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23 Jul 2006 15:12
Uganda said on Sunday it might still attack Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels camped in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) if peace talks hosted by neighbouring southern Sudan fail to end fighting in one of Africa’s longest wars.
Tentative discussions with representatives of the LRA began a week ago, but have advanced little beyond the government offering amnesty in return for total LRA surrender, and the rebels demanding compensation and power-sharing.
While the talks continued, Uganda’s Deputy Defence Minister Ruth Nankabirwa said Uganda and the DRC still had legal obligations to disarm militia groups like the LRA that posed a threat to regional security.
“Because of peace talks you cannot paralyse all these other efforts,” she told reporters. “If these talks fail, what next? Will Uganda jump into DRC? That is a possibility.”
Kinshasa and the United Nations have refused repeated requests from Uganda to be allowed to send its troops into the DRC to hunt down the rebels themselves.
Congolese leaders were watching the talks in Juba closely, Nankabirwa said, and would be called to account by their own people who might remain at risk from the LRA if they failed.
LRA leader Joseph Kony is believed to be hiding in remote north-eastern DRC’s Garamba forest, where he crossed late last year from hideouts in southern Sudan.
South Sudan’s regional government says it wants to broker an end to Kony’s two-decade insurgency, which has killed tens of thousands of people, uprooted nearly two-million in northern Uganda alone and destabilised southern Sudan.
But Kony and his deputies are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, and have so far stayed hidden in the DRC during the negotiations being mediated by southern Sudan’s Vice-President Riek Machar.
In a bid to coax Kony out of the bush, Machar will lead about 60 LRA relatives—including Kony’s mother Nora—local religious leaders and elders from the rebels’ northern Acholi tribe to meet the LRA leaders this week on the border.
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