Uganda

Uganda: Army denies landmine claims

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NAIROBI, 19 February (IRIN) - The Ugandan army has denied reports suggesting that landmines were laid around the Ruwenzori mountains along the country's border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Shaban Bantariza, the spokesman of the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), told IRIN on Tuesday that the landmines, which had been laid there by members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group active in the region until 2000, had already been cleared by the army.

"We have gone there and we have been patrolling the area. If there were mines in that place, then we could have been blown up," Bantariza told IRIN.

The New Vision government-owned newspaper last week reported that people living in the Ruwenzori mountains region were scared of being blown up by landmines that had been randomly laid there.

A district official, Benjamin Baita, was quoted as saying the landmines had been discovered on one of the hills of the Ruwenzori mountains. He said a team of landmine experts from Britain had visited the area last month and confirmed the presence of the mines.

Bantariza, however, said the army was actively patrolling the region to ensure that no remnants of the group returned to lay new mines.

The ADF, which emerged as a rebel group in the late 1990s, reportedly committed atrocities against the local civilian population, its activities displacing about 70,000 people in the region. Remnants of the group are believed to have fled into the DRC.

Bantariza said the UPDF had destroyed the ADF's capacity to operate, and did not expect the group to revive its activities along the border with DRC.

[ENDS]

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