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2008–2009 Garamba offensive
Date December 14, 2008 – March 15, 2009
Location North-Eastern DR Congo
Status Unclear
Flag of Uganda.svg Uganda
Flag of South Sudan.svg South Sudan
Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg DR Congo
Flag of Lord's Resistance Army.svg Lord's Resistance Army
Commanders and leaders
Uganda Yoweri Museveni Flag of Lord's Resistance Army Joseph Kony
Casualties and losses
Unknown Estimated 146+ rebels killed[1]

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


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".[3] 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.[4]

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.[5]

The operationEdit

In November 2008, the U.S. 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.[6] 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.[6]

On December 14, 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.[2] The Ugandan government stated on December 21, 2008, that 70% of the LRA's camps had been destroyed so far.[7] On December 24, 2008 Uganda said one of its MiG-21[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] However, in late January, in apparent reprisals against the offensive, LRA launched several attacks against civilians, on one occasion killing more than 100 villagers.[11]

Ugandan withdrawalEdit

On March 15, 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.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Among, Barbara (13 March 2009). "Ninety Days of War in Garamba Forest". New Vision. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Armies 'strike at Uganda rebels'". BBC News. 2008-12-14. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  3. Wheeler, Skye (7 June 2008). "Sudan says Uganda rebels kill troops, start "war"". Reuters. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  4. "Ugandan rebels 'prepare for war'". BBC News. 6 June 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  5. Mukasa, Henry (2 January 20092 January 2009). "Ugandan rebels 'prepare for war'". New Vision. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jeffrey Gettleman and Eric Schmitt (February 6, 2009). "U.S. Aided a Failed Plan to Rout Ugandan Rebels". Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  7. "Uganda 'strikes LRA rebel camps'". BBC News. 2008-12-21. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  10. "LRA rebels fleeing towards Central African Republic". 2009-01-02. Archived from the original on 2012-07-31. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  11. "UN: More than 100 killed in massacre by Ugandan rebels". Mail & Guardian Online. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  12. Oluka, Benon Herbert; Tabu Butagira (16 March 2009). "UPDF ends DR Congo operation". Retrieved 18 March 2009. [dead link]

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