The ceasefire agreement between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) expired yesterday with no hope of a peace agreement in sight. Now, residents in northern Uganda where the LRA has concentrated most of its operations are reportedly feeling uncomfortable. The uncertainty follows a statement by LRA second in command Vincent Otti that he will not renew the cessation of hostilities agreement with the government. The peace talks are currently stalled, with each side accusing the other of breaching the agreement.
Uganda’s Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda admits that the peace talks in Juba have stalled, but adds that the government is doing all in its power to continue them.
“It is true that the talks have not progressed as we want them to progress. But the government of Uganda still supports the peace process and would like to bring the process back on track so that we can conclude a lasting peace agreement and bring an end to the conflict in northern Uganda,” he said.
Rugunda restated the Kampala government’s dedication to the peace talks.
“The government of Uganda has done all that is possible to ensure success for the peace process. And the government remains committed to do anything else that is rational to ensure success,” he noted.
Rugunda says the government hopes the rebels will reverse their reluctance and come back to the negotiating table.
“Government calls on everybody involved in this process to support the process and avoid a rush to action that could push us back into hostilities,” Rugunda said.
He explained that the Kampala government turned down rebels’ demands for changes in venue and mediator because it has confidence in the mediator, and it is important that the venue remain close to the country.
“The government of Uganda has confidence in the government of Southern Sudan as the mediating organization or government. As you know, this process was initiated by the government of Southern Sudan. And the government of Southern Sudan has put to the disposal of the process human and material logistics to help in the peace talks,” Rugunda said.
He praised the mediation role played by Southern Sudan’s vice president and several Juba, Sudanese ministers at the peace talks.
“They have been doing commendable work. And we will therefore not go anywhere pulled by small organizations to get involved in the mediation,” he said.
In opposing rebel demands to change the venue of the talks, Rugunda emphasized the importance to Uganda’s neighbor Sudan for keeping negotiations nearby.
“We think that Juba is close to Uganda and the people in Juba or Southern Sudan have suffered as much as the people of Uganda from the insurgency. The people of Southern Sudan would like to see peace restored in their own area as much as they want it to happen in northern Uganda,” he said.