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Africa

2003-11-17

AFRICA/UGANDA - GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS OFFERING SAFE HAVEN TO GUERRILLA LEADERS TO STOP WAR IN NORTHERN UGANDA, BEFORE IT SPREADS TO INVOLVE MORE TRIBES

Kampala (Fides Service)- “At the moment it is difficult to say whether there are concrete facts behind the news ” local observers in Kampala told Fides with regard to reports of a possible agreement between the Ugandan government and leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which for years has disrupted life in northern Uganda. According to the November 14 issue the Ugandan daily The Monitor defence minister Mrs Ruth Nankabirwa, said that to put an end to hostilities the Kampala government might help the LRA leader Joseph Koni and his deputy Vincent Otti find asylum in another country.
The minister recalled that recently three of Otti wives and a few members of his body guard handed themselves over to the government; after this defection there is growing fear of being killed among the LRA leaders.
“The conciliatory declarations of the defence minister follow those of President Museveni who promised that the LRA will be defeated before the end of the year” said local Fides sources. “This could be a strategy of communications to corner the rebels and make them appear weak and divided, but it is too early to make any judgement.”.
“What must be underlined at this stage is the interest shown by the international community, both the United Nations, with a recent visit of Jan Egeland UN General Under-secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, and the European Union ” our sources say.
“Commitment from the international community is important although late in coming. In Uganda the war has caused at least 1.3 million internally displaced persons not forgetting the tragedy of some 30,000 child soldiers made to fight with the LRA rebel troops” Fides sources recall.
According to local observers contacted by Fides “the war must be stopped because it is already spreading to other areas. Last June 15 the rebels attacked the Soroti district where the people are Tesso. The LRA destroyed everything including the Catholic mission. Then they moved north to Lira , again a Tesso area. To deal with these attacks the government formed ethnic based militia and there is a danger of tribal conflict, fed by a flow of government arms. It should be remembered that for years the LRA conflict was ignored by most Ugandans who saw it as something concerning only Acholi tribes. In the LRA war the attackers are Acholi and so are their victims. The spread of the conflict to other areas of Uganda might sow sentiments of tribal hatred”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 17/11/2003, lines 36 words 463)

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