Sunday, 14 December 2008

And so it starts again...

Governments launch military offensive on Uganda rebels

By Jack Kimball

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and south Sudan launched a joint military offensive on Sunday against northern Ugandan rebels in Garamba, eastern Congo, a Ugandan army spokesman said.

The three governments agreed in principle in June to launch joint military operations against the LRA guerrillas -- known for mutilating survivors and kidnapping thousands of children -- if leader Joseph Kony did not sign a final peace deal to end two decades of conflict.

"It's a joint operation ... We have attacked Lords Resistance Army bases. The operation began this morning," Uganda army spokesman Paddy Ankunda said.

Ankunda said they had attacked several camps, and no casualties had been reported so far.

Officials from south Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo were not immediately available for comment.

A swift victory would be unlikely against the guerrillas, experts say, noting they have been in the area for some time and are used to launching hit-and-run attacks against larger and better equipped forces.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last week renewed a call for Kony to sign the peace deal. He was speaking after Kony again snubbed mediators by failing to show up and sign the agreement, thrashed out in two years of negotiations in south Sudan.

Kony has demanded International Criminal Court indictments for him and his top deputies be withdrawn before they leave their forest hideouts in northeastern Congo.

Thousands of people have been killed and 2 million displaced during the 22 years of fighting between Kony's rebels and the Ugandan government.

The conflict has destabilized parts of oil-producing south Sudan and mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

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