Ugandan rebels wage vicious attacks in Democratic Republic of Congo

In a separate conflict, Congolese rebels declare a cease-fire and plan to join government forces.

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Ugandan rebels have massacred hundreds of villagers in the past month, blazing a trail of terror through neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, a major human rights watchdog said in a press release Friday.

Meanwhile, officials over the weekend hailed progress toward peace in a separate conflict in Congo (formerly Zaire), after several ethnic Tutsi rebel officers agreed to a cease-fire.

Human Rights Watch reported that the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a vicious group that abducts and employs child soldiers in its long-running fight against the Ugandan government, committed atrocities against civilians while fleeing Ugandan-led military assaults last month, according to Reuters.

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Agence France-Presse quoted one Human Rights Watch official who underscored the barbarity of the LRA's attacks.

A Human Rights Watch press release documents in chilling detail atrocities committed by the LRA, as described by witnesses and survivors.

According to the Center for Defense Information, a Washington-based think tank, the Lord's Resistance Army has been active in northern Uganda since the mid-1980s.

In a separate conflict in Congo, hopes for peace were raised when officers of the main ethnic Tutsi rebel group, the National Congress for the Defense of the People, declared a cease-fire in their fight against a progovernment militia, and said the group would now join government forces.

The BBC reported that several Tutsi rebel officers had gone over to the other side, a move that will isolate the remaining Tutsi rebel leader, Laurent Nkunda.

Reuters reported officials praising the latest developments.

Xinhua reported that the Congolese government would open a center in the eastern province of North Kivu to help Tutsi rebels reintegrate into the national army.

The agency reported that the effect of the announced cease-fire was rapid:

As recently as last November, the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in an analysis that "an escalation of violence in the east has raised concerns that the Congolese government could fall, with serious repercussions possible for countries throughout central Africa."

With the latest cease-fire, that possibility now looks more remote. The Congolese military will now be able to focus its efforts on the Rwandan-backed Hutu militia, the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (known by the French acronym FDLR).

According to GlobalSecurity.org, that group includes Hutu extremists from Rwanda who were involved in the 1994 genocide against minority Tutsis, and later fled Rwanda.

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