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Disarm LRA rebels, Museveni tells Kinshasa and MONUC

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KAMPALA, 30 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday the Congolese government and the UN mission there known as MONUC must, in two months, disarm Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels who recently crossed into eastern Congo or his army would do so.

"If the international community does not come in to do it, we shall go there," he said at a news conference in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

LRA Deputy Commander Vincent Otti led some 400 rebels into Congo's Garamba National Park in early September, fleeing Ugandan military operations in south Sudan.

On Monday, the Congolese vice-president in charge of security and defence, Azarias Ruberwa, said in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, that the army was planning operations to oust the LRA rebels and their families. The government has given an ultimatum to all foreign groups to leave the country by the end of Friday.

"We have no choice, we absolutely have to disarm them," Ruberwa said.

However, on Thursday Museveni said: "We shall not wait for two months as Otti [LRA deputy commander Vincent Otti] and his group eats up the animals in Garamba National Park. We shall not allow that."

He said there were "better strategies" to pacify the eastern DRC, which had become home to several foreign and local rebel groups as well as armed militias.

"MONUC should disarm all these fighters in the DRC, if they can't, there are joint agreements with neighbouring countries," he added. "In the case of Uganda we can have joint operations with the Congolese army to handle this situation."

He suggested that any capable African Union member state could assist to disarm the LRA insurgents as well as the other militia groups.

"What is not acceptable is to continue as we are now. My slogan now is down with the status quo in eastern Congo," Museveni said.

He added that giving the LRA rebels more time to disarm was equivalent to the DRC "giving bases to terrorists".

Museveni criticised MONUC and the government in Kinshasa for not "doing much" and allegedly allowing the "defeated" Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) to regroup and rebuild strength in the eastern DRC over the past two years.

"You give a terrorist group two years of holiday; this means that you are supporting terrorism. The ADF has been there for two years, growing food and resting," he said.

The LRA has waged a devastating rebellion in northern Uganda against Museveni's government since 1988, targeting civilians and abducting mainly children as rebel conscripts and sex slaves.

The ADF sprang up in 1996 by attacking areas in western Uganda, claiming that it wanted to topple Museveni's government that used the ADF's presence in Congo to justify Uganda's 1998 troop deployment to Congo.

The Ugandan troops ended up fighting alongside rebels seeking to oust the government in Kinshasa in a war that sucked in six African armies, which, however, had withdrawn by 2003 at the end of the main Congo war.

Despite this withdrawal, northeastern DRC remains unstable with the presence of various rebel groups killing hundreds of civilians in spates of lawlessness. The situation has improved somewhat with the deployed of MONUC troops to the area.

However, remote areas in eastern Congo have remained under threat with very little government authority of any kind, a vacuum filled by various militias and rebel groups.


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