AFRICA/UGANDA - 120 CHILD SOLDIERS RESCUED IN NORTHERN UGANDA. SECOND IN COMMAND LRA LEADER KILLED. HAS THE CONFLICT REACHED A TURNING POINT ?
Kampala (Fides Service) - Is the Ugandan war at a turning point, international observers are wondering after the recent massive government offensive against Lord’s Resistance Army LRA rebels. During the action government troops rescued some 120 children soldiers kidnapped and forcefully enlisted to fight with the rebels. A military spokesman said most of the boys were from the Lira, Pader and Kitgum districts.
During the combat Charles Tabuley, LRA second in command and three of his lieutenants were killed. This is the first time that a top leader of the LRA has been killed. Up to now local, sources told Fides, the LRA leadership has been unhurt: only a few lower ranking rebel leaders had been killed or captured.
Since 1989 the LRA, formed mainly of Acholi warriors, has been fighting President Yoweri Museveni who took power in 1986 overthrowing a military junta formed mainly of Acholi officers. These latter took refuge in Sudan and formed various militant groups including the LRA.
The LRA’s ideology is based on religious syncretism a mixture of Christianity, Islam and Traditional African religions. This is why the local religious leaders are actively engaged in trying to negotiate peace with the rebels leaders.
The local Catholic Church has not been immune to the rebels’ violence. On May 11 this year a group of young seminarians from Lachor seminary were taken hostage by the LRA and a number of priests have been killed in these years of conflict.
In early March this year the LRA declared a cease fire which never came into effect. (L.M.) (Fides Service 3/11/2003 EM lines 29 Words: 330)
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