Joint statement marks much improved relations

The governments of Uganda and Sudan have distributed a joint statement, through the United Nations Security Council, confirming that, at the initiative of Uganda, they were currently cooperating and coordinating efforts "to contain the problems caused by the Lord's Resistance Army [LRA] across the Sudanese-Ugandan borders."

The two parties said they would "spare no efforts to safeguard and maintain the safety of innocent civilians", and seek the safe repatriation of abducted children, with the assistance of international humanitarian organisations.

The statement - signed by Sudanese Minister of Information and Communication, Mahdi Ibrahim Mohammed, and Ugandan Minister for Foreign Affairs James Francis Wapakhabulo in Kampala on 13 March - was distributed as a document of the Security Council at the request of Ugandan Ambassador to the UN Semakula Kiwanuka. [see Uganda page at:]

It said that the two countries had pursued all means and leverages available to peacefully solve the problems of insecurity, violence and child abduction caused by the LRA in their common border area.

Led by Joseph Kony (and previously supported by Sudan, in relatiation for Ugandan support for the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army), the LRA has fought Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's secular government since 1988, from bases in southern Sudan, ostensibly to establish a rule based on the Biblical Ten Commandments.

LRA operations have included the killing and abduction of civilians, the looting of people's goods and destruction of their homes, such that humanitarian officials have described its operations as a war against the civilian population and not the Kampala government. The United States 2001 added the group - as well as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) operating in western and southwestern Uganda - to its "Terrorist Exclusion List" in December 2001.

The joint Uganda-Sudan statement said that the meeting of Sudanese President Umar Hasan al-Bashir with Museveni in Khartoum on 12 January had reinvigorated the countries' shared will to implement the provisions of the Nairobi reconciliation agreement signed in December 1999, "and to further foster and maintain security across their common border".

As a result of these agreements and subsequent understandings, it said, Sudan had "provided access for the friendly Ugandan forces to execute a limited military operation within the borders of the Sudan in order to deal with the LRA problems."

In so doing, the countries intended to work out "practical solutions to the threats facing the safety and security of Sudan and Uganda... in a way suiting the illegality of the activities of the perpetrators."

The ongoing cooperation further demonstrated the two countries' readiness "to support the international community in its legitimate measures to combat terrorism," according to the statement signed by Mohammed and Wapakhabulo.