Sudan + 1 more

Sudan-Uganda: LRA rebels should leave Sudanese territory - Bashir

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JUBA, 10 January (IRIN) - The president of Sudan wants the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which has bases in southern Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, out of its territory.

In the southern Sudanese capital of Juba on Tuesday, President Omar El-Bashir said: "We are prepared to constitute a joint force to eliminate the LRA. We do not want them. If we cannot find a peaceful solution to the LRA conflict, then we must pursue a military solution."

The rebels have waged a two-decades-long war against the Ugandan government, displacing at least 1.6 million people in northern Uganda and southern Sudan.

On-off talks between the rebels and the government, which have been going since July, are set to resume in Juba this month. A truce was agreed at the talks in August, bringing relative calm to northern Uganda.

As a result, an estimated 230,000 internally displaced persons have returned to their villages, but up to 1.2 million others remain in camps seeking refuge from the conflict, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.

According to the Ugandan government, the rebels are backed by the Sudanese government. "We do not want war in South Sudan again," Bashir said at celebrations to mark two years since a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed to end the war between the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the government in Khartoum.

"If it means using military confrontation, I am ready to use military confrontation to chase the LRA out of Sudan," Bashir added. "They should go and rebel from their own country."

The governor of Central Equatoria State, speaking before Bashir, said: "We shall not tolerate LRA attacks in Central Equatoria," he said. "They should opt for peace or we shall use the military to send them back to their country."

The CPA provided for the creation of the government of southern Sudan led by President Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is also vice-president of the national unity government. It also granted southerners the choice to vote in a 2011 referendum on whether to remain united with northern Sudan or to secede and form their own nation.

Aid agencies have, however, raised concerns over delays in its implementation and various violations of the agreement. In November, for example, clashes broke out in Malakal, Upper Nile State, between Sudanese government forces and SPLA soldiers, in which scores of people were killed and aid work disrupted.

The signing of the CPA has prompted hundreds of thousands of displaced southern Sudanese to return to their homes. According to the International Organization for Migration, half a million southerners are expected to return in 2007.