The Ugandan government has reportedly turned down a request from the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army to move the venue of the current peace talks from Juba to either Kenya or South Africa. This followed what the rebels claim to be an unwelcome message from Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, which said the LRA, would be thrown out of the country if they were not serious about the ongoing peace talks in Juba.
Sam Kutesa is Uganda’s foreign minister. He said the rebels are yet to officially approach the Ugandan government for a change in venue of the peace talks.
“First of all, we have not had any formal information from the mediator or from the LRA negotiators. We have seen it in the press; we know that they have been trying to reach some people to let us know, but they haven’t done it formally,” he said.
Kutesa said the government dose not see the reason why there should be a change in venue for the peace talks.
“And so far as we don’t see why there should a change of venue even if they came to us formally because, the statement that they are talking about made by the Southern Sudan government and the Khartoum government, are saying that they should go for the peace option. If they don’t, that is when they would be thrown out and therefore there is not a threat to the peace option, provided they are serious about the peace talks,” Kutesa said.
He said though the government thinks the rebels are serious, it also believes the LRA is playing games.
“They blow hot and cold; sometimes they appear serious; other times they seem to be playing games. But we think they should be serious so we could conclude the peace talks because this cannot go on forever,” he noted.
Kutesa said the government would not change the venue for the current peace talks in Juba even if the rebels formally demanded it.
“We will consider it but we don’t see any threat at all. We don’t think there is any insecurity for them (rebels). They have been there for all this while and nobody has threatened them. On the contrary, they are the people who have been waylaying business people traveling to and from Uganda and we suspect they are LRA people doing that,” he said.
Kutesa said the LRA has refused to assemble at the designated assembly points thereby breaking the truce they signed with the government.
“They have not assembled in the places of assembly where they are supposed to assemble with their troops, despite the fact that the UPDF (The Uganda People’s Defence Force) left those areas a long time ago, and assurances were given to the UN, other people like the Sudan. That is a violation of the cessation of hostilities. It’s important they take the peace talks seriously because it is not open ended,” he said.
Kutesa reiterated the government’s commitment towards finding a long lasting peace with the rebels.
“We are totally committed to this process of peace talks. We have given it everything that we can as a government. As a matter of fact we are traveling to Juba to attend these talks because we are told by the mediator that the talks are on and that the LRA is coming. So we will go and demonstrate good faith in this process and our commitment is total,” he said.