Uganda’s government will soon begin a nationwide public debate as part of its consultation efforts to get public input for a recently signed agreement with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels on the third agenda item, which is accountability and reconciliation. The government says the move would give the public the opportunity to be part of the process to ending the over twenty years of rebel insurgency in northern Uganda. Among other things, the government says it wants to find ways by which alternative justice would be agreed upon to take to the adjourned peace talks, when they resume in September in the Southern Sudanese capital, of Juba.
Okello Oryem is the deputy leader of the Uganda negotiating team in the peace talks with the LRA rebels. From the capital, Kampala he shares with reporter Peter Clottey some of the government’s consultation strategies for the upcoming peace talks.
“The peace talks on the 19th (In Uganda) really are meant to create a discussion and a debate among Ugandans nationwide on the peace talks and particularly what is supposed to be the accountability and reconciliation mechanisms for the peace talks in Juba. Government of Uganda intends to have several meetings and workshops in all regions of Uganda, and there after we will have one big meeting in Kampala where we will bring in the information that has been gathered from all the other places to a team of lawyers, people from the judiciary and human right groups, for them to come up with a formula, and a consensus on what is the alternative mechanism of justice for the purpose of accountability that would be offered to the LRA when the peace talks resumes in mid-September,” Oryem pointed out.
He said he is confident the peace talks would achieve the desired objective before the end of this year.
“I’m sure we will be able to achieve a concrete peace deal by the end of this year, although things seem to be going slowly. But I can assure you there is a lot of work behind the seen; we are in contact with the leadership, we continue to talk to the command of the LRA, Vincent Otti, and Joseph Kony. We continue being confident among ourselves and creating reassurance, we are encouraging other people who know them to give them confidence to believe in the peace talks. Therefore, slowly and gradually we are making it there, and we are starting to get closer and closer to definitely conclude it by the end of the year,” he said.
Oryem said although the rebels have shown a lot of commitment towards finding a lasting peaceful end to the over twenty years of insurgency in northern Uganda, the LRA should do a little more than what it has so far offered.
“Our position is that the LRA could do more. You would appreciate that the government of Uganda, one of the things that it requested from the LRA is that they (rebels) should have honored part of the issue that was agreed on the cessation of hostilities. And in the cessation of hostilities agreement, the LRA would assemble in two places, Owini-Kibul and Rikwangba. But the LRA has not honored that part of the agreement,” Oryem noted.
He said the Ugandan government is so far disappointed because the rebels are still holding hostage women and children who he said have nothing to do with the insurgency.
“We have continuously requested the LRA to release the women and children who are within their ranks… and at least the LRA should have released these children in good faith. We are disappointed the LRA has not assembled in Rikwangba, and we are disappointed that the LRA in some circumstances is not moving these peace talks expeditiously. However, we are not losing hope, and as government we are determined that the best opportunity for peace in northern Uganda and Southern Sudan is these peace talks in Juba. We believe that we should continue with it, and we should continue to encourage the leadership of the LRA not to be diverted. And hope that we do not go back to the situation where we used to get into arms with the LRA,” he said.