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Report: Ugandan rebels sold abducted children to fight in Darfur

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Kampala_(dpa) _ Most of the estimated 30,000 children abducted by Ugandan rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) during its two-decade-long war with the government were sold to fight in Sudan's restive Darfur province, Uganda's Daily Monitor reported Wednesday.

The children were first forced by the LRA to fight and commit atrocities. Afterward, they were sold to various rebel armies in Darfur to fight or to serve as sex slaves, the newspaper quoted Stephen Kagoda, permanent secretary in the Ministry for Internal Affairs, as telling parliament.

"Some of these children are in Darfur being used as child soldiers, porters and others were sold as sex slaves to the Sudanese," Kagoda told a parliamentary committee working on an anti-child trafficking bill.

The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when black tribesmen took up arms against what they called decades of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in Khartoum.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in five years of conflict.

The LRA, which has yet to make peace with the government in Kampala, has received support from the Sudanese government in the past. However, it was forced from its bases in southern Sudan in late 2004 and fled to the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Aid agencies in the DRC say that the Ugandan rebels are carrying out attacks against Congolese civilians, and have already displaced at least 50,000 people from their villages in the country's north-eastern Ituri region.

Peace talks began between the Ugandan government and the LRA in mid 2006, but the rebels have refused to sign the final peace treaty.

The LRA insists the International Criminal Court (ICC) first remove arrest warrants it slapped on five of its leaders for war crimes.

"(LRA leader Joseph) Kony is afraid to come out of the bush because we shall ask him to show us our children," Kagoda said. dpa hw ml ncs sc

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