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Sudan-Uganda: IRIN News Briefs, 24 January

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SUDAN: More Ugandans handed over to UNICEF
Thirty seven more Ugandans, abducted by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army LRA), have been handed over to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Khartoum. Last week 16 people were handed over, bringing the total number of released captives so far to 53. Nance Webber, the UNICEF information officer in Sudan, confirmed the release to IRIN on Monday. "Yes we now have a total of 53 persons, 43 kids and 10 adults, all Ugandans. Five are hospitalised due to wounds and malnutrition," she said. Last week Uganda handed over 72 Sudanese prisoners of war. The exchange of captives follows last year's agreement between the presidents of Uganda and Sudan.

According to UNICEF, the freed captives will be repatriated after a screening exercise being carried out by UNHCR. The semi-official 'New Vision' quoted Ugandan government officials as saying the freed captives were expected home this week. The Sudanese government is facilitating the release of Ugandan captives held by the LRA.

UGANDA: LRA rebels raid Lira district

Rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army last week raided a trading centre in Lira district, the first LRA raid in the district for over a year, the independent 'Monitor' newspaper reported on Sunday. It said they infiltrated from Awere in Kitgum district, and came to Abia trading centre in Moroto county where they took household items, foodstuffs and other merchandise. The newspaper said the current wave of LRA activity in northern Uganda had frightened people, particularly in areas bordering Sudan.

UGANDA-SUDAN: Pledge to implement Nairobi accord

Sudan and Uganda have pledged to redouble efforts to implement the Nairobi agreement, signed between the two countries' presidents in December. In a statement, following talks in Nairobi from 19-21 January, the two delegations said they reviewed important developments on the steps taken so far to implement the agreement, including the return of Sudanese POWs by Uganda and the return of LRA abductees facilitated by Sudan. They also set up a joint ministerial committee, as called for in the Nairobi agreement, to establish a timetable leading to the restoration of full, diplomatic ties. That committee designated three sub-comittees to deal with political, humanitarian and security issues. Uganda's delegation was led by presidency minister, Dr Ruhakana Ruganda, and Sudan by state minister for foreign relations Ali Numeiri.

SUDAN: Rebels issue ultimatum for NGOs

The Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association, which is the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army's (SPLA) humanitarian wing, has issued an ultimatum to NGOs working in southern Sudan to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or leave the area, SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje confirmed to IRIN on Monday. "It is true, we want to have a memorandum of understanding between us and the NGOs working in the area," he said. The document was the result of a year's negotiation between the SRRA and the NGOs, he explained. "The NGOs are refusing to sign it, yet it will be for their own good," he said. "It provides for the protection of the aid workers and their property and also stresses that the NGOs must employ the local communities." Kwaje stressed the MOU was not anything "new or strange". "We felt it was high time the NGOs operating in southern Sudan signed it," he said.

SUDAN: Rebels and government issue joint communique

The Sudan government and SPLM/A rebels last Thursday issued a joint communique in which they reiterated their commitment to a peaceful resolution of their conflict. The communique, issued after talks in Nairobi under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), said they agreed on self-determination for the people of southern Sudan. The government contended that Abyei in Bahr el Ghazal "is not part of south Sudan", but that "the position of Abyei may be discussed". Khartoum also does not accept that southern Kordofan and southern Blue Nile are part of south Sudan and hence "self determination is not relevant". The SPLM/A said these issues would be further explored by a joint transitional committee.

SUDAN: Sudan denies using airport for military purposes

The Sudanese government denied recently that it was using the southeastern airport of Hallij for military purposes, the Sudanese News Agency (SUNA) reported. In a letter to his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il said the airport was being used for the civilian purposes of transporting equipment and employees of the oil companies. "The airport was never utilised for military purposes," he said. Isma'il said security measures in the area where the oil companies are operating were being provided upon the request of these companies. The Canadian government recently accused Sudan of using the Hajlij airport for military activities and also cast doubt on the safety of workers in the neighbouring oil fields.

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