United Nations special envoy to northern Uganda and former Mozambican President Joaqim Chissano will brief the un security council Friday on the progress of the stalled peace talks between the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government. Meanwhile, the leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony, is demanding the inclusion of general Salim Saleh, the younger brother of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to be part of the government negotiating team. But Okello Oriem, who is a member of the government negotiating team, told VOA via telephone that the Ugandan government does not object to the inclusion of the president’s younger brother in the talks.
“It is true that although we are waiting for the formal letter from the LRA, but we have had a formal communication from them that they would like General Salim Salem to be part of the government delegation. The government of Uganda as of now, in principle has no objection to General Salem being part of the Uganda delegation to the peace talks,” he said.
Oriem said the Ugandan government has always demonstrated its commitment to negotiating peace talks with the LRA rebels.
“You will appreciate that since the peace talks started in July last year, the government of Uganda has tried to accommodate all of the various demands by the LRA, to ensure that this peace process becomes successful. And that the peace talks are the only alternative to bring this twenty years of insurgency to a conclusion,” Oriem pointed out.
He said General Saleh has always been involved in negotiating peace deals with other rebel groups.
“You would be aware that General Saleh has been in this peace process for a long time. It was general Saleh who negotiated the peace process with the first group that fought this government then called the UPDA-UPDM (Uganda People’s Defense Army – Uganda People’s Democratic Movement), which was under brigadier Odong,” he said.
Oriem reiterated General Saleh’s exploits in negotiating with some other rebels, including the LRA.
“Remember, general Saleh flew his helicopter behind enemy lines and started a peaceful negotiations with some rebel group and eventually we got a peace deal…General Saleh ahs been involved in negotiations with the LRA, and has managed to attract several commanders of the LRA out of the bush in the last few years,” Oriem noted.
He said the government could see the rebels demand for general Saleh as a commitment by the rebels.
“So maybe based on general Saleh’s past experience and now that the LRA has finally agreed that the only way to solve this problem is through peaceful negotiations, the LRA wants now to do some serious business in the presence of general Salem,” he said.
Oriem said though previous demands by the rebels have slowed the peace talks, the government is still committed to finding peace with the LRA.
“As of now, we as government have chosen that we have to talk with the LRA and use this option as a method of bringing this process to a peaceful end. As much as we have doubts to these demands, including the doubts as the intention why they want general Saleh to be in the peace process, but we are ready to accommodate it,” he said.