Friday, March 6, 2009

The smiling assasin

Col Thomas Kwoyelo is a pint-sized fellow, of small build. But I would imagine that when he held a gun, he would transform into an ogre. When I came face-to-face with him at the army airbase, I was in the company of soldiers as well as other fellow journalists.

As he was assisted to disembark from the plane by two soldiers, one soldier propped him to avoid him triping over the steep stairway on the Antanov cargo plane. Another soldier held the water drip. Seeing the little body, it was difficult for some soldiers to believe that the tiny fellow had challenged them in running battles in Pader district in about 2005.

Kwoyelo smiled nervously, as his captors acknowlegded his high rank as an LRA commander. Some in the party insisted that he be photographed with his military pips. Only that the pips had been forgotten in Garamba.

All the while, I wonder how this small man who appear to be no less than 35 years joined the LRA. The insurgency itself is on 23 years old, having started in 1986. Maybe he was one of the many abductees who never said goodbye to their kith and kin as they were hounded off by LRA during midnight raids in the north. Having undergone the ritual induction into the LRA, he had killed his friends and family, and smeared their blood on his little body.

From then on, he was counted among the child abductees. But when he held the gun, he became a legal target. His fierceness on the battle front must have earned him some of the beautiful girl abductees to whom he was allocated. I would imagine he has left behind a harlem of them behind in Garamba.

Today, after massive defections and deaths in the camps, a leadership vaccum has seen him rise to become the number four in LRA hierarchy, until his capture in Ukwa, Garamba. As his wounds recover in either Mbuya or Bombo military hospital, he will be subjected to interrogations to which he is expected to cooperate. Who knows what happens to him next?

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