Ugandan ministers request strong UN support to neutralize vicious insurgents

To finally put an end to the 20-year, campaign of terror by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), notorious for conscripting and sexually abusing children and displacing millions across three African countries, the Ugandan Ministers of both Defence and Foreign Affairs today asked the United Nations Security Council to support strong measures to hunt down, disarm and prosecute the group.Among those measures, Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi called for a mandate for the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), to forcefully disarm the LRA in the countries of their responsibility, where the group has been operating as well as in Uganda, where it originated.In a joint briefing with Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa, he also emphasized the importance of regional efforts, proposing an arrangement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, similar to the one Uganda had with Sudan in which the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) would be allowed to enter Congolese territory and hunt down LRA terrorists under the close supervision of international bodies like MONUC.Mr. Mbabazi said Uganda hoped to arrest indicted LRA terrorist leaders and hand them over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Since 2002, military pressure by the UPDF on the group – which is part of Uganda’s post-colonial history covering the Idi Amin and Milton Obote regimes — has drastically decreased its strength of about 5,000 in 2002 to an estimated current strength of about 500, of whom only 120 to 150 were armed in 2005, Mr. Mbabzi said. While he the group was “severely degraded and on the verge of defeat,” he expressed extreme concern that it was slowly rebuilding its capacity in the Garambe National Park and other areas. The insecurity due to the LRA is threatening humanitarian assistance in the region and the repatriation process of Sudanese refugees from DRC and the Central African Republic (CAR) to their homes in southern Sudan, where last month unknown intruders attacked a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) compound in Yei, killing a local guard and seriously wounding an Iraqi staffer and a second local guard. The LRA is also considered responsible for the January attack on UN peacekeeping troops in Garamba National Park in north eastern DRC, in which eight Guatemalan peacekeepers were killed. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has estimated that over 20,000 children have been abducted by the LRA, as many as 12,000 of them since 2002.