Monday Nov.10, 2003
Thousands flee Kony into Lira

THE EXODUS:
Residents of Abako sub-county flee to Lira town
after Joseph Kony’s LRA rebels raided their villages on
Thursday (Pix: Peter Busomoke)

KAMPALA, Sunday - Thousands of terrified people
are fleeing
a number of villages in Lira district
and seeking shelter in and around Lira town.

“They are cutting off people’s heads. Every time we hear of
an incident, it’s a new level of brutality,”
said Father
John Fraser, who helps run the Catholic Church-owned radio
station in Lira, a town of about 100,000 inhabitants.

“Lira is chock-a-block (full to capacity). People have been
pouring into town for the last three days,” he told Reuters,
estimating the influx at between 2,000 and 3,000 people a
day.
“People are very frightened. There is no way anyone is going
back into the villages anytime soon.”

The Vatican missionary news service, MISNA, said rebels of
the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), headed by Joseph Kony,
killed about 60 people on a rampage through Lira district,
forcing some villagers to watch as they beheaded the corpses
of fellow villagers they had just killed.

Army spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza on Saturday put the
death toll at over 40.
The rebels shot and hacked to death scores of civilians on
Thursday night and Friday morning, beheading some of them,
in apparent revenge for the killing of a rebel commander,
the army said on Saturday.

Local priests reported villagers as saying rebels had set
fire to many huts with the inhabitants still inside but this
could not be immediately confirmed.

“Scores of civilians were killed at around midnight on
November 6
in Alanyi and Awayopiny villages in Lira
district,” Lt. Chris Magezi, a spokesman for the army’s
Third Division, told Reuters on Saturday.

He had said the toll might exceed 100 but later said there
was no confirmation of the number killed.

Magezi said Kony appeared to have ordered the raid to avenge
the army’s October 29 killing of LRA number two Charles
Tabuley, a move widely seen as likely to weaken rebel
operations.

The LRA says it wants to topple the Government of President
Yoweri Museveni but it has never spelt out its demands
publicly.

Sudan and Uganda in October renewed a pact to cooperate in
removing rebels from southern Sudan. The deal allowing
Ugandan troops to pursue the LRA in southern Sudan expired
in September.

Uganda accused Sudan in September of resuming the support it
once gave to the rebels. Khartoum denied the accusations and
said it would deal seriously with rogue military officers it
suspected were collaborating with the LRA.

Meanwhile, Roman Catholic archbishop John Baptist Odama
yesterday assailed the government for arming civilians
against the LRA.

“The army’s strategy to form civilian defence forces has
made civilians vulnerable and hence potential targets of the
rebels,” Odama told AFP.

Odama heads the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative,
which is seeking a peaceful end to the war.

The archbishop, who said arming civilians had brought “the
gravity of brutality on our region,” blamed lack of trust
between the government and the rebels for undermining the
peace efforts.
Ends

Published on: Monday, 10th November, 2003
(N.V)
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