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Uganda Peace Talks Enter New Phase Today

The current peace talks between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the Southern Sudan capital of Juba enters a new phase today (Thursday). Both sides are expected to debate the framework of the third item on the agenda, which is accountability and reconciliation. Meanwhile the rebels are demanding the lifting of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) indictments against their commander Vincent Otti and his top deputies.

James Obita is the technical advisor to the LRA negotiating team at the Juba peace talks. From Southern Sudan he told VOA that the ICC has taken only one side of the conflict.

“Today, we moved one step further, we adopted the framework for working out the principles for agenda number three. It was a document, which was agreed upon by both parties and it was acknowledged that tomorrow (Thursday) we can begin the process of a brief debate and then thereafter we shall begin to work out the principles for agenda number three, that is accountability and reconciliation,” Obita noted.

He said both parties believe the debate would help them focus on the way forward for the current peace negotiations.

“It was thought that because this is a very sensitive and crucial agenda both parties should be given a chance to debate issues that they feel is important to them, like on our side we feel that on the issue of accountability, we should be given a chance debate some of the issues that we think has occurred in the last 20 years of the conflict…we think the issue of accountability is important so that we can hold everybody to account for whatever that has taken place for the last 21 years,” he said.

Obita said the rebels would propose an alternative justice system that would meet international standard of justice.

“This would actually come into the discussion in the next coupe of days to come because we want the government to come clearly and tell us what framework they have…because the basic thing is one we finish with the principles, then we wan to propose some tangible alternative justice mechanism that we think would meet international bench marks of justice. From there they should be able to help us resolve this issue of the ICC,” Obita pointed out.

He reiterated the rebels want an alternative justice system, which conforms to justice in Uganda.

“You cannot tell me that other than the ICC there is no other mechanism on us that can be worked out… that is what we are trying to work out now. We want an alternative justice system, which is specific to Ugandan issue that would still be able to meet international standards,” he said.

Obita dismissed President Yoweri Museveni’s proposal of “soft landing” for the rebels.

“We have told them that the issue of soft landing is a non starter because don’t forget that the ICC has only taken one side or have issued arrest warrants one side of the conflict. We are very confident that if the government wants to pursue the society route, we would also ensure that we have dragged some of the key officials in the government or in the service of the government to the ICC, period. Who is going to soft land, us or them?” Obita asked.