Peace negotiations between Uganda?s government and Lord?s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels aimed at resolving more than two decades of a rebel insurgency continue Thursday in the Southern Sudanese capital, Juba. During discussions Wednesday, both sides agreed to a month extension of the ceasefire agreement after the Uganda government demanded the rebels sign a ceasefire agreement before the end of month or face military action. Meanwhile, a US representative is reportedly in Juba to be an observer at the ongoing talks.
The rebels had requested the United States, United Nations, and other international organizations send representatives to act as observers. They contended that President Yoweri Museveni had flouted previous agreements, but the government dismissed the accusations, saying it is committed to finding a lasting solution to the northern Uganda conflict.
From the Southern Sudanese capital, Juba, rebel delegation leader David Matsanga tells reporter Peter Clottey that they are so far pleased negotiations are continuing.
?The peace talks started yesterday and they are going to continue today to look at all the items we have listed on the agenda. But yesterday we signed one major item of the extension of the cessation of hostilities agreement. This is the agreement that the world has been waiting for. You are aware that (Uganda?s president) Museveni has been threatening us and threatening the LRA and giving them a deadline of 31st of January 2008. But we have managed to steer and sign an agreement of an extension, which gives us up to another one month of which we shall review after that one the cessation of hostilities agreement,? Matsanga noted.
He said the rebels would be looking forward to today?s peace negotiations with the government with optimism.
?As far as we are concerned, the deadline of 31st of January, 2008 is zero, is null and void. Therefore, we shall proceed with our peace talks this morning, today, Thursday, to look at the implementation protocols,? he said.
Matsanga said the rebel delegation would table a discussion on the genesis of the northern Uganda conflict.
?We shall look at comprehensive solutions, the root causes of the war. These are very, very important things. Why did the war take place? These are questions for which the government of Uganda must give us an explanation. My delegation is going to scrutinize word-by-word most of all these things to create a protocol that would prevent any future person from getting guns and coming in a region to kill others, like what happened when the government President Museveni came from southern Uganda to go and kill the people of northern Uganda, forcing them to defend themselves,? Matsanga pointed out.
He said the rebel delegation is pleased with the ongoing talks with the government.
?Since yesterday, we put up a very strong statement of about seven pages. And we actually outshined the government side, which did not have any position to put on the table. We thank the international community for supporting this peace process. We were informed that the American government has now sent an observer officially through (mediator) Dr. Riek Machar, who told us today,? he said.