The stalled Ugandan peace talks between the government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are expected to begin soon. Ugandan peace negotiators led by Ruhakana Rugunda met rebel leader Joseph Kony and his high command for the first time over the weekend in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The rebels had earlier refused to continue with the peace talks, demanding a change in venue and the mediator Reik Machar.
Ruhakana Rugunda is Uganda’s internal affairs minister and leader of the government negotiating team. He said leaders from all walks of life were present at the historic meeting.
“We had a good meeting yesterday, chaired by President Chissano and involving the top leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, Vincent Oti and others and the government of Uganda delegation, and the host Vice President of the government of Southern Sudan Riek Marchar…it was a good meeting and in principle agreed to recommit ourselves to the peace process and in due course to resume the peace talks,” he said.
Rugunda said both the government and the rebels decided to put their problems aside and go back to the negotiating table.
“Many issues were discussed and many of them were of internal nature in terms internal mechanics of the peace process. But the critical point is, we did agree that we should leave the internal mechanisms to resolve some of those issues … and in other to fulfill that, we would have to resume the peace talks in due course,” Rugunda pointed out.
He said the Ugandan government is determined to resume the peace talks.
“All I can tell you is that, the views of the government of Uganda is that the peace talks should resume in Juba; and under the mediation of the government of Southern Sudan…we did agree that there should be a reinforcement of the mediation teams from a number of friendly countries that have already expressed support for the peace talks. And this would be essentially, African countries and mainly countries in the region,” Rugunda noted.
He praised the success of what he described as a historic meeting.
“I think it was a very impact making meeting because it brought the top leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army. And the Uganda delegation had the full mandate of President Yoweri Museveni and his government and the chairman who is President Chissano, a very experienced and highly respected leader in Africa was of crucial importance,” Rugunda said.
He reiterated the importance of the meeting.
“Really, it was a very important meeting. And I have no doubts that this meeting is going to move the peace process forward and bring the peace talks back on track,” Rugunda said.