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LRA Denies Ugandan Rebels Heading to Central African Republic


The chief negotiator for the rebel Lord's Resistance Army has denied reports that rebels from the group are heading toward the Central African Republic. The ongoing peace process with the Ugandan government has suffered a number of recent setbacks. Derek Kilner has more from Nairobi.

According to a southern Sudanese official quoted by the Reuters news agency, hundreds of rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA, have been heading toward the Central African Republic. The movement would violate an agreement signed last year for LRA troops to assemble in the town of Ri-Kwangba on Sudan's border with Congo.

But the LRA's chief negotiator for the peace process, David Matsanga, tells VOA from southern Sudan, where the talks are located, that there has been no such troop movement.

"These reports are baseless, useless reports, diversionary reports that are propaganda by the government of Uganda," he said.

Peace negotiations between the LRA and the government resumed in January, but they have been plagued by turmoil within the LRA.

In late January, LRA leader Joseph Kony confirmed the long-suspected death of his deputy Vincent Otti. Otti was generally seen as a much stronger supporter of cooperation in the peace process than Kony.

At the same time, the LRA announced that it was removing several members of its negotiating team, including the team's leader, Martin Ojul.

The Ugandan government has also been investigating reports of multiple attacks by the LRA in southern Sudan in recent days. The government has given the rebels until the end of February to reach an agreement. The government has regularly extended such deadlines in the past.

Manasseh Wepundi, of the Africa Policy Institute in Nairobi, says that with unrest threatening Kenya's role as the pillar of stability in East Africa, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni may be motivated to push for a rapid solution, with an eye toward establishing Uganda in that role.

He says such considerations may discourage a military offensive against the LRA, despite the fact that disarray in the rebel camp might otherwise make a military approach more appealing.

"A lot of things have dramatically changed that might not favor a military solution," said said Wepundi. "In Chad, they just survived a rebel insurgency. In Kenya, the humanitarian crisis has spilled over into Uganda, there are several thousand Kenyan refugees in Uganda. Now a military solution unless it is totally assured of a quick victory would just create more humanitarian concerns that the international community might find too costly to bear right now."

The 20-year conflict in northern Uganda killed tens of thousands and displaced nearly two million.

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