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07 Jun 2008 16:06
Ugandan rebels have killed 23 people including 14 south Sudanese soldiers and “started war”, a south Sudanese minister said on Saturday.
Wednesday’s raid by Lord’s Resistance Army guerrillas at Nabanga village on the remote Congo border appeared to signal the collapse of peace talks with the Ugandan government that have been hosted by south Sudan since mid-2006.
“The LRA have started war,” south Sudan’s Information Minister Gabriel Changson Chang told Reuters in Juba. “Southern Sudan will not be the place where they can wage this war.”
Chang said his government would decide how to respond.
“We do not yet have a definite position on this,” he said.
Nabanga had been the site of tentative meetings between Ugandan officials and the LRA’s fugitive leader Joseph Kony, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
But he failed to appear in April to sign a final deal to end more than two decades of civil war in northern Uganda that have killed tens of thousands of people and displaced two million more.
On Thursday, a Ugandan military spokesperson said Uganda, the DRC and Sudan would launch a joint offensive against the LRA if Kony failed to commit to talks.
‘Recruit, abduct, rearm’
Major Paddy Ankunda, the Ugandan spokesperson, said the elusive rebel commander had shown he had no interest in negotiations.
“As usual, Kony has used the peace process to recruit, abduct and rearm himself to fight on,” Ankunda said this week.
He said agreement on the need for a multinational operation was reached at a regional security meeting in Kampala on Tuesday.
Kampala says the United States has pledged its support too.
Kony is thought to move between camps in lawless northeastern DRC’s Garamba Forest and Central African Republic, security experts say. The guerrillas have also used bases in neighbouring southern Sudan in the past.
Aid workers say his forces have raided villages and abducted hundreds of civilians in the three countries in recent months.
Kony and two of his deputies are wanted by the ICC in The Hague for crimes including massacres, rapes and the kidnapping of children as sex slaves and fighters in their insurgency. - Reuters 2008
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