UGANDA: US accuses LRA of abuses, calls for a quick peaceful solution

Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The United States has accused Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels of committing various abuses against civilians including abductions in recent attacks in three African countries.

"The United States condemns the recent LRA attacks on Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Army forces at Nabanga, Sudan, and elsewhere, as well as the LRA's abductions and other abuses of innocent civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Southern Sudan," said a statement issued on 18 June.

In an apparent reference to recent threats by Uganda to resume military operations against the LRA, the statement added: "The United States continues to support a peaceful end to the 22-year-old conflict between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda. We call on LRA leader Joseph Kony to sign and adhere to the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) negotiated in talks that have now concluded in Juba, Sudan."

The US also pledged its support in the implementation of the agreement in areas of reconciliation, reintegration and development in northern Uganda. "We will continue to support regional initiatives to protect the citizens of these countries," the statement added.

Gun battles in Nimule

This came amid reports of weekend gun battles between suspected Ugandan rebel fighters and south Sudanese forces in the border town of Nimule where one rebel was killed and three captured, according to the Ugandan military.

"A group of LRA rebels infiltrated the areas of Pagali [50km from the Ugandan border] in southern Sudan, abducted two people and later released one. They now seem to be heading to Kajo Keji and we suspect that they are heading back to the Democratic Republic of Congo," Captain Chris Magezi, acting Ugandan army spokesman, said.

He said that although the military had remained on alert, it suspected that the rebels were moving towards these areas to unearth arms caches.

"It is not the first time that they [the LRA] are making these movements. We suspect that they want to reach some arms in an attempt to replenish their supplies. But in the process they loot food and abduct people," Magezi said.

Asked about reports of increased Ugandan army deployments along the border with Sudan, Magezi said there had been a precautionary build-up to block the rebels crossing back to northern Uganda.

Captain Ronald Kakurungu, the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) northern region spokesman, told IRIN: "If they attempt to cross over to Uganda, we shall hit them, but certainly I don’t think they will make that attempt because they know they will get a bloody nose," he said. The UPDF is the national army.

LRA crimes

Human rights groups have accused the LRA of forcefully recruiting child soldiers and forcing abducted female children to become sex slaves.
In April, LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign a final peace deal, brokered by Southern Sudan, saying he did not understand how it addressed the indictments imposed on him and other LRA leaders by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Along with four of his commanders Kony is charged by the ICC with carrying out abductions, killings, rape and conscription of Ugandan children as fighters among other war crimes.

The LRA rebels had also been accused of abducting nearly 30,000 children in northern Uganda. The rebels were committing similar crimes in Sudan, Congo and the CAR, according to some humanitarian organisations.

A recent report by the US-based Human Rights Watch said that since February the LRA had "carried out at least 100 abductions and perhaps more in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Southern Sudan”.

On 5 June, the LRA attacked a southern Sudanese army outpost near the border with the DRC, killing at least 20 people, among them 14 members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. The LRA rebellion had led to the deaths of thousands and displaced millions in northern Uganda.

Source: IRIN NEWS http;//