Uganda?s government and the rebel Lord?s Resistance Army (LRA) have signed agreement, which effectively, extends for two months the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in August last year. This follows persuasion by former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano to jump-start the stalled peace talks. In the new deal, signed over the weekend, the rebels have three weeks to assemble in Ri-Kwangbe, a town in Southern Sudan.
From the capital, Kampala, Ugandan Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda tells the Voice of America when the new deadline for cessation of hostilities will end and a resumption of talks will start.
?Yesterday at Ri-Kwangbe in Southern Sudan near the Congo border, the Uganda government delegation and Lord?s Resistance Army delegation extended the cessation of hostilities agreement for another two months. And this would be up to the end of June, and also agreed to resume the peace talks in Juba on the 26th of this month,? he said.
Rugunda said the meeting was friendly with no hostility.
?The meeting was cordial, it lasted two days and was convened and chaired by President Chissano who is the UN Secretary General?s envoy to the LRA affected areas, and was attended by Joseph Kony, the chairman of the LRA, and his second in command Vincent Otti and of course attended by the delegation of Uganda government and also the Vice President of the government of Southern Sudan Riek Machar, who has been the chief mediator, and will continue to be the chief mediator,? Rugunda pointed out.
He said issues the rebels raised at the meeting are being addressed.
?Basically, the Lord?s Resistance Army had raised issues concerning administrative matters around the talks in Juba, but those have been systematically and properly resolved,? Rugunda noted.
He said it was agreed that the LRA fighters would assemble in one area in Southern Sudan.
?We did agree that with the approval of the government of Southern Sudan the Lord?s Resistance Army would have one assembly area in Southern Sudan, and that would be at Ri-Kwangbe on the western bank of river Nile. And they would now therefore move from Owiny Kibul, which is on the eastern bank of river Nile and move to assemble all of them at one assembly area at Ri-Kwangbe,? he said.
Rugunda said the government is hopeful of finding a lasting peace with the rebels.
?We are optimistic, and we think the prospects are good,? he said.