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Uganda Declares Weeklong Truce With Rebels


The Ugandan government begins a weeklong partial truce with a rebel group operating in the north.

Beginning late Monday, the Ugandan army in a particular border region has been instructed not to attack any members of the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group that has terrorized the north for 17 years.

Army spokesman, Major Shaban Bantariza, told VOA the government had set aside a special corridor in a section of the north leading up to the border of Sudan so that rebel members can re-group in preparation for possible negotiations with the government.

He said the rebels recently contacted Betty Bigombe, former minister for the north, and told her they want to negotiate, but were afraid they might be captured while traveling to meet their commanders.

"So when Betty Bigombe called the president [Yoweri Museveni], the president said, 'OK, let me give them seven-days within which they can cross that stretch, and also declare that stretch combat free,'" he said.

Major Bantariza estimates that up to 70 rebels would pass through the designated area in the coming week. He said up to one-thousand soldiers are posted in the area.

Major Bantariza says Ugandan President Yoweri Musveni is waiting for the rebels to send him a formal request and an agenda for negotiations. He said if that is the case, the president would extend the truce a further 10 days all over the north.

The rebels could not be reached for comment.

Last week, Ugandan lawyer Ayena Odongo told VOA rebel leader Joseph Kony and other Lord's Resistance Army officials had contacted him earlier, asking for his help in setting up peace talks with the government somewhere outside of the country.

Mr. Odongo said he and his Kampala law firm were in the process of trying to get Kony and nine other leaders passports and to see if Canada, Sweden or Netherlands would be willing to host those talks.

The Lord's Resistance Army has carried out brutal attacks on a huge scale. According to U.N. figures, the group has kidnapped more than 20,000 children, who are often forced to kill their families, neighbors, and others, and if they are girls are used as concubines by rebel commanders.

About 40,000 women and children living in the rural areas travel each night to major towns to sleep because it is too dangerous to stay in their houses.

The rebels attack randomly, often killing their victims or severely maiming them. Most of northern Uganda's people are living in camps guarded by the army as a way of avoiding rebel attacks.

When the rebel group first started its violence in the late 1980s, Joseph Kony said his group wanted to overthrow the Ugandan government and form a society based on the Biblical Ten Commandments. But his motives for fighting now are unclear.

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