US aid for fight against Lord's Resistance Army

The United States embassy in Uganda has confirmed that it is offering military aid to the Ugandan defence ministry to help it fight the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in the north of the country.

"It is true that we’ve offered money and help, but this is a tiny amount, only somewhere around US $100,000. And it’s more concentrated on training their soldiers than anything else," an embassy spokesman, Mike Gonzales, told IRIN.

Gonzales said that when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met US President George W. Bush in the US in June and a month later at Uganda’s Entebbe airport, Museveni had made a personal plea for military assistance from the US to help Uganda end the 17-year-long war.

"So we’re offering training, not just in tactics but also in things like teaching soldiers how to treat civilians and respect human rights," Gonzales told IRIN. "This is so they can offer adequate protection to civilians," he said. "Our stance on the LRA is that it is a terrorist organisation."

Gonzales said Uganda’s withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in April had triggered the release of the funds, and that a condition attached to the aid was that Ugandan troops remained outside the DRC.

On Sunday, Ugandan Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi told the state-owned newspaper, The New Vision, that Uganda’s increasingly close relationship with the Bush administration stemmed from its being a "vigorous participant" in the war against terrorism.