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.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Ugandan rebels move towards CAR - Sudanese official
Reuters report (via ReliefWeb) by Skye Wheeler, 23 Feb 2007:
Posted by Ingrid J. Jones at Friday, February 23, 2007