UGANDA REBELS INCREASE CHILD ABDUCTIONS
Hundreds of young Africans from Uganda, the Central African Republic and Sudan have been taken away from their families in the last three months as members of the Lord's Resistance Army renew a campaign of abductions, according the United Nations, aid groups and Ugandan authorities. The increase comes as efforts to finalize a comprehensive peace agreement have stalled. LRA leader Joseph Kony has delayed his group's signing of the agreement, and raised fears that a return to conflict may be on the horizon.
"We have been aware that the LRA has been abducting children, youth and women. . . . Our concern is that we have also got information that they are indoctrinating the children and trying to prepare them to become LRA soldiers in some ways," Ugandan International Affairs Minister Okello Oryem recently told reporters in Kampala.
Most of the abductions have occurred in remote areas where authorities maintain little presence and security is weakest, according to a report last week by the Toronto Global and Mail.
Over the last 22 years, tens of thousands of young people have been forcibly abducted by the LRA, some to cook or work as porters, some to be trained to fight, others as sex slaves. Uganda's civil war has also led to the displacement of 2 million people.
For much of the last two years, however, Ugandan authorities and the LRA had been observing a ceasefire that allowed for the negotiation of a peace agreement. Kony and his representatives had stalled on agreeing to the deal in a bid to secure immunity for LRA leaders from trial by the International Criminal Court. After the Ugandan government agreed in February that LRA leaders would be tried in a Uganda court rather than at the ICC, however, Kony had been expected to sign the deal. But he was a no-show at the official signing ceremony earlier this month. Kony's representatives have indicated he will attend a signing on May 10.
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