UN pushes for tougher action against Uganda rebels

The UN Security Council on Monday called on UN peacekeepers in Central African nations to step up measures to head off attacks by brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

UN powers, led by the United States, also called for greater efforts to convince the Uganda-based rebels to defect.

US Special Forces troops are now advising armies in Uganda and neighbouring countries in the battle against the LRA, which a top US diplomat called “one of the most brutal terrorist organisations on the planet”.

The LRA launched a two decade civil war in Uganda which effectively ended in 2006. But its fighters still attack villages in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Central African Republic, even though the UN now estimates it has less than 500 fighters under its feared leader Joseph Kony.

About 440 000 people in the three countries are said to have fled their homes because of LRA attacks.

The rebels have in the past carried out massacres around Christmas and the UN Security Council called on the UN missions in the DRC, Monusco, and South Sudan, UNMISS, to “increase protection activities” in coming months.

The ‘stain on our collective conscience’
The 15-member council stressed its support for efforts to convince LRA fighters as well as demanding an end to the rebels’ violence and the release of hundreds of hostages they are said to be holding.

“We also believe there should be a renewed push to get LRA fighters and abductees to escape and defect,” Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a US deputy ambassador at the UN, told a Security Council meeting on the rebels.

About 30 women and children escaped LRA camps in the past month and they are now at temporary camps in Uganda, according to the UN.

Kony and other LRA leaders are wanted by the International Criminal Court for killings, mutilations, rapes, recruiting child soldiers and other crimes against humanity.

Despite joint military operations by Ugandan, DRC, South Sudanese and Central African Republic forces, the UN said it recorded more than 250 LRA attacks between January and August.

DeLaurentis called the LRA’s continued existence “a stain on our collective conscience”.

He said the US Special Forces sent to Africa would advise the regional armies and “fuse intelligence with effective planning”. They would not engage in “direct action” against the rebels but would be equipped for “self-defence”. — AFP

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