2008–2009 Garamba offensive

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2008–2009 Garamba offensive
Part of the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency
Date14 December 2008 – 15 March 2009
(3 months and 1 day)
North-Eastern DR Congo
Result Unclear
 South Sudan
 DR Congo
Lord's Resistance Army
Commanders and leaders
Uganda Yoweri Museveni Flag of Lord's Resistance Army.svg Joseph Kony
Casualties and losses
Unknown Estimated 146+ rebels killed[1]

The 2008–2009 Garamba offensive (codenamed Operation Lightning Thunder[1]) started on 14 December 2008, when joint Ugandan, DR Congolese and Southern Sudanese forces launched a botched[2][3] military attack against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the Garamba region of DR Congo.[4]


In June 2008, after the LRA had attacked and killed 23 people in Southern Sudan, including 14 soldiers, a Ugandan military spokesman said Uganda, DR Congo and Sudan would launch a joint offensive against the LRA if its leader, Joseph Kony, failed to commit to the Juba peace talks. Concurrently, the Southern Sudanese Information Minister, Gabriel Changson, declared that "The LRA have started war", and that "Southern Sudan will not be the place where they can wage this war".[5] The same month, diplomats reported that the LRA had acquired new weapons and was forcibly recruiting new soldiers, adding 1,000 recruits to the 600 soldiers it already had.[6]

An onslaught against the LRA by Ugandan forces in northern Uganda and across the border in Southern Sudan, led the rebels to relocate to the densely forested Garamba National Park in DR Congo – and when they attacked and killed civilians there, the Congolese government vowed to destroy the LRA.[7]

The operation[edit]

In November 2008, the US President George W. Bush personally signed the directive to the United States Africa Command to provide assistance financially and logistically to the Ugandan government during the offensive.[3] The United States military helped in the planning stages of the operation, and also provided financial and technical support in the form of satellite phones and fuel.[3]

On 14 December 2008, a statement announcing the operation was released in the Ugandan capital Kampala by the intelligence chiefs of the armed forces of the three countries: the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) and Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). "The three armed forces successfully attacked the main body and destroyed the main camp of Joseph Kony, code-named Camp Swahili, setting it on fire," the statement said.[4] The Ugandan government stated on 21 December 2008, that 70% of the LRA's camps had been destroyed so far.[8] However it was also reported that these camps were already empty when they were attacked.[3][9] On 24 December 2008 Uganda said one of its MiG-21[10] fighter aircraft crashed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "The pilot, Bosco Opiyo, failed to recover the plane from diving and plunged into the ground, dying instantly, and the craft also caught fire. The accident is purely a technical accident", said Ugandan Army spokesman Paddy Ankunda.[11]

By early January 2009, according to a Congolese official, the LRA was routed, had lost most of its food supply, and was on the run and very close to the border of the Central African Republic, which had reinforced troops at the border.[12] However, other reports indicated that the LRA had split up into smaller units[3][9] and, in reprisals against the offensive, the LRA attacked civilians they suspected of supporting the operation, raping, mutilating and killing villagers.[13][14]

Ugandan withdrawal[edit]

On 15 March 2009, Uganda abruptly ended its participation in the offensive and began withdrawing its troops from Garamba. The withdrawal, according to Lt. Gen. Ivan Koreta, the Deputy Chief of Defence Forces, was due to an agreement signed with DR Congo. During a handover ceremony in Garamba, the DR Congo Chief of General Staff, Gen. Didier Etumba Longila, said Congo would continue hunting the LRA until they were neutralised[15] although one source described the Congolese army units allocated to the task as poorly trained and underpaid soldiers who often preyed on the villagers they were meant to be protecting.[13] The LRA continued to terrorise areas in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan.[16]


  1. ^ a b Among, Barbara (13 March 2009). "Ninety Days of War in Garamba Forest". New Vision. Archived from the original on 19 February 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  2. ^ Litell, Jonathan (15 April 2014) Sign Warfare Archived 5 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine Asymptote, (translated from a French article in Le Monde), Retrieved 16 April 2014
  3. ^ a b c d e Jeffrey Gettleman and Eric Schmitt (6 February 2009). "U.S. Aided a Failed Plan to Rout Ugandan Rebels". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Armies 'strike at Uganda rebels'". BBC News. 14 December 2008. Archived from the original on 23 December 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  5. ^ Wheeler, Skye (7 June 2008). "Sudan says Uganda rebels kill troops, start "war"". Reuters. Archived from the original on 12 June 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  6. ^ "Ugandan rebels 'prepare for war'". BBC News. 6 June 2008. Archived from the original on 22 February 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  7. ^ Mukasa, Henry (2 January 2009). "Ugandan rebels 'prepare for war'". New Vision. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  8. ^ "Uganda 'strikes LRA rebel camps'". BBC News. 21 December 2008. Archived from the original on 24 December 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  9. ^ a b Paterno, Steve (12 February 2009) The Uganda LRA allowed to plunder Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Sudan Tribune, Retrieved 24 April 2014
  10. ^ "2008 Losses". Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 May 2020. Retrieved 16 September 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "LRA rebels fleeing towards Central African Republic". AFP. 2 January 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  13. ^ a b Haken, Nate and Taft, Patricia (26 October 2011) Obama must learn from past mistakes in fight against Uganda's LRA Christian Science Monitor, Retrieved 24 April 2014
  14. ^ "UN: More than 100 killed in massacre by Ugandan rebels". Mail & Guardian Online. 29 January 2009. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  15. ^ Oluka, Benon Herbert; Tabu Butagira (16 March 2009). "Uganda: Army ends hunt for Kony and LRA". Daily Monitor. Archived from the original on 26 April 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  16. ^ (1 January 2011) Uganda violence Archived 24 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine Thompson Reuters Foundation, Retrieved 24 April 2014