Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Uganda: Sudanese rebels clash with LRA

George Riek Machar, the SPLM/A spokesman in Kampala, said that the LRA ambushed an SPLM/A position near the frontline with Sudanese government troops.
"The LRA are killing more people in Sudan than in Uganda. All the displacement near the border is because of them. The SPLM/A would very much like to finish them once and for all," he said, "Once the peace deal is in place, our full attention will turn to the LRA."

According to SPLM/A intelligence, the rebels are operating out of Khartoum-government-controlled territory. "The latest group came from Katire in the mountains near Torit. And we have intelligence they are hiding in a place called Gorajabor: this is very far behind enemy lines," said Machar.
That last part reads like the SPLA/M is alleging a continuing relationship between Sudan's government and the LRA.

Sudan began backing the LRA years ago in response to Uganda's backing of the SPLA/M. However, a while back, both governments agreed to stop arming/supporting each other's rebel groups. In fact, in February 2003, Sudan agreed to let Ugandan troops enter its territory to attack the LRA rebels. Then relations between the two countries suffered a setback in December when Uganda's president accused Sudanese officials of sheltering the LRA.

I guess relations are now on the mend as Uganda's defence minister, Amama Mbabazi, is supposed to be visiting Sudan sometime this week, to discuss strategies for removing LRA bases in Sudan.

SPLA/M = Southern People's Liberation Army/Movement
LRA = Lord's Resistance Army

UPDATE: I was listening to BBC's Focus on Africa and it answered a question ... it seems that Mbabazi's trip to Sudan is related to that agreement between Uganda and Sudan that allows Ugandan troops to cross the border into Sudan in pursuit of LRA troops. The agreement has to be reaffirmed periodically and Mbabazi went to get that done.

Focus on Africa was speaking to a military spokesperson (if memory serves) and he said that the SPLA/M had nothing to do with the agreement and that the SPLA/M's fight with the LRA is their own and in reaction to LRA attacks on their people.

UPDATE II: March 5 ... Uganda has announced that Sudan has extended the agreement for three more months. The agreement allows Ugandan troops to cross the border with Sudan to pursue the LRA.