Uganda Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels describe as extreme provocation a warning by President Yoweri Museveni’s government that they face serious consequences for failing to sign a final peace deal. Uganda’s defense minister Amama Mbabazi reportedly urged the rebels to take advantage of the stalled peace talks between the government and the rebels in the Southern Sudanese capital, Juba or face a possible military action. But the rebels say the government is employing intimidation tactics to force them to approve a final settlement.
The rebels maintain they want to find a lasting peace to the more than two decades of insurgency in northern Uganda, but are demanding that international arrest warrants against their commanders should be removed. Rebel leader Joseph Kony recently refused to sign a treaty, claiming he needed more clarification on aspects of peace deal. Uganda government chief negotiator Ruhakana Rugunda tells reporter Peter Clottey the LRA should be serious about a final peace deal.
“What honorable Mbabazi has said is correct that this is the opportunity that should be used by the Lord’s Resistance Army to get out of rebellion and come back and be rehabilitated in society. And of course, if we don’t take advantage of the situation, it means that they are leaving an option available to us. And as far as the government of Uganda is committed to the peace process and wants to resolve this matter permanently through negotiations, the process cannot be open ended,” Rugunda pointed out.
He denied the defense minister’s call could undermine confidence-building efforts between the government and the rebels.
“Not really. The confidence has been built, and this statement does not adversely affect that trend of confidence building because we have already stated that our preferred option is a peaceful solution, and we will go out of our way to for a peaceful solution as indeed we have done. But I would also say that there is no way how committing crimes against people in the region can be left to continue endlessly. That is why we want a speedy resolution of this matter peacefully. So, that is the question of how other options can be avoided,” he said.
Rugunda said what is left after peaceful negotiations with the rebels is for President Museveni and rebel leader Kony to sign a final peace deal, which would effectively end the rebel insurgency in northern Uganda, which has lasted for over two decades.
“The peace talks have already been completed. What remains is signing of the final peace agreement. That ceremony takes place and the government of Uganda would be represented by President Museveni, and Joseph Kony would represent the Lord’s Resistance Army. As far as the talks are concerned, we have completed the work, and we do expect that this work would be finally concluded by the two principals of the two organizations or two parties appending their signatures to the final peace agreement,” Rugunda noted.