Uganda president says will rebuild war-torn north

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KAMPALA, Oct 15 (Reuters) Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni today pledged to rebuild his country's war-ravaged north with a 600-million dollar aid package for roads, education and small-scale industry.

Northern Uganda has enjoyed relative peace since a ceasefire signed between the government and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels last year. But aid agencies say more than a million Ugandans are still living in squalid refugee camps.

Many depend on food handouts from the United Nations and even the hundreds of thousands who have returned to their homes are rebuilding their villages from scratch.

''The goal of the present plan (is) to consolidate peace, recovery and rehabilitation,'' Museveni told diplomats, aid workers and peace campaigners in Kampala.

Museveni said about 600 million dollars had been earmarked for the fund, 30 per cent of which would be financed by his government itself and the rest by donors. He gave no timeframe for when the money would be spent.

Donors already fund about half of Uganda's budget.

Peace talks between the two sides in south Sudan have raised hopes of a final deal to end a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and displaced nearly 2 million at its height.

Museveni said the reconstruction plan aimed to help the north catch up with the more prosperous south and move away from subsistence farming to a cash economy.

He also pledged to help internal refugees return home, repair roads, build a further power station on the Nile to power the region and fund processing plants for farm products.

Despite ongoing talks, LRA leader Joseph Kony and his top commanders have stayed in their jungle hideouts in Democratic Republic of Congo, fearing arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Museveni, who analysts say is sceptical of a peace deal with the LRA, has vowed to hunt them militarily if talks fail.

''The need (is) to ensure that Kony does not come back, whatever happens to the peace talks,'' Museveni said. ''The army is ready for this.'' REUTERS RSA BST0028

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