Friday, April 15, 2005

US officials want more pressure on Uganda rebels

Note from this report that Kony is believed to be hiding in the Sudan.

WASHINGTON, April 14 (Reuters) - More pressure from the international community is needed to end Northern Uganda's cult-like insurgency, which brutalizes and kidnaps children to serve as soldiers, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

State Department Africa expert Donald Yamamoto called for a comprehensive approach, and took aim at problems swirling around rebel leader Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army.

"On good days, he talks to God and on other days he thinks he is God," Yamamoto said when asked by U.S. lawmakers at a congressional human rights caucus meeting whether he thought Kony was a rational leader.

He urged stronger diplomatic, military and humanitarian efforts, particularly from the United States, the European Union and the African Union. "There is no military solution to this," he said. "We need a comprehensive approach."

Kony's rebels are notorious for targeting civilians and kidnapping more than 20,000 children as fighters, porters and sex slaves.

Yamamoto demanded more pressure on Sudan to stop giving the rebels a safe haven.

Hopes for a settlement were raised last year when Betty Bigombe, a former Ugandan government minister, organized talks between the rebels and the government. But these stalled and Kony is believed to be hiding in Sudan.

Leonard Rogers, a senior official at the U.S. Agency for International Development, called the situation in northern Uganda, a "humanitarian and human rights disaster" where children were the main victim.

Aid organizations gave chilling descriptions of the fate of children in northern Uganda and Rory Anderson, senior policy advisor for World Vision, described it as "hell on earth".

Anderson recalled an 11-year-old boy she met who was forced by the rebels to kill five people.

"The first time he killed someone, he, along with other children, were forced to bite to death one child who had attempted to escape," said Anderson.

She criticized the United States and other nations for not doing enough. "The Bush administration has all but ignored this crisis. It remains a forgotten war," said Anderson. "High-level engagement by Congress and the administration would make a difference," she added.

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