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Uganda Government Says Ready to Work With New Rebel Peace Negotiator

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s government says it welcomes with open arms news that the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has appointed a new peace chief negotiator. LRA leader Joseph Kony reportedly appointed James Obita as the new leader of the rebel peace negotiating team. The talks with the Ugandan government are going on in the Southern Sudanese capital, Juba.

The appointment comes after Kony reportedly fired the LRA’s former peace negotiating leader and refused to sign the final peace deal that would have ended the over two decades of rebel insurgency in northern Uganda. Some victims of the LRA insurgency are reportedly hopeful that the appointment would soon help bring about a lasting peace in the region.

Ruhakana Rugunda is the Uganda government’s chief negotiator with the rebels. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Kampala that he is ready to work with the new rebel negotiator.

“The position of the government is simple, that Joseph Kony and the LRA can appoint or disappoint or change members of the delegation. It is their right, each side in the negotiation chooses and appoints its own delegation,” Rugunda pointed out.

He said the peace negotiations between the rebels and the government are not dead as being speculated.

“Negotiations were really carried out, they were completed. All agreements arrived at and signed, and it is now only the final peace agreement, which is in effect a compilation of all the agreements that have been signed that remains to be signed by both Joseph Kony and President Yoweri Museveni to bring an end to the peace talks,” he said.

Rugunda said despite the stall in the peace negotiations, the Ugandan government is going ahead with its rebuilding efforts in war-affected areas in northern Uganda.

“The rebuilding of northern Uganda is definitely continuing and is going to be so in even greater earnest now, and indeed northern Uganda is now peaceful. Of course it would be very good to have this final peace agreement formally signed that is what all of us want. However, its non-signing will not stop the rebuilding of northern Uganda. And we would like this agreement to be signed and signed soon so that we can focus on the stage of rebuilding the insurgency-affected areas,” Rugunda pointed out.

He said the prospects of the peace process looks promising although it has had its fare share of unfortunate incidents.

“The peace process has had its own problems. It has been a tortuous process that has had its ups and downs and its corners, and we feel that this is one of those hitches that have characterized twenty-one month-long negotiation process. We expect that Joseph Kony will take advantage of this peace process and sign the agreement soon. It is in his own interest and of course all of us in Uganda want this peace agreement to be signed so that we can conclude that chapter of the peace process,” he noted.