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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Uganda rebels kidnap orphans
By Will Ross
BBC, Kampala

In northern Uganda, well-armed rebels of the Lords Resistance Army attacked an orphanage at around 2400 local time from where they abducted Sudanese and Ugandan children.

Children in Gulu church
Rebels turn the children into fighters and wives
The rebels, who have been terrorising the north of Uganda for the past 17 years, have no clear political agenda.

But the Ugandan Government's attempt to defeat them militarily has so far failed, leaving the civilian population extremely vulnerable.

The United Nations Children's Fund estimates that during the past year, over 5,000 civilians have been abducted by the LRA.

According to Sacred Heart sisters who run the orphanage in the northern Ugandan town of Adjumani, less than 40 kilometres from the Sudanese border, the rebels abducted 16 Sudanese and Ugandan orphans between the ages of seven and 15.

After taking them from their dormitories, the children were beaten, tied together with ropes and then marched off into the bush.

Four of the children managed to escape, but 12 are still missing.

Attacks

The LRA is almost entirely made up of abducted civilians.

While the boys are turned into ruthless killers, the girls are often given out to senior rebel officers and forced to become their wives.

In recent weeks, hundreds of innocent civilians have been abducted and dozens killed by the LRA, and while the Ugandan army claims to have severely weakened the rebel force, it has failed to protect the civilian population from the attacks, which are occurring on a daily basis.

Over 800,000 civilians are displaced and as the attacks continue, that figure is rising.

Attempts by the Ugandan Government to talk peace with the rebels broke down earlier this year, with a total lack of trust between the two sides and now, President Yoweri Museveni is once again stressing that the LRA will be defeated militarily.

However, after 17 years of suffering, the civilian population doubts that the war can end through the gun and is calling on the international community to intervene.

To give you some idea of how spread out the rebels are and the task facing the Ugandan military, while attacking Adjumani last night, another group of LRA rebels was attacking 250 kilometres away in Obalanga, north of Soroti.

There they destroyed a camp for displaced.

The night before 200 kilometers further west in Anaka, Gulu district LRA rebels killed three and burnt hundreds of huts.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Archbishop Odama on Network Africa
"I am very much surprised"


Major Shaban Bantariza on Focus on Africa
"This is a terrorist problem"



SEE ALSO:
Uganda's atrocious war
12 Jun 03  |  Africa
Rebels club Ugandans to death
05 Jun 03  |  Africa
Uganda child kidnappings soar
28 Mar 03  |  Africa
Museveni doubts rebel truce
05 Mar 03  |  Africa
Top Ugandan army officer sacked
06 Jun 03  |  Africa


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