Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir have reportedly given the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels an ultimatum of one week to gather at the designated assembly point in Ri-Kwangba or risk being attacked by the armies of both countries. But Observers say the ultimatum is ill timed, given the fragile nature of the current peace talks between the rebels and the Ugandan government. The Kampala government disagrees saying the ultimatum would not jeopardize the current ongoing peace talks in Juba.
Okello Oryem is Uganda’s minister for international affairs and the deputy leader of the government negotiating team with the rebels. From the capital, Kampala he told VOA that it’s in the best interest of the rebels to gather at the designated assembly point in Ri-Kwangba.
“The government of Uganda in conjunction with the government of Southern Sudan has prepared an avenue or corridor in which the LRA, who are in Owiny-Kibul, to make the way to Western Equatorial in Western Sudan so that the LRA now would have one assembly point. This corridor has been mapped out for them, which would make them avoid populated areas, government installations and areas where they might get into conflict with the local people. And they are being told to make their way from east to west within one week,” Oryem noted.
He denied the rebels have been given an ultimatum.
“It is not an ultimatum. Southern Sudan, you would appreciate over the many years, had a lot of problems in terms of armed groups causing insecurities in that area. So what we are trying to do is to make sure that within one week, the whole of Eastern Equatorial, Owiny-Kibul areas is devoid of the LRA so they would make their way into Western Equatorial,” he said.
Oryem said the rebels would be the beneficiaries of the ultimatum to assemble at the designated point in Ri-Kwanba.
“Therefore, after one week, any insecurity, any attack on villages… or any incident of insecurity that would take place in Eastern Equatorial cannot be blamed on the LRA. The government of Southern Sudan and the government of Uganda will then take into account when the LRA has vacated that region and whatever insecurity that takes place in Eastern Equatorial, must have been caused by another group, but not the LRA. What we are actually doing is saving the LRA from being blamed for the ongoing insecurity in Eastern Equatorial,” Oryem pointed out.
He urged the LRA not to continue its alleged attacks on innocent civilians.
“Otti has no need to fight because he has been given a clear corridor to follow. When the LRA was given the corridor to move from Uganda to Owiny-Kibul, it was a very successful move. Nobody has credited the government of Uganda for offering a safe corridor for the LRA to move from northern Uganda into Owiny-Kibul without a single incident,” he said.
Oryem said it has always been a request by the rebels to assemble in one spot contrary to speculation that they are being dictated to by the Ugandan government.
“That is rubbish, that is hogwash. It was the desire and the wish of the LRA to assemble in one point. As the government of Uganda, it is strategic for us; militarily we are at an advantage if the LRA is split into two groups. Surely, that makes sense to anybody who has been to army school. However, for the sake of peace, since the LRA wants to be at one assembly point, we are allowing them to be at one assembly point in Ri-Kwangba to be under the control of Vincent Otti,” he said.