Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels begin their second consultation Monday in northern Uganda with victims of their two decades-long civil war. The consultations are part of the third agenda item in the adjourned peace talks, which is accountability and reconciliation.
Monday’s meeting will take place in Adjumani, the community of the Madi People in Uganda’s West Nile region. In the first round, the LRA delegation met with religious and local leaders, women’s groups, and victims from the Acholi people.
Kenneth Oketta is the prime minister of the Acholi Cultural Institution. From Gulu, northern Uganda, he told VOA the consultations have been marked by candid exchanges.
“The reaction is positive and full of excitement. It went on very smoothly and frankly, and there was high participation by the people invited,” he said.
Oketta said some of the questioning suggested the people were skeptical of the LRA but still are willing to believe their sincerity.
“They believed that they are credible, though they were asking them questions, which implied that they doubting their credibility. Questions like whether they have power over the combatants and whether what they are going to say the combatants would listen to it and accept, ” Oketta said.
Still Oketta said the people of northern Uganda are willing to forgive the LRA for whatever atrocities they might have committed.
“They are willing to forgive them because they are desperate, and they have learned that during the last one year, the success for peace is the LRA because when they stopped fighting after signing the cessation of hostilities, there has been a lot of peace and people are home without any arrangement at all either from government or from the army of Uganda. So people have realized that the peace they want and the security they are going to enjoy will depend on whether the LRA would cease operating and accept a peace agreement,” Oketta said.
He gave more details on the phone conversation between LRA’s reclusive leader Joseph Kony and the chairman of the Gulu District Council, Norbert Mao.
“Kony rang the chairman of Gulu District Council to clarify the issue surrounding the incident which took place in their camp, especially with his commander Otti. He said that Otti was plotting against him and wanted to kill him so he arrested him with other groups. He didn’t say he has been killed, but he said he is under arrest. And when he was quoted, he said that people are pressurizing him about the life of Otti and yet they are not caring what would have happen if Otti had killed him. So you could see that he was falling short of saying that I kill him because he was going to kill me,” Oketta said.
He said the people of northern Uganda are concerned that a rift in the ranks of the LRA could hurt the chances for peace.
“They were not concerned because Otti doesn’t like Kony. But they say that if there is a rift between Otti and Kony, that would jeopardize the peace process because Otti has been very vocal on radio and clarifying some of the issues, and people thought that they were really working together,” Oketta said.