Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels are accusing President Yoweri Museveni's government of breaking the cessation of hostilities agreement after a minister's controversial remarks. Minster Tarsis Kabwegyere reportedly said the rebels should be starved into accepting peace negotiations. He accused some aid groups of sending food and other amenities to rebel camps. Kabwegyere says that people who perpetuate the existence of the rebels are not only, ungodly, but also contrary to humanitarian interests. But the LRA rebels dismissed the minister's remarks as a calculated attempt to thwart efforts to finding a long lasting solution to the over two decades LRA insurgency in northern Uganda.
David Matsanga is the chief LRA peace negotiator with Uganda's government. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from Kenya's capital, Nairobi that the minister's pronouncements are meant to rebuke the people of northern Uganda.
"First of all, I would like to say that the minister, professor Tarsis Kabwegyere is a very disturbing character in the government of President Museveni. He has made this statement contrary to the cessation of hostilities agreement that we should not issue statements having negative impact about each side. Two, LRA has not received any food from organizations since April of this year," Matsanga said.
He said the rebels have been taking care of themselves since they began their insurgency in northern Uganda.
"The last consignment, which was delivered, was in April and the LRA has been in the bush for over 22 years and out of these 22 years we have been feeding ourselves out of the 20 years without anybody feeding us. And therefore, the comments of such a minister are comments made to destabilize the peace process. They are made to rebuke the people of northern Uganda. And that is the same language that professor Tarsis Kabwegyere uses against the people of northern Uganda all the time since the 1980s," he said.
Matsanga denied speculations, suggesting that the rebels are not committed to ending their insurgency in northern Uganda.
"We are serious! Let me tell you we are very serious about the peace talks. General Joseph Kony has told the world and President Joachim Chissano and everybody that when conditions are conducive on the ground, we shall sign the agreement. But at the moment the conditions are not very conducive for general Joseph Kony to settle down and sign an agreement because he is being attacked by MONUC (United Nations mission in DRC) and some elements of the DRC. We cannot sign an agreement when we are under an attack, and which we are defending ourselves against. And we have said it that we are serious about the peace process," Matsanga pointed out.
He denied the LRA is involved in kidnapping children and using them as child soldiers.
"First of all I would want to address this question of child kidnapping and so on and so forth. I would like to categorically tell you that in the places that I have crosschecked with MONUC, I have crosschecked with UNICEF and all the places they alleged the LRA is kidnapping the children. But there are other private militias that are operating in Congo and the government of Congo should check and MONUC should check on these private militias, which are fighting and attacking civilians. The LRA soldiers are not in those areas," he said.