Diplomatic ties under scrutiny

Relations between Sudan and Uganda have come sharply into focus following recent claims that the Sudanese government has resumed support for the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group active in northern Uganda.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last week threatened to sever diplomatic ties with Khartoum over allegations that certain elements within the Sudanese government had resumed support for the LRA. Since June this year the rebel group has stepped up attacks in northern Uganda, creating a severe humanitarian crisis in the region.

Sudan and Uganda first broke off diplomatic relations in 1995 at the height of mutual suspicion, with each accusing the other of arming and supporting the other's rebels. Full diplomatic ties were only restored this year.

On Monday, a local government official in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu told IRIN the Ugandan People's Defence Forces (UPDF) had established that LRA leader Joseph Kony was trying to seek support from among some commanders in the Sudanese army. He claimed they had been using Kony to fight the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the rebel movement which occupies territories in southern Sudan.

"It seems Khartoum doesn't know what the commanders are doing. They [Sudanese commanders] have been using the LRA as mercenaries to fight for them while they relax in the barracks. Kony was a blessing for them," he said.

Khartoum has however denied supporting the LRA either directly or indirectly.

Sirajudin Hamid, the Sudanese ambassador in Kampala, told IRIN on Monday that such claims were "unsubstantiated sheer nonsense". He said they were engineered by elements either inside Uganda or in the region who benefited from the conflicts in Sudan and Uganda to undermine the improving relations between the two countries.

"These are lies. The government undertook a thorough investigation and there was nothing on the ground to supplement such reports," he said.

"The army in Sudan is very disciplined, it has its regulations and contraventions. It is a serious offence to go around alone without informing superiors especially on matters related to state security," he said. By opening its borders to the Ugandan military, Hamid said, Sudan had become a target of the LRA.