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LRA Rebels Vow Not To Return To Juba

The Uganda rebel group the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) has vowed not to go back to Juba where talks to end the 20 year insurgency in northern Uganda are being held. The peace talks that started in July 2006 were being held in the South Sudanese city of Juba under the mediation of the government of Southern Sudan.

The rebel leadership says that they are committed to the talks but are waiting for a new venue to be identified. Mr. Obonyo Olweny is LRA’s spokesman. From the Kenyan capital Nairobi he told VOA reporter Douglas Mpuga, that LRA rejected the Juba venue and nothing has changed.

He said “at the moment we are waiting for the chairman of IGAD (The inter-governmental authority on development) who is the Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki to tell us whether we can hold the talks here in Nairobi. We have requested his office to avail us a venue for the talks, but we haven’t heard from him yet”.

Obony Olweny said they (LRA) have also contacted the South African president Thambo Mbeki requesting him to host the talks. “There is no condition that will make us go to Juba again. We do not see why the government of Uganda should reject an alternative venue as demanded by the LRA because peace talks can take place at any other suitable venue”.

Obonyo also questioned why the Uganda government should insist on one venue under a certain mediator. “By the Uganda government insisting on having the talks in Juba it means that they have a hidden agenda. The governments of Uganda and South Sudan have an agenda to disable the LRA completely and to implement the ICC (international criminal court) warrant of arrest”, he said.

Obonyo Olweny said he hoped a new venue would have been agreed before the Cessation of hostilities agreement between the Uganda government and the LRA rebels expires at the end of this month. He accused the Uganda government of violating the agreement by attacking LRA positions but said the agreement was still valid.

The Uganda government maintains that there is no need to change either the venue of the peace talks or the mediator. Uganda’s internal affairs minister Ruhakana Rugunda told VOA last week that the government was satisfied with both the venue and the mediator and saw no reason to change.