The chief negotiator in Uganda’s peace talks with the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Ruhakana Rugunda, says his government will continue to respect a landmark truce with the rebels. The agreement, which expired yesterday, is scheduled for review this week. Rugunda, who is also the minister of Internal Affairs, says the agreement has been a success despite delays in its implementation. Under the truce, which came into effect on August 29th, LRA rebels had three weeks to assemble at Ri-Kwangba and Owiny-Ki-Bul, both in southern Sudan while negotiators continued to work on a final deal in Juba, Sudan.
Hundreds of LRA fighters have emerged from their hideouts in northern Uganda and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to mutually agreed assembly zones.
Before a new deadline is set, Rugunda called on both parties to continue respecting the terms and conditions of the cessation of hostilities agreement although it has expired.
Sources say during a meeting between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the government peace team on Monday, the parties were satisfied with the overall conduct of LRA rebels, thus far.
Rugunda reiterated that his government is committed to the peace process and does not intend to trap the rebels in any form, despite what had been reported in the Ugandan media on Tuesday.
Ruhakana Rugunda spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the press conference.
“It was really a press conference to brief the country on the progress of I made in the peace process to ensure that the conflict ends in northern Uganda. And that other people who are in camps, can go to their homes and also to give a soft landing to the Lord’s resistance army members to come back home and lead normal lives,” he said.
He explained why his government intends reviewing the peace agreement with the rebels.
“The agreement says that, at the expire of three weeks, there would a be a review by both parties to see the performance of the agreement. And in deed within next few days in Juba, the government and the Lord’s resistance army under the mediation of the government of southern Sudan, will review the agreement, see how is has performed, weaknesses, with the view to strengthening those weaknesses and successes. And to see how to consolidate those successes and gains for the peace process,” he noted.
He further clarified the government 's view on the progress of the peace agreement.
“Well really, we think the performance has been quite good. Bearing in mind that the various logistical and other obstacles that the implementation faces,” he noted.
He adds that the Ugandan government is devoted to the peace agreement.
“There is no equivocation, there is no doubt about the commitment of government and in fact it is government that made a proposal that with all the truce was ending today. All parties concerned that is ourselves in government, Lord’s resistance army, and the government of southern Sudan should agree that the agreement should continue to be effective. Until it is properly reviewed by the parties concerned. So really, government is very committed, and government if you want, is spear heading the process, thanks of course to the mediation y the government of southern Sudan, which initiated this process. But which process was embraced by the government of Uganda,” he said.
Rugunda said that President Yoweri Museveni plans to announce a team that would put into practice the traditional justice system that has been proposed to replace the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments against the five LRA commanders, including Joseph Kony.
“Well its is true that, this matter has got legal, cultural and traditional ramifications. And consequently, there is need for eminent lawyers; eminent people in traditional practices, and eminent personalities do play important roles as stakeholders and do share their knowledge and experience towards the success of the peace process. So it is true that president Museveni will be in due course appointing a team of such people to help the process of restoring peace to northern Uganda,” he noted.
Rugunda also said that he had had telephone interaction with Otti and to his judgment the contacts have been very important because there is an increased level of cordiality during their discussions. He adds that their discussions have been very good and that there is more confidence and more hope.Let us know what you think of this report and other stories on our website. Send your views to AFRICA@VOANEWS.COM, and include your phone number. Or, call us here in Washington, DC at (202) 205-9942. After you hear the VOA identification, press 30 to leave a message. We want to hear what you have to say!