Sudanese President Omar Hasan al-Bashir on Monday announced the total withdrawal of his government’s support to the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Speaking at the Global 2001 SMART investment talks in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, Bashir told journalists the Ugandan and Sudanese governments had reached an agreement regarding the presence of the LRA in Sudan, and that the rebel group was now based outside government-controlled territory in the south of the country, news agencies reported.
Ten African delegations met in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, from Saturday to Tuesday to discuss Sustainable, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) approaches to development and inward investment. “We have no access and control over [LRA leader] Joseph Kony,” Bashir said, on the fringe of the talks. “We are proceeding towards a new era based on the fact that Sudan is not supporting any opposition group in the region.”
Bashir called on the Ugandan government to respond by breaking off relations with the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). “As Sudan has stopped any assistance to the LRA, it is understood that Uganda must exert force to sever any assistance that goes through its territory [to the SPLM/A]”, he said.
Led by self-proclaimed mystic Joseph Kony, the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been fighting a guerilla-style war against Ugandan government forces since the late 1980s, ostensibly in a desire to have Uganda ruled according to the Ten Commandments of the Bible. The militia frequently attacks IDP camps, looting goods and abducting people to carry them or serve as fighters.
Ugandan Presidential Press Secretary Hope Kivengere told IRIN on Tuesday that without support from Sudan, the LRA would be severely weakened. “Once Khartoum stops giving support to Kony, his back will be broken,” she said.
Kivengere said that Bashir’s statement “paved the way” for the Ugandan government to improve relations with Sudan. “We welcome it wholeheartedly,” she added.
Uganda severed diplomatic ties with Sudan in 1995, accusing Khartoum of sponsoring terrorist groups fighting the government.
Bashir admitted his government had assisted the LRA in the past. “We used to provide them [the LRA] with logistics, ammunition and everything. That was a response to the support Uganda used to give to the SPLA. But now the situation is different because both parties are committed to peace,” the ‘New Vision’ quoted him as saying.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has previously admitted providing “moral support” to the SPLM/A, which has been fighting a civil war in southern Sudan against successive northern governments since 1983.
Recent reconciliation efforts between the Sudanese and Ugandan governments - most notably the Nairobi Peace Agreement of December 1999 - have led to the reopening of Uganda’s embassy in Khartoum, and the return via Khartoum of Ugandan child abductees forced to fight with the LRA.
Kivengere told IRIN that, following the Nairobi Peace Agreement, Ugandan had released about 150 Sudanese “prisoners of war” as a goodwill gesture. Uganda was pleased to see that Sudan had now responded by facilitating the release of Ugandans abducted by Kony’s rebel forces and taken to his rear bases inside southern Sudan, she said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions