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Uganda Mulls Over Extension Of Cease-fire With Rebels


The Ugandan government is considering a proposal to extend a week-long partial cease-fire it granted last week to rebels operating in northern Uganda.

Presidential press adviser John Nagenda told VOA Wednesday President Yoweri Museveni has not yet indicated whether he will extend a weeklong truce with the Lord's Resistance Army, which expired this week.

President Museveni announced a few weeks ago that, for one week, the Ugandan army would not attack any rebels found within a specific corridor in the north leading up to the border with Sudan.

He made the announcement after the rebels had contacted former minister for the north Betty Bigombe. They told her they wanted to hold peace talks with the government but were afraid of being captured while traveling through the corridor to meet their commanders.

Ms. Bigombe has been mediating negotiations between the government and the rebels for years. She could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Nagenda, the presidential spokesman, said the rebels had violated the recent cease-fire, which he says might affect the president's decision.

"I suspect that he will very much take into consideration the fact that these people have been breaking the cease-fire," said Mr. Nagenda. "But on the other hand, I'm also aware that Betty Bigombe, if she were to show that some movement forward has been achieved, then I think the president would be sympathetic."

Army spokesman Major Shaban Bantariza told VOA he has not yet been instructed to end the cease-fire in the designated area, so as far as he is concerned, it is still on.

He said the army is chasing down the rebels and their leader, Joseph Kony in the other areas in the north, outside of the designated cease-fire area, and even in neighboring Sudan.

"We are going to resume operations in areas which are not gazetted [listed] - Sudan, and in Uganda where these fellows have been dilly-dallying and kidnapping people in non-gazetted areas," he noted. "We attacked Kony the other day and killed 10 of his fighters."

For the past 17 years, 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 in order to avoiding rebel attacks.

When the rebel group first started its violence in the late 1980s, Joseph Kony had 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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