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Obama signs anti-LRA law

2010-05-25 20:17

Washington - US President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law a measure aimed at supporting Uganda and three of its neighbours in their efforts to disarm and shut down a brutal rebel group that kidnaps children and forces them into servitude.

The group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), has terrorised northern Uganda and more recently its neighbours for nearly 20 years.

The law, debated for a year before being passed by the US Congress, increases US commitment to "help bring an end to the brutality and destruction," Obama said in a statement.

"The Lord's Resistance Army preys on civilians - killing, raping and mutilating the people of central Africa; stealing and brutalising their children; and displacing hundreds of thousands of people," Obama said. "By any measure, its actions are an affront to human dignity."

The law, called the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, aims to "protect and assist civilians" caught in the LRA's wake. Africom, the US military's African command, has provided some logistical support and intelligence to the Ugandan government in its efforts to contain the LRA.

The group was driven out of Uganda starting in 2002, retreating to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and southern Sudan from where its members staged cross-border attacks. The Central African Republic (CAR) has been targeted more recently.

In 2005, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for LRA chief Joseph Kony and four others for war crimes.

In one of its most recent atrocities, the LRA killed at least 321 civilians in north-eastern DRC in December, Human Rights Watch has reported. In addition, it abducted 250 others including at least 80 children.

A coalition of 49 US and African civilian groups who greeted passage of the law said on Monday the rebels have killed thousands and displaced at least 2 million people.