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Uganda Rebels Plead for Forgiveness, Draw Mixed Reaction

Uganda Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels’ plea for forgiveness for atrocities committed during more than 20 years of insurgency has received mixed reactions from victims of the war. While some of the victims want the rebels to be forgiven for the sake of peace, others claim they should be severely punished for the atrocities committed against innocent civilians in northern Uganda. But the rebels say their consultation process as part of the third agenda item of peace negotiations is on course.

The rebels are in Gulu mainly to canvas local opinion about what kind of justice people want the rebels to undergo. Many of the LRA's victims have reportedly said they would happily forgive rebel leader Joseph Kony if he makes peace.

David Matsanga is the deputy leader of the rebel’s peace delegation and the technical advisor on ICC matters. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the rebels are committed to finding a lasting peace to the violence in northern Uganda.

“Our consultations and mobilization of the stakeholders have started today in Uganda, and our first meeting was held in Gulu. And it is the first point of call of this 21-year conflict. We are very pleased with the reception that we got. The questions that people asked were very encouraging. And generally, we have come here to seek peace for our country, and that is why our delegation has come down here -- to consult, to get views, to mobilize the people for a bigger conference in Ri-Kwambga,” Matsanga noted.

He admitted that both the rebels and the government are tired of the conflict that has long affected the population of northern Uganda.

“You should know that this war has taken 21 years, and after 21 years, definitely, people get tired on both sides. And we hope that the Uganda government is aware that this war should not continue at all. We should all seek this peaceful resolution of the conflict and have this matter resolved once and for all. And we shall continue to consult in all areas of Uganda,” he emphasized.

Matsanga explained that under the third agenda item, described as accountability and reconciliation, both sides agreed to accept complicity for the lengthy armed conflict.

“Both sides in the conflict agreed that both sides are accountable. Uganda government is accountable for its part that it played. The LRA also agreed that it would be accountable for its part. You should know that this conflict was not fought only by one side. That is why people are consulting, to put ideas together to see what is the best alternative means of justice. What is the best way to solve this conflict so that it does not resurrect again”? Matsanga asked.

He dismissed as speculation news that the LRA’s second in command, Vincent Otti, is dead, adding that it is an attempt to undermine the peace process.

“I think one problem that we have as human beings is speculations and idle talk. The speculations that are going round the world are baseless, are useless and they don’t help the peace process at all,” he said.