US Will Continue Helping Uganda Fight Rebels

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - The United States has pledged to continue military assistance to the Ugandan government, which has achieved successes in its war against armed rebels.

But the aid will depend on Uganda's ongoing relationships with its neighbors.

Washington resumed military assistance to the East African nation during the past year, after Uganda withdrew forces from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The DRC has been torn by civil strife for several years, and Uganda sent troops into the troubled central African nation in a bid to secure its shared border. The last batch was withdrawn last December.

Mark Schlachter, a representative of the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Kampala, said aid to the Ugandan army had been limited to a small number of trucks and other transportation equipment, as well as communications gear.

"The U.S. also offers a small number of training opportunities to [army] personnel in order to improve force professionalism," he said.

These include programs on human rights, civil-military relations, and weapons procurement.

Schlachter said future assistance would likely fall within those "existing parameters."

In the past week, a delegation of U.S. military officials visited Uganda to assess the impact that the aid has had on the campaign against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a pseudo-religious militia fighting to overthrow President Yoweri Museveni's government.

Uganda Army spokesman Lt. Paddy Ankunda said the U.S. delegation also assessed how the army is protecting civilians - the LRA's primary targets in the 18-year-old conflict.

The war is has resulted in thousands of civilians deaths and displacement of some 1.6 million people.

The U.S. team was led by two senior officers from the U.S. European Command, whose area of responsibility includes a large portion of Africa. It held meetings with Museveni and army commanders.

Uganda has stepped up the war against the LRA, a group notorious for slicing off the lips and ears of its victims, as well as kidnapping children to use as fighters, porters and sex slaves.

The new drive against the rebels was given a boost following an agreement signed between Uganda and neighboring Sudan in 2002, which allows the Ugandan army to attack the rebels into their southern Sudanese bases.

Now, officials say an increasing number of rebels are surrendering, because of decreasing food and medicine supplies.

In the past week, tens of dozens of former LRA fighters who surrendered earlier have been inducted into the national army, following a period of rehabilitation training intended to help integrate them into society.

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