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BBC's Anna Borzello in Gulu
On the cassette recording Joseph Kony pulls no punches
 real 28k

Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 13:24 GMT
Peace far off in Uganda's north
Children are also vulnerable to LRA kidnappers
Thousands have sought safety from rebel attacks in protected camps
By Anna Borzello in Gulu

March Orach, a Catechist, was in his hut sleeping when Lord's Resistance Army rebels struck the Opit displaced camp in Gulu District in northern Uganda.

Children have bellies swollen from worms and malnutrition and parents say their sons and daughters are not growing normally.

"They surrounded all the places here including the army barracks. There were about 40 of them, mostly aged between 14 and 16.

"They said they don't want people in the protected camps. They want people to go back home," he told the BBC. The rebels killed a 12-year-old boy, who they had earlier abducted, and several soldiers.

They also torched over 30 huts, destroying the property inside. A number of people - including two Italian missionaires - were also taken, but were later released.

The attack on Opit - which took place in early March - was one of a number of recent rebel raids on protected camps in Gulu and Kitgum Districts, which host nearly half a million people displaced by the 13 year insurgency.

Temporary peace

The attacks come after a one-year period of peace, during which the LRA stayed in their rear bases in government held territory in southern Sudan.

Children are vulnerable to LRA kidnappers
On 23 December, however, over 200 LRA rebels entered the country.

They fanned out into Gulu and Kitgum District - and began periodically attacking camps and ambushing vehicles.

Rebel activity has forced an extra 100,000 people to flee their homes, severely disrupted economic activity and led to a slow down in food distribution to many of the camps.

Children have bellies swollen from worms and malnutrition and parents say their sons and daughters are not growing normally.

The rebel incursion appears to have been timed to show that the LRA are against the provisions of an accord signed between Uganda and the LRA's backers, Sudan, in Nairobi on 8 December.

In that agreement the two government agreed to work towards restoring diplomatic relations.

They also pledged to stop supporting rebels hostile to each other and, in the case of Sudan, to return some of the 10,000 children abducted by the LRA since 1995 and turned into soldiers and concubines.

Keeping on fighting

However, LRA leader, Joseph Kony, has since said in an address to his Acholi tribesman - and clandestinely distributed on an audio cassette throughout northern Uganda - that he intends to keep on fighting.

President Museveni
Mr Kony calls President Museveni the "Hitler of Africa"
Mr Kony also rejects a recent government offer of amnesty, which was passed in conjunction with the Nairobi Accord.

During recent LRA attacks, the rebels have also made it clear that they reject amnesty.

Instead Mr Kony wants direct "international" negotiations with Mr Museveni - who he described as the "Hitler of Africa".

Mr Museveni has repeatedly said he will not talk with "bandits".

The latest rebel attacks are a severe blow to hopes that the insurgency - which has devestated the northern region - will have a swift and peaceful end.

Northerners are desperate for a peaceful settlement to the war, not just because the military solution has so far failed - but because in any fighting it is their abducted children who end up being killed.

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See also:

06 Jan 00 | Africa
Uganda's fight for its children
08 Dec 99 | Africa
Sudan and Uganda tackle rebels
29 Jan 00 | Africa
Ugandan captives fly home
11 Jan 00 | Africa
Uganda releases Sudanese POWs
07 Dec 99 | Africa
Uganda offers amnesty to rebels
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