF detach at ZAMIO, Obbo in the Central African Republic.
The defectors are all Ugandans of Acholi and Itesots origin.
Among those surrendered are 6 children. UPDF working together with other agencies have conducted initial psycho-social rehabilitation and we are in the process of repatriating the group to Uganda.
“The UPDF will remain open handed to receive LRA defectors who abandon violence”.
Working within the framework of the Amnesty Law, all LRA defectors are welcome back home. The LRA have been greatly degraded by the AU Task Force led by UPDF.
It is estimated that the group could be around 200 in number.
Efforts by the United Nations working with the African Union should finally restore peace and stability to the troubled region.
PADDY ANKUNDA psc