In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni’s government has assured the public that it would do everything in its power to find a lasting solution to the over 20-year insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. The government says it has an alternative strategy to maintain peace and stability if the current peace talks with the LRA in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba collapses.
Ruth Nankabirwa is Uganda’s minister for defense. From the capital Kampala, she tells reporter Peter Clottey that the government has been constitutionally mandated to protect and defend the people of Uganda against any aggression.
“My colleague was just restating what is in the constitution of Uganda. The constitution of Uganda gives the mandate to Uganda People Defense Forces to defend and protect the people of Uganda, their property and the sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Uganda. So, by mentioning that he was re-assuring Ugandans that we have prepared the Uganda People’s Defense Forces to take on the mantle with or without the peace talks,” Nankabirwa said.
She said the defense forces are ready in all aspects to achieve their objective.
“We are supposed to make sure that Uganda is peaceful. We have trained; we have engaged in civil military relations in northern Uganda, we have brought on board civilians in northern Uganda to work with Uganda People’s Defense Forces. And we think that this is a foundation for stability and tranquility in that part of the country,” she pointed out.
Nankabirwa denied speculation that the government’s alternative peace plan would have a negative effect on the ongoing negotiations between the government and the LRA rebels.
“No, no, it wont damage it because we are not saying we are pulling out of the peace talks. We have made a commitment to the peace talks and we in fact engaged ourselves into assuring the LRA that the issue of the indictments by the International Criminal Court can be handled after they have fully come out and signed the final document, which would handle justice and accountability. That has been put into writing. It is just not words, but the government has put it into writing through Honorable Ruhakana Rugunda, who is the chairman of the negotiating team,” Nankabirwa said.
She said the government is just taking precaution in providing security for Ugandan, if the current peace talks in Juba collapse.
“We are committed to the peace talks, but in case they pull out, what do we do? IF the LRA pulls out of the peace talks we have no choice, but to make sure that we work around the clock to bring stability in northern Uganda,” she noted.
Nankabirwa said Ugandans wanted to ascertain if the government has the capacity to protect civilians.
“We have come from very far. Where we are now in Juba, we are handling agenda item number three, which is handling justice and accountability. But at the same time Ugandans are becoming impatient, they want a statement from the government whether government will continue with the protection of the people. And this is what Honorable Kiyonga submitted in parliament. So the two can compliment each other, as far as I’m concerned,” Nankabirwa said.