In Uganda, internal affairs minister Ruhakana Rugunda says the government is ready to continue with the peace talks in Juba despite the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA) call for the removal of the mediator of the peace talks Vice President Riek Machar of Southern Sudan and a change in venue of the peace talks. The rebel’s request has temporarily brought the peace talks to a halt as they threatened not to return to the negotiating table if their demands are not met.
Ruhakana Rugunda, who is also the leader of the Ugandan government’s negotiating team at the Juba talks, said the government insists that both the mediator and venue of the peace talks should not be changed.
“We have heard those reports, but Uganda wishes to reiterate its confidence in the mediation efforts of the government of Southern Sudan and also its support for Juba to remain as the center of the peace process,” he said.
Rugunda said the government is ready to start the next round of peace talks with the rebels.
“The government is ready to resume the talks as has always been as soon as the Lord’s Resistance Army reviews its position and becomes serious to expeditiously conclude the peace talks. So that our people who are now in camps can go back to their villages to rebuild their homes and lead normal lives,” he said.
Rugunda said the government has confidence in the mediation efforts by the Southern Sudan Vice President Riek Machar.
“In our view, his Excellency Vice President Riek Machar as head of the mediation team is doing excellent work. We have at times disagreed with him, but we know that if you are a mediator once in a while you may have differences with this side or that side. But we know that he has got good intentions and has been doing excellent work in spite of the numerous challenges,” Rugunda noted.
He said the refusal by the rebels to begin the next round of peace talks is short-term.
“We regard this as a temporary snag, and we expect that talks would resume soon. And the government of Uganda, indeed and the president as well are fully supportive of the peace process and also fully supportive of the mediation efforts of the government of Southern Sudan and Juba as the center for the peace talks,” he said.
Rugunda urged the rebels to rescind their decision to boycott the peace talks and return to the negotiating table.
“I regard it as an unfortunate development. And I urge them to reconsider their position and look at the interest of the people in the camps in Uganda and especially the broader interest of the people in Northern Uganda, and indeed at the interest of peace in the whole regions,” he said.
Rugunda said the government has always displayed strong commitment to finding peace with the rebels to end the hostilities in the country.
“Uganda efforts are unequivocally committed to a peace resolution of the conflict. And would continue pursuing all roads possible to ensure that there is peace and to end the conflict in northern Uganda. We will remain undeterred, in our pursuit to an end to the conflict in northern Uganda,” he said.