The next round of peace talks between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels is scheduled to resume Thursday in the southern Sudanese city of Juba. The LRA are accused of abducting children and killing and maiming innocent civilians. The International Criminal Court has issued indictments against LRA commander Vincent Otti and his top deputies. But last week the LRA threatened to resume fighting if the ICC warrants were not lifted. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda described the LRA threat as provocative. So what’s on the agenda as the peace talks resume Thursday?
James Obita is technical advisor to the LRA negotiating team at the Juba peace talks. From Southern Sudan, he told VOA the LRA rebels have significant proposals to present at Thursday’s round of peace talks.
“On the thirty-first we are going to reconvene with agenda number three which is the most crucial agenda in the whole negotiation process, that is to do with accountability and reconciliation,” he said.
Obita said the LRA rebels are coming to the talks with what he called tangible proposals for the Ugandan government regarding the ICC indictments against the group’s top leaders.
“We believe that the ICC issue is so sensitive and so controversial that if we don’t handle it properly, it can either make or break the peace process. So we have in place a very tangible proposal that I think will help the process,” Obita said.
Last week, the LRA threatened to return to war if the ICC arrest warrants against its top leadership were not withdrawn by the time the peace talks ended. But Obita said the LRA is tired with war.
“We are not talking about going to war because we have reached a place where we can never go back now on our word. There’s going to be no war; we are ready to continue this peace process,” he said.
Obita reiterated the LRA’s demand that the ICC warrants against its top leadership be dropped.
“Let me explain to you. The ICC warrants, you see this is the first time in the history of any peace talks that people go to peace talks when arrest warrants are hanging over their heads,” Obita said.
He said the tangible proposals which the LRA would be presenting when the talks resume on May 31 would help the Ugandan government approach the ICC or the U.N. Security Council to ask for a 12-month suspension.
“First, if the ICC warrants are not withdrawn, then the very minimal we are saying is that let it be suspended for at least 12 months. And within those 12 months, the government of Uganda will enact the necessary laws that would put in place the alternative justice system which we are proposing. And secondly, all perpetrators of crimes, that is both within the LRA and the government and everybody involved with the war, will be brought to justice and they will go through the alternative justice system so that we do not condone impunity,” Obita said.