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Ugandan Army Rejects Calls For Cease-fire - 2002-08-26

The Ugandan army is rejecting calls for a cease-fire from rebels of the lords resistance army. This weekend the L-R-A, led by Joseph Kony, called for a halt in the fighting and dialogue with the government. President Yoweri Museveni has previously set conditions for talks, none of which the rebels have met. The Ugandan army says the rebels must first meet the government’s terms before talks can begin. On Saturday, rebel leader Joseph Kony telephoned a local member of parliament, Ronald Reagan Okumu, and urged him to ask the military to lay down its arms and talk to him – promising a cease-fire on the part of the rebels as well. But army spokesman Shaban Bantariza told reporters the army will not lay down arms until the rebels meet the conditions set by President Yoweri Museveni for peace talks. The L-R-A has terrorized northern Uganda ever since President Museveni took power in 1986.

As Major Bantariza was speaking Sunday, rebels attacked a village outside the northern town of Gulu, killing two people. On Friday, rebels ambushed and torched a bus and a UNICEF truck.

President Museveni, himself a former rebel, has said he will talk to the rebels only if they are willing to move their camps away from Uganda’s border within Sudan. He wants them resettled in locations where they will not be able to launch attacks against Ugandan civilians.

The president calls the rebels terrorists and says he’d rather not talk to them. But, he says he is being pressured into talks by politicians and religions leaders from northern Uganda, who see dialogue as the only way to end a war that has brought an entire region to its knees.

They say northern Uganda has suffered enough at the hands of the rebels, who recruit school children as wives and soldiers, and who are accused of cutting off people’s lips, limbs and noses.

President Museveni says he would be hard-pressed to extend an amnesty to the rebels, but he says he will do so if they agree to his terms. He says they must lay down their arms before moving into segregated areas where they can be closely monitored. They must also pledge to stop killing and abducting civilians and must end attacks on government troops and vehicles. But analysts say the rebels have shown no sign that they will accept those conditions.

President Museveni, a former guerrilla leader himself, is currently in Gulu to try to end the 16 year-old rebellion. In one gesture of reconciliation, he has offered to provide medical treatment for L-R-A’s second in command, Vincent Otti, and has agreed not to prosecute him. Mr. Otti was injured in battle last weekend.