From Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey:
“Today, the world learned that another top LRA commander, Vincent Binani Okumu was tracked, located and killed during a confrontation with the Ugandan military. Binani was known as one of Kony’s most brutal commanders who oversaw massacres and directed LRA forces in the abduction and killing of innocent civilians. Up until Friday he had been – and would have continued – murdering, raping, and abducting innocent people. While we do not celebrate the death of any individual, we celebrate that he can no longer commit such atrocities.”
As we reported earlier today, Lt. Col. Vincent Okumu Binanso, aka Binani, was killed by Ugandan military forces this past Friday in the northeastern corner of the Central African Republic. Although young, Binani was one of Joseph Kony’s top 10 commanders. His death comes just eight months after the capture of Maj. General Caesar Achellam, another of Kony’s top commanders.
This weekend’s events deal a significant blow to LRA operations in DR Congo and weaken its ability to carry out attacks in and around Garamba National Park, a historically-significant base for LRA operations in DR Congo. We wish that Binani had been captured, not killed, but we are glad that he is no longer able to inflict death and violence on innocent people in central Africa.
What we know:
• Binani was in charge of LRA operations in DR Congo
Binani was promoted into the command of LRA groups in DR Congo sometime between 2009 and 2010. He oversaw the brutal establishment of the group in northeastern DR Congo, which became the epicenter of LRA attacks in central Africa. Under his command the frequency and severity of LRA attacks in the country was the highest in the region. According to interviews in the field with community members and former LRA fighters, Binani had a reputation for being especially brutal in his attacks against civilians and even towards the troops under his command. According to the LRA Crisis Tracker, the LRA committed 776 attacks resulting in 630 civilian deaths and 1,264 abductions in DR Congo between 2010 and 2012.
• He oversaw the Makombo Massacres
Under the command of Binani, the LRA killed 321 civilians and abducted an additional 250 over the course of four days in December of 2009. The attack was one of the deadliest in LRA history and included gruesome tactics. A 2010 Human Rights Watch report detailed the attack: “The vast majority of those killed were adult men, whom LRA combatants first tied up and then hacked to death with machetes or crushed their skulls with axes and heavy wooden sticks. The dead include at least 13 women and 23 children, the youngest a 3-year-old girl who was burned to death. LRA combatants tied some of the victims to trees before crushing their skulls with axes.”
• Binani is from Uganda
The LRA is a top-heavy organization, and all of its officers are Ugandan. Because no non-Ugandans have been elevated within the group, each Ugandan commander removed from the battlefield greatly reduces the LRA’s capacity for violence.
• Binani was a young, up-and-coming commander
Kony has been promoting younger LRA officers over older ones, presumably because he is more confident in the young officers’ loyalty. Binani was reportedly promoted to the command of LRA groups in DR Congo in the midst of a falling out between Kony and ICC-indicted Brigadier General Dominic Ongwen.
• What Invisible Children is doing now
In the upcoming weeks and months, LRA fighters and commanders will be far more likely to surrender–especially the men and women who were under Binani’s command. That’s why Invisible Children and its partners will continue to use fliers, FM broadcasts and helicopter speaker messaging to inform LRA combatants of Binani’s death and direct them to safe surrender sites.
Invisible Children’s “come home” programs are possible because of the consistent generosity of TRI donors and everyone who has helped fund our life-saving projects.