KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The fugitive leader of the Lord's Resistance Army is sickly and in retreat from an international manhunt that includes U.S. forces, a Ugandan military spokesman said Monday, citing the accounts of recent defectors who are backing up reports that the rebel group is in decline.
Joseph Kony is possibly suffering from diabetes, according to defectors who surrendered to Ugandan troops last month in Central African Republic, said Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda. That account is probably true, he said, because Ugandan intelligence over the years "also indicates that Kony has diabetes."
Kasper Agger, a researcher with the watchdog group Enough Project, said he receives many reports of Kony's failing health but it is impossible to independently verify them. The reports from defectors suggest that the apparently ill Kony "doesn't have the same willingness to fight," he said.
Although many of the defectors said Kony is suffering from diabetes, some also suggested the elusive warlord has AIDS, he said.
Kony is believed to be hiding in Kafia Kingi, a Sudanese-controlled enclave on the border of Central African Republic and South Sudan. Watchdog groups have described Kafia Kingi as a safe haven for Kony because African troops hunting for him do not have access to the territory.
The Lord's Resistance Army, which originated in Uganda in the 1980s as a tribal uprising against the government, became notorious for kidnapping children as fighters and forcing girls to be sex slaves. Kony became infamous across the world in 2012 when the advocacy group Invisible Children released an online video that highlighted his alleged crimes.
The group is reportedly in decline, with many of its fighters surrendering or dying in firefights with African troops across Central Africa.
About 100 U.S. military advisers are helping Ugandan and Congolese troops to hunt down the rebels.