Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels say they are winding down their consultations ahead of the next round of peace negotiations with President Yoweri Museveni’s government. The rebels say the overwhelming message they have received so far during their consultations with victims of their over 21 years of insurgency has been one of forgiveness and reconciliation. The consultations form part of the third agenda item of the adjourned peace talks, which is accountability and reconciliation.
David Matsanga is the technical advisor for the LRA on International Criminal Court (ICC) Issues. From Kenya’s capital, Nairobi he tells reporter Peter Clottey the rebels are about ready to conclude their consultations.
“Our consultations have gone on very, very well. We have covered three quarters of the country, we are remained with three other consultations, then we wind up our consultations in Uganda and gathering views on agenda number two and three. And I would like to tell the world that the LRA delegations have received very good response as far as the agendas are concerned…their views are very clear; they have drawn a line and they have said that Uganda needs to start anew. We need to start from the past and begin a new beginning by forgiving and allowing total reconciliation,” Matsanga pointed out.
He said the message received by the rebel delegation in Uganda has been that of moving the country forward.
“The most underlining message that has come out is that people are not any more interested in dolling out punishment because dolling out punishment does not bring long lasting peace to the people of northern Uganda. People are looking for another alternative means of justice that would bring long lasting peace to the region and remove the conflict once and for all. So, the message has been very clear, the people of Uganda have said they are ready to forgive to forget and reconcile with anybody who has actually been involved in the conflict,” he said.
Matsanga said some of the victims are concerned about the internationally issued arrest warrants against the top leadership of the rebels.
“They are ready and willing to support the peace process, and they have also talked about the ICC. They have said the ICC is a relevant factor. They do recognize that the ICC exists, but it is irrelevant to the people of Uganda because if you arrest five commanders and you take them to the Hague, you would not have finished the war. You must finish the war by actually allowing a new method of conflict resolution because dolling punishment does not finish the war in northern Uganda,” Matsanga noted.
He said the LRA believes alternative means of justice is the way to ending the over 21 years of insurgency in northern Uganda.
“If you read the document that we have signed with the government of the Republic of Uganda, in Juba, you would find everything in there. I don’t even need to explain, we have not said we are leaving gaps; we are saying we need alternative means of justice. Ugandan courts are able to handle some of these cases,” he said.