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Rebel leader was seen as ‘spiritual medium’

A woman who claimed spiritual powers and briefly led a northern Uganda insurgency has died in a Kenyan refugee camp, a government official said.

Alice Lakwena, who was in her 40s, died on January 10 after being sick for about a week with an unknown illness at the Ifo refugee camp in the eastern Garrisa district, said Dennis Ogola, a local administrator.

While Lakwena’s uprising ended in the 1980s, her cousin Joseph Kony leads a separate northern Uganda rebellion that continues today and has seen as many as 1,8-million people displaced, tens of thousands killed and an estimated 20 000 children abducted.

Lakwena’s followers released the news of her death on Thursday, Ogola said.

”The people around her regarded her as some kind of spiritual medium. May be that is why they did not inform us [earlier],” Ogola said.

In the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the government announced that it would help Lakwena’s family to return her body to Uganda and asked any relatives to come forward.

”Lakwena could have done a lot of atrocities, which could have led to deaths of many innocent Ugandans, but it is our duty to assist her relatives to bring her body back,” Ugandan Information Minister Kirunda Kivejinja told journalists.

Lakwena led the Holy Spirit Movement, which combined traditional beliefs of her Acholi people and Christianity, in a year-long insurgency aimed at toppling Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Army troops defeated the movement in late 1987.

During the rebellion, which began soon after Museveni, a southerner, overthrew a military government led by a northerner, Lakwena told members of her Holy Spirit Movement they would be protected from bullets by rubbing themselves with oil pressed from shea nuts.

Lakwena, who called herself a medium of God, fled to Kenya in December 1987. — Sapa-AP

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