April 16, 2005 AllAfrica report by Frank Nyakairu & Grace Matsiko Kampala
For the first time Ugandan and Sudanese forces are in a landmark move to start joint operations against the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in southern Sudan.
The Army spokesman, Maj. Shaban Bantariza, said yesterday the move would boost the offensive on LRA leader Joseph Kony.
"Sudan People's Armed Forces, (SPAF) are joining us in Nisitu and we will soon fight Kony together. He either fights or he talks peace," said Bantariza.
He said Kony and his rebels, who were headed towards the Ethiopian border, have been blocked.
In the past the UPDF has fought bloody battles with SPAF in southern Sudan.
But relations between the two countries have steadily improved especially after Sudan allowed Ugandan forces to pursue Kony, a man once Khartoum backed-inside Sudan.
A week ago SPAF, attacked Kony's group, which was reportedly headed towards the Ethiopian border.
In March 2002, Khartoum and Kampala signed an agreement allowing 10,000 UPDF troops to pursue Kony in Sudan in the move dubbed Operation Iron Fist.
Re-opening of diplomatic missions in both countries and an air link have subsequently followed signifying warmer ties between the former archrivals.
As the military pursues the LRA, the rebel group and the government are engaged in a wobbly peace process mediated by former Minister Betty Bigombe.
In 2003, President Yoweri Museveni referred the LRA to the International Criminal Court for a possible war crimes trial. The investigation has picked pace.
The LRA has been fighting government forces since 1988, to replace President Yoweri Museveni's government with one based on the biblical Ten Commandments.
But the rebel force is best known for its brutality against the civilian population.
Over, 1.6 million people have been displaced, thousands of children abducted for forciful recruitment as fighters or sex slaves.
The international relief group said the attacks were denying help to people who lacked even the most basic necessities. The attacks had been carried out against a number of aid agencies and had not targetted the ICRC itself, a spokesman said.
"These attacks against humanitarian convoys are hampering the humanitarian activities that are taking place in Darfur," said ICRC spokesman Marco Jimenez, without giving further details of the attacks. Robbery rather than politics seemed to be the main motive, he added.
[via SEPNet with thanks]