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Ugandan Government Still Pushing for Peace Talks Despite Rebel Withdrawal


The Ugandan army Thursday said the government is still committed to holding peace talks with the Lord's Resistance Army following the rebel group's withdrawal of its delegation from the talks one day before. The rebel group accused the Ugandan army of attacking and killing some of its fighters, a charge the army denies. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Army spokesman Major Felix Kulayigye tells VOA the government delegation is still sitting in the southern Sudanese town of Juba, where talks opened earlier this year.

"The government has not withdrawn - they are not going to withdraw," he said. "When they [rebels] killed our commander we didn't withdraw. They have made several violations; we have never threatened to withdraw. So for us, we are there because we want peace and we mean business."

Lord's Resistance Army spokesman Obonyo Olweny Wednesday said his delegation would not continue attending the talks because, he said, the Uganda Peoples' Defense Forces, or UPDF, attacked a group of rebel fighters that was traveling to one of two neutral camps specified in an earlier truce, killing three.

The French news agency, AFP, quotes Olweny as saying that the rebel group has suspended participation in the talks until the Ugandan army withdraws from all positions east of River Nile back into Uganda.

Ugandan army spokesman Kulayigye denies that the army attacked the rebel group or that the army is even in the area in which the rebels were traveling.

In August, the two sides signed a landmark truce to pave the way for negotiations to end almost two decades of civil war during which the rebel group is said to have committed brutal atrocities against civilian populations.

From its inception, the peace process has been plagued with problems, stalling several times as both sides accused one another of committing violations and not being sincere about the process.

Throwing a major obstacle to the talks has been the issuing of arrest warrants against the top rebel leadership by the International Criminal Court.

The rebels have said they would not sign a peace deal until the ICC drops the war crimes charges. The ICC says the charges still stand.

The north has been plagued by a civil war since the late 1980s that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 1.5 million people.

Members of the elusive rebel group have been blamed for gross human rights violations in the area.