In Uganda, victims of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) over 20 years of insurgency are demanding the leader of the rebels call in to a local radio station today to confirm or deny speculation about the demise of the rebels’ second-in-command. The demand follows the rebel delegation’s ongoing consultations in northern Uganda, as part of the accountability and reconciliation process of their peace agenda.
LRA second-in-command Vincent Otti’s has not been answering his satellite cellular telephones or been heard from since last month, prompting speculation that he might be dead. Victims unanimously say rumors of Otti’s demise could undermine resumption of the adjourned peace process in the Southern Sudanese capital, Juba.
Fanta Okot is co-coordinator of rebel consultations with the victims. She tells reporter Peter Clottey the rumors are despicable.
“We started the consultation in here in Gulu yesterday, and the Gulu zone is the center for Achioli sub region. We invited about 200 people of different categories, the local government leaders, the religious leaders, victims and representatives of the government. The people were so overwhelmed and they spoke so openly and without fear or favor. Most of them have talked about reconciliation, truth telling, compensation and so forth,” Okot noted.
She said the victims of the LRA insurgency deserve applause for their exhibited bravery during the rebel consultation.
“We had the victims who apparently had their own group. There were about 20 of them, and they came out with their report. Actually, their presentation was the best, the one which moved people a lot because they were balanced. They said everything that government soldiers did to them. They said everything that the LRA did to them. But the final issue was that they were ready to reconcile with the perpetrators,” she said.
Okot gave her assessment of the rebel delegation’s face-to-face meeting with victims of the insurgency.
“From the beginning yesterday there were only two issues which kept on coming. At the end they asked about General Otti. But in most cases people spoke about reconciliation, and they were complaining about the issue of the ICC (International Criminal Court). They looked at it, as it is the only issue that is going to prevent the signing of the peace process,” Okot explained.
She denied current speculation that the death of LRA’s second-in-command could derail the entire peace process.
“I don’t think it can hamper the consultation because when people asked us yesterday, and today because today we were in one of the camps in a place called Cochigoma, people kept on asking the same thing. But on the other hand, they are urging us to move ahead. These rumors are coming after we had already left Ri-Kwamgba. The people asked the chairman of the LRA delegation, Martin Ojul, to call the general and chairman of the LRA from Ri-Kwamgba to speak on the radio. And people asked him that if he is going to speak on the radio they also requested that Vincent Otti speaks today (Thursday) to them. But otherwise they told us to go ahead to continue with the consultation,” she said.
Okot reiterated that no amount of speculation would stop the ongoing consultations.
“I don’t think there is anything that would block us from continuing with this process. It is true it is a rumor, and we are taking it as a rumor because there is no truth about it. Who went to Ri-Kwamgba to verify this information? These are just rumors people are just peddling so that they derail us from doing the consultation. But for us, we are not going to be derailed. We are moving ahead,” Okot maintained.