The current peace talks between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the Southern Sudan capital of Juba have stalled again. This time the disagreement is about the third item on the agenda, which is accountability and reconciliation. The disagreement came after the government reportedly demanded the rebels accept they committed atrocities in northern Uganda. But the LRA insists the international arrest warrants issued against its top leadership should be either suspended or lifted before they sign any comprehensive agreement with the government.
Major Felix Kulayigye is the spokesman for Uganda’s defense ministry. From the capital Kampala, he told Voice Of America more about the stalled peace talks.
“The point of contention is that this agenda item number three requires the perpetrators of crime to admit to the crimes, apologize to the victims and indeed that will lay ground for the traditional justice mechanism to be employed so that so that these people can go to the victims, apologize to them, and some punitive action would be dictated by the victims themselves. And that would be based on agenda item number three, if it’s agreed upon by both sides,” Kulayigye noted.
He explains the role both the government and the victims of the rebels are playing in the ongoing peace talks.
“There are two issues here; one the people of Acholi sub region in northern Uganda who indeed have been victims of the LRA activities, demanded that for them they wanted that for them they wanted reconciliation and not the externalization of the case. Now, for us to facilitate the peace talks and the peace process, the government of Uganda, indeed accepted to enable the traditional justice mechanism to be applied after which the government would engage the International Criminal Court (ICC) offering alternatives of addressing impunity,” he pointed out.
Kulayigye applauded the LRA’s apology to its victims in northern Uganda, but urged the rebels to include the apology in their proposal at the peace negotiations in Juba.
“Well if that apology could be included in their paper because each side normally writes a paper, submits to the mediation and then the two papers are synchronized. If they are agreed upon, then the signing takes place. What is the snag as of now, much as Martin Ojul has apologized verbally they have not included that apology in their paper presented to their mediation team,” Kulayigye said.
He said the government has continuously shown its willingness to finding a lasting peace by granting amnesty to the top leadership of the LRA rebels rather than charge them with treason.
“First and foremost, once for the peace process to start the government on it part offered amnesty. Nonetheless. It remains an issue between the LRA leadership and the people who had been the victims. As you know, the government should have charged them with treason. So with the amnesty, the treason charge automatically is lifted. The question of the ICC still holds, and the Uganda government certainly, will work very closely with the ICC to ensure that the question of impunity is addressed,” he said.
Kulayigye said some people are advocating the use of the traditional justice system.
“Now the point being discussed as of now is that the traditional justice mechanisms should be allowed to take effect so that in addition of punishing the perpetrators of crime, it also facilitates reconciliation as opposed to the modern legal systems that punishes the perpetrators, but leaves the wounds of the victims unaddressed,” he said.