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Ugandan Rebel Group Threatens to Resume Fighting

A rebel group operating in northern Uganda has threatened to renew its insurgency unless peace talks between it and the government are held outside of southern Sudan. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

The Lord's Resistance Army's (LRA) preferred venue for the peace talks is neighboring Kenya.

The group says that Sudan is not a neutral location to hold negotiations, because of the Sudanese president's recent statement that his government wants to "get rid of the LRA."

According to senior rebel official Godfrey Ayoo, the Lord's Resistance Army is willing to hold talks but not in Juba, the regional capital of southern Sudan, but he says Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni insists on holding the talks in Juba.

"We have said now we will not return to Juba, and the government of Uganda, [President Yoweri] Museveni himself, is repeatedly now saying he is just getting ready to go and finish our forces thoroughly," he said. "And that is why we are saying, well, if that be, let it be."

Reuters news agency quotes Vincent Otti, the group's second in command, as saying that the rebels are, in his words, "ready to invade Uganda" unless another location for the peace talks are held.

Representatives of the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government began their talks last July in Juba, signing a truce in August. But the talks soon broke down and, after a few false starts, remain stalled.

The goal of the talks is to end more than 20 years of child kidnappings, rapes, murders, and other atrocities allegedly committed by the rebels.

Several weeks ago, rebel representatives came to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to urge the Kenyan government to move the talks from Juba to Nairobi or another location.

Kenya's deputy foreign affairs minister in charge of Africa, Kebi Gitura, explains why his government refused the rebels' request to hold the talks in Nairobi.

"Uganda itself, which is part of the discussions of the peace talks, has made it clear that the talks are going to have to be in Juba," he noted. "There's very little Kenya can do. Even if it wanted the talks to be in Nairobi, it can only request the parties to agree."

Under the terms of the ceasefire they signed with the government, rebel fighters have until the end of this month to assemble in one of two camps in southern Sudan. The government claims that the rebels are being uncooperative in the process, while the rebels say they are reluctant to go to the camps because they fear for their safety.