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Tough hunt for Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa
by Staff Writers
Nairobi (AFP) Dec 2, 2011

Armed Tuareg in Mali seek peace, army jobs
Bamako (AFP) Dec 3, 2011 - Representatives of Tuareg who returned to Mali after fighting in the Libyan army met with President Amadou Toumani Toure on Saturday, and offered their services to the country.

"Mr President, we came to meet you to say that we are looking for peace, dialogue. We put ourselves at the disposal of our country," Colonel Wake ag Ousad said during an official ceremony.

Ousad is part of the 300-strong Imrad tribe which makes up the majority of the armed Tuareg who returned to Mali from Libya, where they fought for slain leader Moamer Kadhafi.

"We are Malians who were in the Libyan army, we know no other job. We are ready to make our arms available to the Malian army. We want peace."

Ousad also appealed to fellow returning Tuareg who may be looking for trouble to follow their example.

Toure welcomed the Tuareg back to the country and assured everything would be done to preserve a climate of peace. He said he had sent envoys to meet with representatives from other tribes.

The return of thousands of armed combatants to countries such as Mali and Niger has raised fears for a sub-region already facing security challenges from Al-Qaeda, drug and arms traffickers.

A source close to the minister of territorial administration told AFP some Tuareg loyalists could be taken up into special units charged with securing the perilous north where Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has bases.

In the past two decades the traditionally nomadic desert people have posed serious security risks, especially for Bamako and Niamey, with periodic uprisings over complaints of being marginalised by their governments.

Increased efforts by regional nations and US troops to end a two-decades long campaign of carnage by Ugandan-led Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels face tough challenges ahead, analysts warn.

US President Barack Obama in October sent 100 special forces soldiers to help Uganda track down LRA chief and international fugitive Joseph Kony, while the African Union has vowed to beef up efforts to end the brutal insurgency.

But experts say military intervention alone is not enough, and efforts will likely fail unless promises of improved regional cooperation are followed through.

"While there is at last a chance to defeat the LRA, both robust military action and vigorous diplomacy is required," the International Crisis Group thinktank said in a recent report.

"Above all, the AU must act promptly to live up to its responsibilities as guarantor of continental security," it added, noting Uganda should take advantage of "perhaps brief US engagement" to increase its military offensive.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed since Kony took up arms in the late 1980s -- initially against the Ugandan government. He is notorious for using children as fighters and sex slaves.

Driven out of Uganda, the guerrillas have since scattered across a vast region of the Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, recruiting fighters from those nations over the years.

The rebels currently number several hundred, a fraction of their strength at their peak but still include a core of hardened fighters.

Like other regional armies, Uganda's military has welcomed US support, but still notes the difficulties ahead.

"Sending 100 troops cannot be the entire solution," said Ugandan army spokesman Felix Kulayigye, adding even hi-tech aerial surveillance would struggle to track the jungle guerrillas hidden beneath thick tree cover.

Ugandan forces are focusing on CAR -- where Kony is thought to be hiding -- claiming the LRA's promotion of non-Ugandans to commander ranks was proof the rebels are at their "lowest ebb."

A group of US troops have already made "pre-deployment" visits to frontline affected areas, said Daniel Travis, spokesman for the US Embassy in Uganda.

"We are still in consultations with Uganda and the other affected countries as to where would be best to deploy," Travis told AFP. "This is an African-led effort and we are here to assist only."

The AU has vowed to coordinate that effort with regional nations, but collaboration between armies has been a sticking point in the past.

An 11-nation UN committee on security in central Africa is due to meet in Bangui next week to discuss how to defeat the rebels.

But hunting down the guerrillas will "not be easy," said Richard Downie, from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"US policymakers and military planners emphasize that there is no quick fix," he wrote in a recent report.

"Even the death or capture of Kony and his senior commanders may not be sufficient to finish off the group, unless broader efforts are made to address the grievances that caused it to form in the first place," he added.

The LRA emerged from the frustrations of Uganda's marginalised Acholi ethnic group against the government, but its leaders have since dropped their national political agenda for the narrow objective of pillage and plunder.

Since peace talks broke down in 2008, the LRA has killed more than 2,400 people, abducted over 3,400 and forced some 380,000 people to flee their homes, according to United Nations and US State Department estimates.

Activists, such as John Prendergast of the Enough Project rights watchdog, hailed the arrival of US support as the kind of measure "required to finally bring an end to the devastation wrought by the LRA."

"With the right African troops on the ground, the proper transport support, and a sufficient intelligence surge, Africa's longest-running militia could be neutralized," Prendergast said.

Others, such as Paul Ronan of Resolve, a Washington-based advocacy group, say US support "can greatly boost regional attempts" but programmes that encourage LRA fighters to surrender must also be undertaken.

The renewed military intervention also has its critics. The Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), an interfaith group from northern Uganda where the LRA originated, warns dialogue is the "only way" to achieve peace.

"While many have lost hope in any peaceful resolution to the conflict, the reality is that the peace process ... is responsible for the relative calm being experienced in northern Uganda today," the group said in a statement.

A Ugandan-led military attack on LRA bases in DRC in 2008 after the failure of those talks scattered rebels and sparked bloody reprisal raids.

"History has taught us military intervention is not the way to resolve the LRA conflict," ARLPI added. "In the past, such approaches have directly resulted in the intensification of LRA violence."

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ICC prosecutor seeks warrant for Sudan's defence minister
The Hague (AFP) Dec 2, 2011 - The International Criminal Court's prosecutor sought an arrest warrant Friday for Sudan's defence minister for attacks in Darfur, saying the onslaught on unarmed civilians was still going on.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked ICC judges for a warrant for Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, the sixth person sought by the ICC or before the court for crimes committed in the arid war-torn African region.

The warrant, if approved, would cover crimes against humanity and war crimes committed from August 2003 to March 2004.

Khartoum angrily accused the prosecutor of a "politically motivated" decision designed to undermine a peace document signed by the government and a splinter Darfur rebel group in Doha in July.

Rights groups and a newly-formed coalition of rebel groups operating in Darfur and in the embattled states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan welcomed the news.

"Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein was involved in the crimes and that's why we requested the chamber to add him as being responsible," Moreno-Ocampo told AFP. "The crimes are still continuing in Darfur today."

As interior minister at the time, Hussein is wanted by the prosecutor for allegedly coordinating attacks against civilians in villages in west Darfur.

"The evidence allowed the office of the prosecutor to conclude that Mr Hussein is one of those who bears the greatest criminal responsibility," Moreno-Ocampo's office added in a statement.

The request follows warrants issued in February 2007 for Hussein's deputy and Darfur security chief Ahmad Harun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, both wanted on 22 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes for directing attacks against Darfur's civilians.

Villages were surrounded, bombed by the Sudanese air force, and then attacked by a combined force of Sudanese troops and Janjaweed militia.

"The evidence shows that this was a state policy supervised by Mr Hussein to ensure the coordination of attacks against civilians," the prosecutor's statement said.

He said he wanted Hussein arrested to "prevent him from continuing with the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court".

If granted, the warrant would bring to four the number of suspects on the run for crimes committed in Darfur.

Two others, rebel commanders for whom no warrants have been issued, appeared voluntarily before The Hague-based court on war crimes charges in June last year.

The court's highest profile suspect is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted on three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes for his role in the conflict.

Amnesty International said the warrant against Hussein was "a step forward in the efforts to bring justice to the people of Darfur".

"However, this development also highlights the continuing failure of Sudan and other governments to cooperate with the ICC by arresting the other suspects," it said.

But Sudan's foreign ministry lashed out at the move, saying it was against the Doha peace plan.

"It serves the basic agenda of those groups opposed to the Doha document and seeking to put obstacles in the way of its implementation," ministry spokesman Al-Obeid Meruh said in a statement.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died since conflict broke out in Darfur in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime for a greater share of resources and power.

Moreno-Ocampo accuses Bashir of having personally instructed his forces to annihilate three ethnic groups -- the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa.

The prosecutor says some four million people were uprooted from their homes, of whom 2.5 million were still languishing in camps for displaced people.

"The court has time, but the people in Darfur, they have no time," he said.


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