The rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has apparently made a new demand at the peace talks in Juba, Sudan between the rebels and the Uganda government. According to reports, the rebels want to replace chief government negotiator Ruhakana Rugunda with either security minister Amama Mbabazi or foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa. According to the LRA, Rugunda, who is a presidential appointee, cannot be reliable at the decisive stage of the talks because he represents no constituency. VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty asked Mr. Mbabazi what he makes of the LRA’s new demand.
“I don’t know why they have that opinion. But I’d like to tell them that the government of Uganda and myself in particular we have full confident in Dr. Rugunda’s ability to head the Ugandan mediation team, and I don’t think I will offer anything better than he is doing right now.”
Mbabazi would not say whether the new LRA demand was intended to sabotage the ongoing talks. But he has this advice for the LRA.
“You see the LRA has the perfect opportunity now to come out of its criminal life. The Ugandan government has given them that opportunity, and I think they should seize it because if they don’t, I doubt that they will get another opportunity like this. And I think Dr. Rugunda represents the best hope for them as leader of the Ugandan delegation to achieve that objective.”
According to the LRA, Rugunda, who is a presidential appointee, cannot be reliable at the decisive stage of the talks because he represents no constituency. Mbabazi explains what he thinks this might mean.
“I think they mean that he doesn’t have a constituency from which he was elected to parliament because he is an ex-officio member of parliament by virtue of being a minister in cabinet. But that has no serious significance because Dr. Rugunda is a political leader of the movement. He’s I think the longest serving minister in this government. The LRA knows that very well. So that cannot be a genuine reason they are giving for that preposterous proposition.”
Mbabazi says Rugunda was appointed by President Yoweri Museveni who he says was elected by all the people of Uganda in conformity with the Ugandan Constitution. As such, he says there is no substance in the LRA argument.