Uganda’s government says it will welcome with open arms delegation members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels who want to hold meetings with President Yoweri Museveni’s government about the adjourned peace talks. Observers say the move is a significant boost towards finding a lasting peace to more than 20 years of an LRA rebel insurgency. An LRA delegation visit to the capital, Kampala would be the first since it began its insurgency that has seen scores of people losing their lives and properties in Northern Uganda.
From Kampala, Uganda’s minister for internal affairs Ruhakana Rugunda, the government’s chief negotiator with the rebels, tells reporter Peter Clottey that the government does not object to an LRA delegation visit.
“Members of the Lord’s Resistance Army delegation are very welcome to Uganda. Uganda is their country and in fact, the government of Uganda has specifically invited them. So they are very, very welcome home,” Rugunda pointed out.
He confirmed the government would not pursue the death sentence if the top leadership of the LRA were found guilty.
“It is true that I did make a statement to the effect that death sentence would not be tenable in the issues of accountability for the atrocities committed in the conflict in northern Uganda because at the heart of this process would be not only accountability, but also reconciliation. And since you cannot reconcile with somebody who has been sent to gallows, it is crucial therefore that nobody should be sent to gallows because that would be undermining the very principle of reconciliation and of forgiveness and also living together after conflict by all the parties concerned,” he explained.
Rugunda challenges the notion that LRA members accused of atrocities have already been condemned before they are put on trial.
“No, no, we cannot say anybody has been condemned before further investigation and before a fair trail has been carried out. So, everybody under the laws of Uganda is assumed innocent until proved guilty by the legitimate courts of Uganda,” Rugunda noted.
He said the government delegation has wrapped up its side of consultations on agenda item number three, which considers questions of accountability and reconciliation, and hopes to move on to the final negotiating issues, which involve disarmament, demobilization, and re-integration.