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Zambian NGO Condemns Ugandan Rebels - 2004-02-24

A Zambian-based non-governmental organization helping internally displaced persons has called on African leaders to condemn the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army or LRA. It's blamed for killing nearly 200 people over the weekend. The Regional Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, says African leaders should aid Uganda in fighting the rebels.

The IDP has called for the convening of an emergency conference of African leaders to meet in Uganda and discuss the security situation there. Executive director Jones Chilengi says South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian counterpart Olusegun Obasanjo should lead these efforts.

“That does not mean that we are undermining the government of Uganda. You know the issue of protecting internally displaced persons we know is acknowledged that rests with the national governments. But where national governments capacity seems not to be adequate for the protection like the situation is in northern Uganda, I think the veil of sovereignty should be set aside.”

Mr. Chilengi suggests that the security conference in Uganda be held in the troubled region - away from capital Kampala - as a demonstration of solidarity with the victims of the ongoing violence. He says the conference should consider the possibility of sending an international force to the region.

“Why an international army? Then we will have citizens interacting freely with the security forces. No one will accuse them of assisting the other person.”

After an international army is in place, Mr. Chilengi says efforts should then be made to contact the LRA rebel leadership and begin peace talks.

Mr. Chilengi says his organization has begun formal contacts with several African governments on the security initiative for Uganda.

Over the weekend the rebels killed close to two hundred unarmed people at Barlonyo camp north of the town of Lira. Armed with assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades the rebels shot people as they fled and burnt their huts.

Media reports from the area suggest the attack was one of the worst in recent years since the rebel movement began fighting the government of President Yoweri Museveni 17 years ago.