A reported meeting between defense ministers of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to allegedly flush out rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is generating controversy in Uganda. Tensions surfaced when victims of the LRA voiced concern that ongoing peace talks between the Uganda government and the rebels could be undermined. The victims contend that the government’s plan to attack the rebels if peace talks fail is not healthy for confidence building or finding a lasting peace after more than 20 years of a rebel insurgency in northern Uganda.
Uganda army spokesman Major Felix Kulayigye tells reporter Peter Clottey the rebels have nothing to fear if they really want a lasting peace in northern Uganda.
“The developments are based on a meeting between the Uganda foreign minister and his Congolese counterparts, which took place here in Kampala the other week under the joint permanent commission arrangement. In that meeting, the ministers emphasized an agreement reached earlier at a summit held in Tanzania by the Congolese leader and the Ugandan president, with His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete chairing the meeting. In that agreement, Congo pledged to get rid of the negative forces against Uganda operating on her soil,” Kulayigye noted.
He said the Democratic Republic of Congo government reiterated its commitment to peace in the sub region.
“The Kampala meeting with the ministers simply concretized the agreement of the heads of state. And indeed Congo promised that by the 31st of January, if the LRA is still in Congo, then they would take action against them,” he said.
Kulayigye said the rebels have nothing to worry about if they agree to abide by the agreement signed with the Uganda government.
“The cessation of hostilities agreement is supposed to be in Ri-Kwamgba and Ri-Kwamgba is in southwestern Sudan, not inside DRC. And therefore, any agreement between Uganda and the Congo should not be affecting the LRA if the LRA has met part of the bargain by assembling in the designated area,” Kulayigye said.
He denied the meeting between both governments would undermine the adjourned peace talks.
“I don’t agree with you, my brother. Confidence building includes inside meeting and inside the bargain. One, we have been adding an addendum on the cessation of hostilities agreement since last year. Addendum one, two, three and four. All those have been extending the period for assembly including this last one, which required them to have assembled by 31st of January. In fact, that period requires us to have reached an agreement. So confidence building includes also allowing the LRA team to come inside Uganda and do consultation, which they have completed. And they have been accommodated by the state of Uganda, he said.
Kulayigye described the rebel’s misgivings about the reported meeting as highly misplaced.
“I think they are just looking for an excuse. One, President Museveni gave an unconditional amnesty to the LRA, including Joseph Kony and his top commanders, contrary to Uganda law. President Museveni has been agreeing to extend the period of the LRA assembling. President Museveni accepted and offered everything Kony requested for. If that is not the show of serious commitment, what other commitment are you looking for?” Kulayigye asked.