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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Uganda's rebels keep the faith
By Keith Somerville
BBC News Online

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) says it wants to rule Uganda according to the biblical ten commandments.

Uganda troops
The Ugandan army has failed to destroy the rebels
Thousands of people have been killed in northern Uganda since the LRA launched its campaign in 1988 and nearly 500,000 have fled their homes.

Children in their thousands have been abducted - the boys to fight for the rebels and the girls as sex slaves for the LRA commanders.

Lillian Odokarach was one such victim. She was held for eight years by the LRA after being kidnapped from Kitgum District in 1994.

She was one of 60 girls and women who became "wives" to the LRA leader, Joseph Kony.

She escaped earlier this year.

The rebel army is about 4,000 strong, according to the Ugandan army.

Many operate in northern Uganda, the rest in southern Sudan.

Born of the Holy Spirit

Based among the Acholi people of northern Uganda, the LRA developed from an earlier northern rebel force - the Holy Spirit Movement.

Founded in 1986 by a former prostitute, Alice Lakwena, it represented Acholis who felt excluded from power after the overthrow of the northerner, Milton Obote, by Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army.

Ms Lakwena promised her followers immunity from the bullets of the Ugandan army, but Mr Museveni's troops defeated the Holy Spirit Movement in 1988. She fled to Kenya.

Joseph Kony, had been one of Ms Lakwena's followers and after her defeat, he founded his own rebel group.

The LRA fought a guerrilla war in northern Uganda against the army, frequently attacking or abducting civilians.

Amputated

It purported to follow the ten commandments but mixed Christianity with traditional beliefs.

They became notorious for their violent opposition to bicycles, in case these were used to inform the army of the rebels' presence.

Children in a Ugandan church
Children in the north live in fear of abduction
Those caught riding bicycles were frequently killed or had their feet hacked off.

The LRA survived repeated government offensives because of support from the Sudanese army and the use of bases and supply routes in areas of southern Sudan.

This was intended to punish the Ugandan Government for its backing for the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in southern Sudan.

'Iron Fist'

In 1998, the Ugandan Government coupled its offensives against with an amnesty for LRA fighters who surrendered. This had little real effect.

The same can be said of the peace accord under which both Sudan and Uganda pledged to end their support for the LRA and SPLA, respectively.

President Museveni continued to accuse the Sudanese of supporting Mr Kony and the LRA.

Joseph Kony
Kony [r] rarely talks about peaceful end to the conflict

But in March this year, the Sudanese Government, keen to distance itself from accusations of supporting international terrorism, agreed to joint action in southern Sudan against the LRA.

Ugandan troops crossed into Sudan and launched large-scale raids against LRA bases.

As many as 10,000 Uganda troops are estimated to have been involved in the offensive, named "Operation Iron Fist".

The Ugandan Government claimed success following attacks on several LRA bases well inside Sudan.

Rebels strike back

The elation of the government was short-lived.

In recent weeks, hundreds of LRA fighters have crossed the border into Uganda, mounting a new series of attacks.

Church sources in Sudan say that hundreds of Sudanese civilians were killed by the LRA as they were pushed north by the Ugandan army.

Far from dealing the LRA a fatal blow, Uganda's "Iron Fist" has led to a new round of butchery and the LRA fight continues.


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