OCTOBER 14, 2010: Central Africa says 'fight LRA like Al-Qaeda'

Central Africa says 'fight LRA like Al-Qaeda'

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

The Central African Republic called Thursday for the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to be treated and fought like Al-Qaeda, in an appeal made at an African Union meeting.

"The LRA is now a terrorist organisation like Al-Qaeda. Thus, it is urgent today to put an end to the atrocities of this rebellion," Defence Minister Jean-Francis Bozize told AFP at the conference in the capital Bangui.

The meeting, which began on Wednesday and was being attended by other countries affected by LRA activity, "aims to evaluate the security, economic and humanitarian aspects of the LRA presence" in the CAR, Bozize said.

The LRA emerged in 1998 in northern Uganda as a rebel movement dedicated to overthrowing the east African country's government and establishing a regime to uphold the Biblical Ten Commandments.

Today however it is infamous for atrocities against civilians, including massacres, and has moved from Uganda to South Sudan, the CAR and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its leaders are wanted for war crimes.

CAR Foreign Minister Antoine Gambi told AFP that "for us, LRA elements are terrorists exactly like Al-Qaeda. The international community must not be stingy with the means to help Centrafrica to get rid of the insecurity created by this rebellion."

At the opening of the meeting, President Francois Bozize denounced the "incursions, pillage, massacres, rapes, hostage takings and villages that are systematically burned down" by the LRA in four regions of the poor landlocked country, national radio reported.

"I formulate the hope that this session will end in proposals and solutions adequate (to deal with) this recurring question," Bozize said.

The Bangui meeting was attended by representatives of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan -- all affected by the rebel group founded by Joseph Kony.

There were also delegates from Kenya, which is the current president of the AU Peace and Security Council, according to a document of the pan-African organisation.

Also present were members of regional organisations, humanitarian bodies and the United States, the document said.

The AU wants to "show the solidarity of the continent with the CAR and places the emphasis on shared responsibility faced with the LRA issue," AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said, quoted by national radio.

"This session should come up with audacious conclusions that orient us towards action against the LRA," Lamamra said.

In December 2008, the Ugandan army launched a surprise offensive against the LRA in the far northeast of the DR Congo. The operation failed to capture Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, and neutralise the LRA, which reformed in several groups.

Since 2009, Ugandan soldiers have been hunting down the LRA in the CAR with the Bangui government's approval, but the rebels still manage brutal attacks against civilians and take hostages as forced labour.

On Wednesday, the International Crisis Group research institute stated that it believed that Kony is in Darfur in west Sudan. Sudan has not authorised Uganda to pursue Kony in Darfur, according to the ICG.

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