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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 09:42 GMT
'Disaster' in Uganda's war zone
Massacre survivor
The refugee camp near Lira was destroyed
Uganda's parliament has declared the north, ravaged by rebel attacks, to be a disaster zone.

The move is expected to free up extra money to aid victims of the rebellion and improve security, however it was resisted by the government.

The declaration follows a massacre last weekend and ethnic clashes in the town of Lira on Wednesday.

Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels have been fighting for 18 years and are accused of killing 200 refugees.

Some MPs requested international help to end the rebellion but the government insists that it will soon defeat the LRA and denied that it had lost control of the north.

During the hotly contested debate, some northern MPs broke down in tears, reports The Monitor newspaper.

The parliamentary vote is not binding on the government.

Stoned to death

A march in Lira to express anger at the killings and the government's inability to end the rebellion turned violent on Wednesday, as ethnic Acholis were accused of backing the LRA.

Woman pleads for mercy from crowd

At least one man - believed to be an Acholi - was stoned to death and four other people died after security forces opened fire.

Most LRA fighters are Acholis but the BBC's Will Ross in Lira says most are abducted and forced to become rebel fighters.

Meanwhile, Uganda's army says that since the massacre it has killed 21 of those responsible.

Some 4,000 people were living in the Barlonya refugee camp, north of Lira, where the massacre took place at the weekend.

They had fled their homes because of fighting elsewhere in northern Uganda.

Rebel denial

Local MP Charles Angiro said that as the camp was surrounded by rebels, many refugees ran to their grass huts and were burned alive when the insurgents torched them.

But a rebel spokesman said civilians were caught in the crossfire as rebels defended themselves against a government attack.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has set up camp near Lira, saying he is determined to wipe out the rebels - something he has repeatedly promised to do in the past.

Mr Museveni has also issued an apology for what he said were mistakes by the government and army which led to the killings.

He has however disputed the eyewitness reports that 200 civilians died in the massacre, putting the figure at 80.

Mr Museveni told the BBC that neighbouring Sudan was supporting and equipping the LRA.

The BBC's Andrew Harding
"This region is still seething with anger and frustration"

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