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Over 3,500 people sign anti-LRA petition

October 17, 2013 (KAMPALA) - At least 3,515 people from the Great Lakes region affected by the activities of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels have signed a petition that will on Wednesday this week be handed over to the Ugandan parliament, says the American advocacy group, Invisible Children.

A statement from Invisible Children released on Saturday said the petition ‘‘seeks to revive debate in Uganda and amongst Ugandan authorities about the continued LRA threat to regional stability with a view of permanently ending the LRA and addressing its immediate and long-term effects.’’

According to the statement, the petition is signed by communities from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).

The petition will be handed to the speaker of Uganda’s parliament, Rebecca Kadaga.

The advocacy group says it expects the number of petitioners to increase by the time it is handed over.

The LRA is originally a Ugandan rebel group. For two decades the rebels were involved in a vicious fight with the Ugandan government. Most of the fighting took place in northern Uganda.

At the peak of the conflict nearly two million people in the region, Joseph Kony’s home area, and where most of his fighters also come from, were forced from their homes and villages into internally displaced persons camps.

The rebel group has been accused of mass murder and forceful abduction of civilian population to swell their ranks.

In 2005, the International Criminal Court indicted the top LRA leaders including its leader Joseph Kony for crimes against humanity.

The LRA was flushed out of Uganda in 2006. The rebel group then moved to South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic (CAR) where it continues to remain active.

In 2011, US President Barrack Obama sent to the Great Lakes region 100 military advisers to help the armies of Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central Africa Republic fight the rebels.

The regional effort against the LRA was disrupted in March this year when rebel forces took over power from President Francois Bozize Bozize. The rebels then ordered Ugandan troops and other foreign armies hunting for Kony to get out of CAR.

Consequently the Ugandan army suspended the fight against the rebels raising concern it would provide the brutal rebel group with a vital opportunity to re-group.

Invisible Children says the petition also wants the Uganda parliament to take bold steps ensuring the return of children still in LRA activity.

‘‘The petitioners also want Parliament to lobby and take practical measures in favour of the return of all children and people still in LRA captivity including engaging the international community and regional governments.’’

(ST)