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Sudan gives Uganda free rein to chase LRA

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Oct 10, 2005 (KAMPALA) — Sudan will temporarily allow Ugandan troops to chase internationally wanted leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) anywhere across the border where they may be hiding, Uganda’s military said on Monday.

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Ugandan army soldiers display weapons captured from the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Kipwayi hills, some 50 miles inside Sudan near the border with Uganda on April 7, 2005. (AFP)

Khartoum’s move came after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for elusive LRA leader Joseph Kony and four of his henchmen, ramping up international pressure on one of Africa’s most brutal insurgency movements.

It also coincided with reports of a new LRA atrocity — 16 people killed in south Sudan, according to a religious leader.

Since 2002, Ugandan troops have been allowed to pursue LRA fighters about 100 km (62 miles) up to a so-called Red Line in neighbouring southern Sudan. But Kampala believes Kony has retreated further north out of reach.

On Friday, Khartoum agreed to scrap the Red Line for a month and said its troops would join Ugandan soldiers and former Sudanese rebels to crush the LRA wherever they were, according to an agreement shown to Reuters by the Ugandan army. "The area of operation shall extend to all LRA hideouts," the text said.

Sudanese officials were not immediately available for comment on the agreement.

Uganda’s government says Kony is camped in the bush outside the Sudanese government-controlled garrison town of Liria, about 60 km (37 miles) north of the Red Line.

Near Liria on Friday, the LRA shot dead 10 women and six men as they went to the fields, said Reverend Paul Yugusuk, head of the Anglican Church in south Sudan’s remote Lomega archdeaconry.

"Some people disappeared into the bush. We don’t know if they were abducted or simply fled when they heard shooting," he told Reuters by telephone.

PROTECTION FOR KONY?

Yugusuk said Sudanese government troops stationed in Liria had not responded to Friday’s massacre. "It seems Kony is being protected by them," he added.

Last week, the self-declared prophet and LRA leader Kony became one of the world’s most wanted men when the ICC, in its first indictments, issued warrants for him and four deputies.

They are accused of massacring civilians, mutilating survivors and abducting more than 20,000 children during their 19-year insurgency. The war in northern Uganda has killed tens of thousands of people and uprooted some 1.6 million people, but is one of the world’s most neglected conflicts.

Analysts say support from elements in the Sudanese military has helped Kony evade attempts to catch him. Sudan denies that.

The agreement on Ugandan military activity in Sudan included the former rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which joined Sudan’s government in January.

"SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) and SPLA shall ensure that captured LRA camps are not reoccupied," the agreement said.

"UPDF (Uganda’s army) may use helicopter gunships subject to coordination by ground forces and intelligence."

Commanders from the three forces are to meet in southern Sudan’s main city Juba on Wednesday to plan joint operations against the LRA, it said.

(Reuters)

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