Ugandan government and South Sudan officials are scrambling to save what appears to be fast-collapsing peace talks with the Lord?s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. This followed LRA commander Joseph Kony?s failure last week to sign a final peace deal that would have ended the 22 year-old rebel war in northern Uganda. Also, LRA chief peace negotiator David Matsanga resigned last week or was fired by Kony.
Meanwhile, the cessation of hostilities agreement between the LRA and the Ugandan government expires Tuesday. Against this background, President Yoweri Museveni traveled to South Sudan Monday to confer with President Salva Kiir Mayardit on the way forward for the peace talks.
Ruhakana Rugunda is head of the Ugandan government negotiating team. He told VOA Presidents Museveni and Mayardit are determined to salvage the peace talks.
?The two leaders reviewed the peace process in Juba on the conflict in northern Uganda and did resolve to continue giving support to the peaceful resolution of the conflict,? he said.
He said Museveni and Myardit did not reach any decision on the way forward following LRA leader Joseph Kony?s failure last week to sign a final peace deal that would have ended the 22 year-old rebel war in northern Uganda.
?There was not a full report because the chief mediator, His Excellency Riek Machar, the vice president of the government of South Sudan is still in Ri-Kwangba and Garamba hoping to make contact with Joseph Kony. So it is only after he has come back and given a full report that the two leaders will be able to make a final decision on the matter,? Rugunda said.
Rugunda also said Museveni and Mayardit are waiting to hear from former Mozambique President and U.N. envoy to the Uganda conflict, Joaquim Chissano about the way forward.
?The two leaders also would like to take into account a full and comprehensive report from President Chissano who is the special envoy of the U.N. Secretary General to the Lord?s Resistance Army affected areas in the region,? he said.
There are unconfirmed reports that LRA leader Kony did not sign the final agreement because he might have killed his new deputy Okot Odhiambo over disagreement about the peace process.
Rugunda said the Ugandan government is investigating the report that Kony might have killed his new deputy.
?We have seen it in the media, but we do not have any confirmation. We do not accept things that we just see in the media. We would like to verify the information. So it?s a matter that we are following and investigating to establish the facts,? Rugunda said.
Rugunda would not say whether the resignation or firing of LRA chief peace negotiator David Matsanga would have any direct effect on the peace talks. However, he said Matsanga made a significant contribution to the peace process.
?Each side chooses its own delegation. Therefore the Lord?s Resistance Army has the right to change and select its delegation the way it desires. However, the fact of the matter is Dr. Nyekorach Matsanga as leader of the Lord?s Resistance Army delegation to the peace talks made a useful contribution to the progress of the peace process. And he was removed by Kony. The fact of the matter is he left a mark as somebody who made his own contribution to the talks and the peace process,? Rugunda said.
Rugunda said the cessation of hostilities agreement between the LRA and the Ugandan government, which was set to expire Tuesday, would remain in effect until Presidents Museveni and Mayardit have reviewed it.
?It is true that the two leaders will review the matter of the cessation of peace agreement after getting a comprehensive report from Dr. Chief Riek Machar and also President Chissano,? he said.