Uganda’s government says it will only consider changes in the venue and mediator of stalled peace talks if rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels return to Juba, Southern Sudan to continue the talks. The government’s comments follow a call in parliament for an immediate return to negotiations.
Uganda’s Minister of State for Defense Ruth Nankabirwa says she does not think the rebels are being sincere in their refusal to return to Juba.
“We did not see that as a genuine reason. The mediator has tried his best; Juba is so far the most appropriate venue, and Southern Sudan has also been suffering because of the LRA. They are our immediate neighbors. They offered to mediate the peace talks that have moved in a positive direction so far,” Nankabirwa noted
She said agreeing to the rebels’ demands to shift the venue of the talks would not be in the interests of regional co-operation.
“For us now to decide from Kampala that we are not going to go back to Juba will not show a spirit of regional co-operation, which is now the new paradigm. And we will not be appreciating the efforts of the government of Southern Sudan,” she noted.
Nankabirwa said she is aware of some people’s discomfort in Juba as the venue for the peace talks.
“Yes, there are some NGO’s who are not comfortable with the conditions in Juba. They want to go to places where there are good hotels and good amenities and all that. But the government of Uganda is not about good hotels; we can even sit under a tree and do business. So if the LRA insists, we shall also continue with the means we have started with, reaching out to people to try to convince them to go back to the negotiating table,” she said.
Nankabirwa said she is hopeful that peace talks will proceed and that a long-lasting peace can be found.
“I have always been optimistic about the peace talks and I don’t see the LRA having much alternative. They know what can come out if they don’t come back to the negotiating table. I’m glad that the people of northern Uganda are now saying that they would be the first ones to fight any group that will infiltrate their area because they are tired of staying in the camps and they want to go back home. So I do still have hope,” she said.