Ugandan rebels have crossed into Sudan from hideouts in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and were moving north on Friday towards the Central African Republic, a Sudanese official and aid worker said.
Paul Matthews Rikito, director of Tambura County in southwestern Sudan on the CAR border, told Reuters he saw two groups of Lord's Resistance Army rebels moving north.
"They are so many. The first group was more than 1,000," Rikito said by phone. "They are heading towards CAR."
He added that the group included women, children and cattle.
The LRA denied the move. "We are not moving anywhere near Central African Republic. We have no intention to," LRA spokesman Godfrey Ayoo said.
But local aid workers corroborated the sighting.
"The group (of LRA) ... is following the Namatina River in a northwest direction. They are moving fast," said Andy Wren, who works for aid agency Norwegian People's Aid.
He said cited south Sudanese military sources with whom his organisation works closely.
Under a landmark truce signed in August and renewed in December, the rebels were supposed to assemble in two places in south Sudan -- one on the DRC border, near the top leadership's hideouts, and one on the Uganda border.
But they have repeatedly missed deadlines to do so.
Last month, delegates representing the rebels walked out of peace talks in the south Sudanese capital, Juba, saying they feared for their security after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir threatened to "get rid of the LRA from Sudan".
The rebels say they have since scattered their forces in southern Sudan and the DRC on security fears and will not resume talks unless another venue can be found, outside Sudan.
The talks had raised hopes of an end to a two-decade war that killed tens of thousands and displaced 1.7 million people.
Rikito said extra south Sudanese soldiers had been deployed to protect civilians from LRA attacks, adding that the rebels looted food from villages and robbed a clinic.
The rebels are notorious for killing and robbing civilians, mutilating victims and abducting children to use as fighters.
Analysts fear LRA fighters on the Sudan/CAR border would further destabilise an area that is already a regional tinderbox because of a spillover from Sudan's Darfur conflict, which has displaced hundreds of thousands in CAR and Chad.
Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebels said on Thursday they have left two assembly points in southern Sudan set up under a landmark truce with the Ugandan government, fearing for their safety.
LRA spokesman Godfrey Ayoo said the rebels would never resume negotiations in south Sudan's capital, Juba, despite claims by the chief mediator, south Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar, that they were due to do so this week.
A truce renewed in December gave the rebels until last month to gather in two places in south Sudan - Owiny-Ki-Bul, on the Uganda border and Ri-Kwangba, on the Democratic Republic of Congo border.
Ayoo said both groups had dispersed and the LRA's top leaders were back in their jungle hideouts in the DRC.
"We withdrew from Ri-Kwangba because of security concerns, so we are back in Congo," he said. "The group in Owiny-Ki-Bul has scattered in southern Sudan."
Ayoo was talking by phone from Nairobi. LRA delegates have refused to return to Juba since Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir threatened to "get rid of the LRA from Sudan".
The Juba peace talks had raised hopes of an end to two decades of conflict in northern Uganda that have killed tens of thousands and displaced 1.7 million people.
But the truce expires at the end of this month, with no agreement on when the two sides will meet to extend it.
Uganda accuses the rebels of repeatedly failing to assemble in agreed locations, which the rebels deny. Government officials were not immediately available for comment.
Machar told Reuters on Tuesday he expected LRA delegates back in Juba this week to set a date for resuming talks.
"Our position has not changed," Ayoo said. "We are not going back there (to southern Sudan). We are fully united in the search for a new venue."
The Ugandan government has said it will not move the venue.
But Ayoo said the LRA would keep their guns silent, even if the truce expires. The government has made similar comments.
Many Ugandans fear the LRA will never sign a peace deal unless the International Criminal Court in the Hague drops indictments against its top leaders for war crimes like rape, mutilation and abducting children to use as fighters.
Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have resolved to jointly fight rebels operating along their common borders, the Sunday Vision reported.
They have agreed to exchange information, have joint military teams to verify the location of rebels and set up joint verification missions in the respective countries.
This was during a one-day security meeting at Hotel Margherita in Kasese last week chaired by the Ugandan people's Defence Forces (UPDF) second Division commander, Brig. Hudson Mukasa who also led the UPDF delegation.
Brig. Gen. Bahuma Ambamba led the DRC army side while Col. Adoor Deng headed the Sudanese People's Liberation Army delegation. The UN peace keeping force in the Congo (MONUC) delegation was led by Brig. Gen. Duma Mdutyana.
Issuing a press statement after the meeting, the Rwenzori Mountains Alpine Brigade spokesperson, Lt. Robert Kamara and the 2nd Division Intelligence Officer, Capt. Paul Muwonge, said the UPDF and DRC army had agreed to set up liaison offices in Congolese towns of Bunia and Aba and Arua and Kisoro in Uganda. They said the meeting was a follow-up to the Great lakes Region Pact on security, stability and development that was held on December 15, 2006. At the December meeting, Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Joseph Kabila (DRC), agreed to eliminate their crossborder insecurity.
The Lord's Resistance Army rebels are operating in the Garamba zone in the DRC after fleeing from Sudan while remnants of the Allied Democratic Front are also in the Rwenzori Mountains of eastern DRC.
. The burial has taken place in Uganda of Alice Lakwena, the self-proclaimed prophetess who began the long-running insurgency in the north of the country. She died in a refugee camp in Kenya last month, but was buried in her native village in Gulu district where she is still remembered as a healer.
Alice Lakwena led a rebellion against President Yoweri Museveni in the 1980s.
Her followers were defeated by government forces, but regrouped to form the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
The LRA - led by Ms Lakwena's cousin Joseph Kony - is now holding talks to end its 20-year conflict.
"Thousands of people attended her burial," a local official in Gulu district said.
Note, her followers believed magic potions protected them in battle.
Juba Post article Jan 25 2007 by Badru Dean - excerpt:
According to The Monitor, Otti reportedly said they are still committed to peace talks to end the 20-year rebel insurgency but that nothing Khartoum can say or do will lure them back to negotiations in South Sudan.
The comments were in reaction to South Sudan President Salva Kiir comments on Monday on South Sudan TV that he would call for mass action against the Lord's Resistance Army rebels, if they continue to attack his people.