Uganda President, Yoweri Museveni's government is dismissing as nonsensical demands by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels for an immediate ceasefire. The rebels are calling for the end to a joint regional military offensive against its forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, urging United Nations mediators to organize fresh peace negotiations. But the Kampala government says the only way out of the joint military operation against the rebels would be for the leader of the rebels to sign a final peace deal with the government.
The joint regional military force comprising troops from Southern Sudan, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo recently launched a military offensive against the LRA after rebel leader Joseph Kony repeatedly failed to sign a final peace deal with Kampala. The final peace deal if signed by Kony would end more than two decades of rebel insurgency in northern Uganda. Uganda's information minister Kirunda Kivejinja tells reporter Peter Clottey that it is ridiculous for the rebels to be making demands after failing repeatedly to sign a peace deal.
"Our government view has not changed. We reached all the agreement and all what we need is for Kony to come and sign the final peace deal. Once he signs the peace deal, there would be no more attacks. So we are actually directing where he should go," Kivejinja noted.
He compared pressuring rebel leader Kony to sign the peace deal to how one controls a herd of cattle.
"Have you ever reared cattle? What do you do when they are straying? That is exactly what we are doing with Kony. We want him to move directly where he belongs and then that would be the end of the story. When he comes and appends his signature to the peace document, then we go by the terms of the agreement," he said.
Kivejinja suggested that there would only be a halt in the military offensive against the rebels if the rebel leader meets his obligations and signs the final peace deal.
"That is what you do to cows. If it strays, you don't allow it to go and stray into other people's garden, and then ultimately, you would lose those cattle," Kivejinja pointed out.
He described the rebels' demand for an immediate ceasefire as useless.
"The demands are uncalled for, baseless, and useless if you were to ask me because the journey towards peace is already laid out in the peace negotiations," he said.
Kivejinja said the government would remove the international arrest warrants against top commanders of the rebels if the rebel leader signs the final peace deal according to the tenets of the April 2008 agreement.
"As soon as he signs the final peace deal, then we move to the second phase of how we extricate him from the ICC (International Criminal Court). And we have already laid out our legal system to accommodate it," Kivejinja said.
He said the government would be flouting the terms of the agreement if Kampala goes ahead to have the ICC arrest warrants removed before rebel leader Kony signs the final peace deal.
"How can we do that, because that is the terms of the agreement? It says that Kony would have to sign the peace deal before we have the ICC-issued warrants against him and his rebels to be removed by the International Criminal Court," he said.
Kivejinja reiterated that the joint military attack on rebel positions would be halted if Kony signs the final peace deal.
"We were even expecting him to have signed the peace deal yesterday. So if he goes back to the peace table and signs the agreement, then all his problems of confrontations and what-nots would go away," Kivejinja said.
Some military experts say the joint military raid has backfired. While targeting LRA camps in remote parts of the DRC, it has failed to capture or kill Kony. Additionally, they point out, the action has provoked retaliatory raids by the rebels against Congo's civilian population, local officials, and rights groups