In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni’s government has dismissed demands by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) at ongoing peace talks as untenable. The rebels are demanding at least 35 percent of the top military jobs in Uganda’s army before signing a final peace deal. The LRA is also demanding some percentage of all lucrative central government contracts to be offered to bidders from the war-affected regions for economic emancipation. But the government rejects the demand, saying it flouts Uganda’s law of competitive bidding for government contracts.
From the capital, Kampala chief government negotiator Ruhakana Rugunda tells reporter Peter Clottey that the rebel demand is regrettable.
“It is no longer a contentious issue because we did discuss this matter about one and half years ago, when the Lord’s Resistance Army delegation raised it. And we really settled the matter and agreed that the question of demanding percentages was not tenable,” Rugunda pointed out.
He reiterated that the government would not further engage the rebels on any form of power sharing in the military.
“We have advised them that this is a matter that is already settled and that it is not in order to raise it again. And this position has been accepted by the Lord’s Resistance Army,” he said.
Rugunda denied the rebels’ accusation that the government’s attitude towards the peace talks has been lackadaisical.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, government is ever prepared. So the allegation is obviously not correct,” Rugunda, said.
He says he’s confident a lasting solution to the northern Uganda conflict will be found based on positive progress of the peace talks taking place in the Southern Sudanese capital, Juba.
“We have really made a lot of progress. In fact, in the last one-week when we were in Juba, we did agree on the implementation modalities of accountability and reconciliation. We have not signed it because the Lord’s Resistance Army wants to make last-minute consultations with their leaders in Garamba. But we have made reasonable progress. In fact we also discussed the implementation modalities of comprehensive solutions. And we have already embarked on considering agenda item number four, which is a final ceasefire,” he said.
Rugunda is optimistic that both sides would soon be ready to face any challenges the agreement on a final ceasefire would bring.
“Accusation and counter accusation is not a strange matter in protracted negotiations of this nature. Especially when negotiations are between parties that have been in armed conflict. So when the accusations come, we address them, resolve them, and make progress. So all in all, every effort is being made, not only by government, but also by the Lord’s Resistance Army delegation to expeditiously conclude the peace talks and embark on reconstruction and rebuilding of northern Uganda,” Rugunda said.