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EU Pledges Support For International Initiatives Against LRA Rebels

The European Union on Thursday pledged full support for the ongoing international efforts to end the campaign of terror unleashed by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels led by Joseph Kony, and reiterated its commitment to help hundreds of people in four African nations affected by the rebel group's activities.

In a statement, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said the 27-member European bloc had been supporting the international as well as the African Union's Regional Cooperation Initiative to strengthen regional efforts to combat the LRA.

The statement said the EU "is providing financial assistance to the Office of the African Union Special Envoy for LRA issues and the establishment of a Joint Operations Center to enable the 5,000-strong Regional Task Force from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan to act swiftly and effectively against the LRA."

The statement noted that the EU has been at the forefront of ongoing diplomatic efforts to keep the LRA issue on the international agenda as the co-chair of the International Working Group on the LRA.

It said the EU had been providing humanitarian assistance to populations affected by LRA activities, as well as bilateral assistance to the four LRA-affected countries: to encourage defections from the LRA, protect villages, strengthen the rule of law and improve governance, and help the return and support of those displaced by the activities of the LRA.

"The EU condemns in the strongest possible terms the atrocities committed by the Lord's Resistance Army and calls for the arrest of Joseph Kony and other LRA leaders indicted by the International Criminal Court. The EU commits itself to remain engaged until this scourge has finally been removed," the statement added.

The 21-year-old LRA insurgency in the region comprising northern Uganda, eastern Congo, the Central African Republic (CAR) and southern Sudan began in 1988. The group is considered to be one of the world's most brutal rebel forces, and is accused of using children as soldiers and sex slaves. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and most members of the international community.

The insurgency movement is estimated to have killed at least 2,000 civilians and abducted more than 4,000 after the four nations plagued by the group's activities launched a joint anti-LRA offensive in September 2008. The insurgency is also said to have displaced more than two million people in the region since it was launched over two decades ago.

Currently, LRA chief Joseph Kony is believed to be in hiding with his fighters in north-eastern Congo. Kony and several of his commanders have been indicted for various war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but the LRA rebels say that they will not disarm until the ICC warrants are lifted. The exact whereabouts of Kony remains unknown.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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