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Page last updated at 13:36 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 14:36 UK

Uganda rebels denounce offensive

LRA fighters in DR Congo
The LRA fighters have been in DR Congo for a number of years

A spokesman for the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has denounced a campaign to contain it in northern Democratic Republic of Congo.

David Matsanga was reacting to news that the Congolese army, backed by the United Nations, was deploying troops to protect civilians from the LRA.

He told the BBC he had written to the UN in protest, saying the move threatened a renewed peace initiative.

The LRA has fought the government in northern Uganda for more than 20 years.

The war left some two million people displaced.

In April, LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign a peace deal agreed to by his representatives after nearly two years of talks.

If you are being attacked, how do you expect the signing to take place?
LRA's David Matsanga

During that time he has been operating out of jungle camps in the north of the DR Congo, where he is seen as presenting a growing regional threat.

DR Congo's army has sent 200 troops to the northern town of Dungu, where hundreds have sought refuge from the LRA.

It plans to send a further 900 in an effort to protect the local population.

But Mr Matsanga, speaking from the Sudanese town of Juba where peace negotiations have been held, said the move appeared to be an effort to scupper the talks.

"This is very regrettable that the United Nations have decided to deploy troops at a time when we are in peace talks," he said.

The LRA leader, who is wanted accused of various war crimes, was said to have not signed the April agreement because he was seeking guarantees about arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

LRA victim Evelyn, northern Uganda [Pic: ROBYN HUNTER]
The LRA are notorious for mutilating victims

Mr Matsanga indicated that a deal was still on the table and talks were ongoing.

"We are saying that this agreement is a good agreement except there are things that need clarification," he said, referring to the ICC.

But he said the operation by DR Congo and the UN was one factor preventing Mr Kony from signing a peace deal.

"If you are being attacked, how do you expect the signing to take place?" he asked.

The LRA leader is accused of numerous war crimes, including abducting and mutilating civilians and forcing thousands of children into combat.

Recently, he is reported to have looted villages and abducted civilians from the Central African Republic (CAR), Sudan and Congo.

He is also reported to have six new bases in northern DR Congo and to be running diamond mines in the CAR.

Map showing LRA bases and recent attacks




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