If second-in-command Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, rebel leader Okot Odhiambo – otherwise known as “the Executioner” – has come in from the bush and surrendered as some reports suggest, does this mean the LRA is nearing the end of the road?
Not necessarily. Odhiambo’s current status remains unclear. He may already be in custody, but given his public calls for amnesty despite the International Criminal Court, or ICC, indictment hanging over his head, authorities may have decided it best to keep the situation quiet. This low-profile strategy makes some sense since a swift departure to The Hague or a domestic Ugandan court would likely discourage other possible defectors.
If successfully brokered, however, Odhiambo’s defection could be the first real success to arise out of the regional military offensive ongoing in northeastern Congo against the LRA. Odhiambo is one of three remaining rebel commanders wanted by the ICC for their extensive crimes against children and civilians. Removing him from the battleground would be a significant achievement. However, although an LRA force without Odhiambo would be weakened, it would certainly not be defeated. Joseph Kony, the LRA’s self-professed messiah and undisputed center of gravity, remains at large. Unless Kony is caught, the ruthless bloodletting across the region will undoubtedly continue.