LONDON, Wednesday - The top US diplomat in Africa said on Tuesday that Washington wanted to get rid of Ugandaâ€™s Lordâ€™s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels by the end of this year.
Speaking at the Chatham House think-tank in London, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said the LRA rebels needed to be stopped, and this meant capturing their leaders soon.
â€œThereâ€™s this nasty little group called the Lordâ€™s Resistance Army in northern Uganda which is just creating havoc, killing kids, kidnapping people and we have to take care of that problem, and we need to work together to do so,â€ she said.
â€œCertainly itâ€™s going to be a priority of President Bushâ€™s administration to get rid of the LRA before the end of this year, if we can,â€ Frazer said.
The LRA has waged war against the government for two decades and began targeting foreigners last year â€” apparently in reprisal for arrest warrants issued in October for their leaders by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Led by self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony, the LRA has long terrorised northern Uganda from bases in neighbouring southern Sudan and last year a group of LRA fighters crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo.
â€œBecause of their own move out of northern Uganda and southern Sudan into the region, other countries have a stake in what happens to (Vincent) Otti and Kony,â€ said Frazer.
â€œAnd I say, as ICC indicted war criminals, they need to be captured and turned over to the court.â€
The cult-like group has never given a clear account of its political aims, but is notorious for massacring civilians, mutilating survivors and kidnapping thousands of children who are forced to serve as fighters, porters and sex slaves.
Frazerâ€™s comments in London came a day after Britain said Ugandaâ€™s civil war had become a regional problem and needed action from its neighbours.
Frazer said getting rid of the LRA leaders was a crucial part of a three-pronged strategy to end the conflict in northern Uganda, as the rebel movement should then wane.
The two other elements were to urge the Ugandan government to reconcile with the Acholi community in the north of the country and to get support for the people displaced by the war.
US to get rid of Kony