Captured deep in the remote Central African jungle, Ceasar Acellam is the highest-ranking Lord's Resistance Army commander to be caught alive. Is the net closing on Joseph Kony?
Djema, Central African Republic
As the Ugandan Army told it, the end of the hunt for at least one senior Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) commander was as it often is: ignominious and unexpected.
For three weeks Ugandan troops had been camped out – waiting in ambush for a suspected group of fighters from the brutal LRA that had been monitored somewhere on the other side of the river that marks the border between Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Our boys were just advancing a bit, searching the area, when they came across a small path in the forest,” Jackson Kayanja, one of the commanders in charge of the operation, said. “They followed it and then suddenly, surprisingly, they found him right in front of them.”
One group of soldiers was circling in from the side and fired, Mr. Kayanja said. No one was hit.
“Then he just did this,” Kayanja said, throwing his hands up in the sign of surrender.
The gangly man standing with his hands in the air next to a woman clutching a baby and a teenage girl was Maj. Gen. Ceasar Acellam, and for the Ugandan Army this was a major coup.
Up until that point on Saturday morning, Acellam was the third-highest ranking commander in vicious warlord Joseph Kony's rebel outfit.
Now he had become the highest-ranking officer in the LRA's 25-year insurgency ever to be captured alive.
“Yesterday I did meet a group that was there on a mission,” a laconic Acellam told a small group of journalists who had been flown by the Ugandan Army to its forward base at Djema on Sunday. “I knew I was in the hands of the [Ugandan Army].”
Recruited in 1988, just one year after Kony launched his armed insurgency to overthrow the Ugandan government and impose the biblical Ten Commandments, Acellam rose to become the LRA's intelligence chief and one of Mr. Kony's key deputies.