Uganda’s government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have reportedly made significant progress at informal talks in Mombasa, Kenya. This comes after the rebels asked that President Yoweri Museveni’s younger brother head up the government’s negotiating team for the talks. Sources say both sides agreed on policies to address what the rebels describe as the government's marginalization of northern Uganda, and on employing traditional reconciliation rituals to make amends for years of atrocities.
Ruhakana Rugunda is Uganda’s Internal affairs minister. From the capital, Kampala, he told VOA that the talks were positive.
“Government has had several contacts with the Lord’s Resistance Army, both formally and informally, to ensure that there is confidence building and that there is progress as the effort to reach an early peace settlement in northern Uganda,” he said.
Rugunda explained the next step in the peace talks.
“The meeting went well, and actually we would be having a meeting in Lukwamba in the south part of Sudan with President Chissano chairing the meeting. And then we would go ahead and have a formal discussion after that, and we this is expected to be in Juba,” Rugunda noted.
He said the Ugandan government intends talking with the rebels about their alleged attacks on civilians.
“We don’t expect that any violation of the peace agreement, including harassment of the population, would be brought to the attention of the parties concerned,” he said.
Rugunda said the government is determined to find peace with the rebels.
“The aim of government is really to use every means possible to ensure that there is an expedience peace agreement, and in any case if there is any problem or obstacle, it is resolved as quickly as possible,” he pointed out.
Rugunda hailed the mediation efforts of former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano.
“As you know, President Chissano is a very respected elder of Africa, and we expect him to steer the talks to its logical conclusion. And to hand over the process to the government of Southern Sudan, which has been the mediating government,” he said.
He said the rebels are also not opposed to the mediation efforts of the former Mozambican president.
“I really think that the Lord’s Resistance Army has no problem with the positive role played by President Chissano as the special envoy of UN secretary general to the LRA-affected areas. I think both government and LRA agree on the positive role of President Chissano,” he said.