OCTOBER 18, 2010: W. Equatoria Welcomes Creation of African Forces to Respond to LRA Rebels

W. Equatoria Welcomes Creation of African Forces to Respond to LRA Rebels

SOURCE: Sudan Tribune

The governor of Western Equatoria state (WES), which has been badly affected by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, Col Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro has welcomed an African Union move to form a joint regional military response to the insurgents.

On 16 October the BBC reported that, 'the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda will form a brigade to pursue the militants.'

Although the group originated in Uganda over twenty years ago the LRA now operates over a large area of central Africa, including south Sudan.

Speaking to the Sudan Tribune from his office on Monday 18 October, governor Bakosoro said that "the long awaited initiative by the four affected countries to come up with strategies to bring to an end the LRA atrocities is incredible."

The governor has high hopes for the combined force asking, "How LRA can rebels defeat the International Community, IGAD, and the[se] four power[ful] armies?"

Despite a peace deal in 2005 that ended 22 years of conflict between north and south Sudan, Western Equatoria has continued to experience attacks by the LRA.

From 2006 to 2008 the LRA held talks with the Ugandan government in Juba, the capital of the autonomous region of Southern Sudan. But the talks collapsed when Joseph Kony, the groups' leader failed to sign the deal.

Sudan has previously given the Ugandan army permission to pursue the LRA within south Sudan.

According to the UN, so far in 2010 LRA attacks have forced some 25,000 Sudanese to flee their homes.

The governor urged the four countries "to form a combat force that will squeeze the centre-command of Joseph Kony and his scattered cruel fighters."

Southern politicians have long accused the LRA of receiving assistance from the Khartoum government. An allegation the ruling National Congress Party denies.

In his interview with Sudan Tribune, Bakosoro appeared to repeat the claim:

"I have collected [] concrete information that the Sudan Government is preparing a proxy force to destabilize Southern Sudan through its neighboring Central African Republic and DR Congo."

In August the Human Rights Watch accused the LRA, who regularly kidnap children and force them to fight, of undertaking a massive abduction campaign in the DR Congo and the Central African Republic.

There are fears that violence could increase in Southern Sudan, ahead of January's referendum on the region's possible independence.

The most high profile LRA attack of recent years, were the Christmas Massacres of 2008 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A Human Rights Watch report later that year detailed the 'brutal slaughter of more than 865 civilians and the abduction of at least 160 children between December 24, 2008, and January 17 in the Haute Uele district of Congo.'

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