UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UGANDA: Army claims successes over LRA
BOMBO, 19 January 2004 (IRIN) - Six donkeys, 12 bicycles, 44 goats, 123 sheep and 1,502 cows. These were among the "war materials" the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) have claimed to have recovered from the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in successful raids in 2003.
Speaking during a press conference at army headquarters in Bombo barracks north of Kampala, Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi said the UPDF had weakened the LRA to a point of near collapse, particularly in the last two months, with numbers of LRA fighters reported to have been forced out of recently besieged Lira District into Sudan.
Besides capturing livestock, the UPDF had rescued 7,299 abductees, killed 928 LRA fighters and captured a further 791, and recovered several tonnes of weaponry, including 420 bombs, hundreds of guns and 37,058 rounds of ammunition.
"The LRA is left with months to survive," Mbabazi told the press conference. "Our success is attributable to improved command, vigilance of the UPDF and improved access to weapons [during 2003]."
But local leaders in Lira have warned that the war is far from over, saying the LRA still has a presence in Lira and other parts of the north. "Things have calmed a little, certainly, but there are still LRA remnants causing trouble in the villages," Lira District's council chairman, Franco Ojur, told IRIN. He added that he hoped Lira’s local militia – the Rhino Group – would be able to help track those remnants down.
For his part, Mbabazi thanked all local militias in northern and eastern Uganda fighting alongside the UPDF against the LRA.
Religious leaders in Lira, however, said the UPDF had scarcely dented the LRA's capacity to inflict suffering on civilians, as the fighters were now roving around in smaller groups, perpetrating low-level acts of violence, albeit less dramatic and less often than in previous months.
Mbabazi added that the LRA was continuing to cross back and forth across the border with southern Sudan. "[The] LRA high command, [with] both [LRA leader Joseph] Kony and his deputy Vincent Otti, managed to cross into southern Sudan, and our intelligence from this week suggests he [Kony] is hiding in the Katile valley, between the Imotong mountain ranges and the Acholi hills," he said.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs
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