LRA Rebels Extend Ceasefire to Game Rangers in Congo
JUBA, Sudan Ugandan rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo extended a ceasefire on Monday to include game rangers protecting endangered rhinos around their remote jungle base.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) declared a unilateral cessation of hostilities on Aug. 4 during ongoing peace talks with Ugandan negotiators in neighbouring southern Sudan.
After meeting conservationists at the weekend, they said they were extending their truce to cover rangers protecting rare Northern White Rhinos in northeast Congo's dense Garamba forest.
"We wish to assure the game rangers in Garamba Park that provided they properly identify themselves and (do) not attack us, we undertake to fully cooperate with them," the LRA said.
"This statement ... is an extension of our unilateral declaration cessation of hostilities."
Garamba borders southern Sudan, where the LRA was based until late last year. Conservationists say the forest is home to the last handful of Northern White Rhinos left alive. An estimated eight of the sub-species are thought to remain there.
"These are the most highly endangered large mammals on Earth. If we lose them they will be the largest mammal since the mammoth to go extinct," said conservationist Lawrence Anthony, who led talks with LRA representatives in southern Sudan.
"The LRA ... has already killed 12 game rangers and eight Guatemalan U.N. troops in the park, and the future of these only remaining rhinos lies in their hands," he said.
On Saturday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Congo had agreed to let Ugandan forces attack the guerrillas' hideouts in Garamba if the current peace talks failed.
South Sudan's regional government says it wants to broker an end to the LRA's 20-year insurgency, which has uprooted nearly 2 million people in northern Uganda and destabilised south Sudan.