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Ugandan Army Seals Sudan Border to Prevent Rebel Attacks - 2002-03-09


The Ugandan army has sealed off its border with Sudan to prevent cross-border attacks by rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army. The Uganda army believes it is about to defeat the rebels, who have been fighting the government for 15 years.

Hundreds of Ugandan soldiers are lined up on the north-eastern hills bordering Sudan, ready to repulse any rebel attack.

Ugandan army spokesman Major Shaban Bantariza said hundreds of rebels are massed at the border. "They are running around those bushes near our borderline, and we definitely think their intentions are to come and make another attack in Uganda," he said. "If they amass rebels, 500 or 1,000, and try to make a frontal attack into Uganda, that would be suicidal, because we would definitely have an opportunity to deal with them decisively."

The rebels, led by Joseph Kony, have been fighting a guerrilla-style war against the people of northern Uganda since 1988, ostensibly to establish rule based on the Bible's Ten Commandments.

Operating from bases in southern Sudan, the rebels launch raids into northern Uganda. Thousands of civilians have been killed and some 10,000 Ugandan children have been abducted by the LRA. Half of them are still missing. Some die in captivity in camps in southern Sudan. Many of the survivors are initiated into rebel life by being made to beat or hack to death fellow child captives who have tried to escape.

Uganda long accused the Sudanese government of supporting the LRA, but both countries agreed in 1999 to stop supporting each others rebels. The United States also added the rebel group to its Terrorist Exclusion List.

Major Banatariza said these two factors are helping the Ugandan army to defeat the rebels. "Now that the LRA, with Kony, are no longer supported by any government anywhere in the world, and have been actually listed as a terrorist organization, so, we have got some international sympathetic support to fight them," he said. "We should be able to decisively deal with them soon."

Two weeks ago, about 300 rebels invaded Uganda and attacked a market in Kitgum district. The army pursued the retreating rebels back into Sudan, killing at least 80 rebels.

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