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FACTBOX: Key facts about Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army

February 23, 2008 — Here are some facts about the LRA and its leader Charles Kony:

Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and government signed a ceasefire on Saturday in another major step towards a final peace settlement to their two-decade war that mediators say may be signed next week.

* Self-proclaimed mystic Kony began one of a series of initially popular uprisings in northern Uganda after President Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986. But tactics of abducting recruits and killing civilians soon alienated supporters.

* The LRA is infamous for kidnapping children for use as soldiers, porters and "wives". Although there are no universally accepted figures, the children are believed to number many thousands. Some are freed after days, others never escape.

* Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the 21-year war. A landmark truce was signed in August 2006 and was later renewed. But negotiations brokered by south Sudanese mediators have frequently stalled.

* The cessation of hostilities has been largely respected, but the guerrilla group has said it will never sign a final peace deal unless the International Criminal Court drops indictments against its leaders for atrocities.

* Kony’s force was once supported by the Khartoum government as a proxy militia, although Sudan says it has now cut ties with the LRA. Kony left his hideouts in south Sudan in 2005 for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s remote Garamba forest.

* Many northerners revile Kony for his group’s atrocities, but also blame Museveni for setting up camps for nearly 2 million people as part of his counter-insurgency strategy, fuelling one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

* Kony has said he is fighting to defend the Biblical Ten Commandments, although his group has also articulated a range of northern grievances, from the looting of cattle by Museveni’s troops to demands for a greater share of political power.

(Reuters)