Uganda Lord?s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels have condemned as baseless and unwarranted a statement by President Yoweri Museveni?s government that it has an alternative solution if the ongoing peace talks should fail in Juba, Southern Sudan. The rebels claim the government?s statement could have a negative impact on the peace negotiations. They are also calling on the government to retract the statement and reprimand the defense minister for making a statement, which they describe as very offensive.
David Matsanga is the LRA?s technical advisor on ICC issues. From the Kenyan capital, Nairobi en route to London, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that a rebel commitment to peace talks should be taken seriously.
?We are committed to the peace process, and we want the peace process to be concluded as soon as possible. And there is no need of issuing statements that can provoke the situation where we shall lose peace. So, statements like that coming from the Honorable Minister? are meant to create a discomfort among our population, and that should not be allowed to be taken as the benchmark for anything to do with the peace process in Juba,? Matsanga noted.
He said a recently signed agreement between the government and the rebels prevents any of the two parties from provoking each other.
?We have already signed the cessation of hostilities agreement. The cessation of hostilities agreement includes any hostile propaganda against each party. We have not made any hostile propaganda against the government of Uganda. We have kept our agreement. Statements of that nature from the government of Uganda, where they are implying that they have other ways of solving this conflict other than being on the peace process in Juba are wrong statements and should be condemned by all peace lovers worldwide,? he said.
Matsanga said the LRA not only condemns the statement as unfortunate, but that the rebels? commitment to the peace talks should not be misconstrued as weakness.
?Our bone of contention is you see agreeing to negotiate should not mean that we are weak. The government knows very well that we are not determined to go on any other route other than the peaceful route. So they should not make such statements that are going to bring another quarrel in the peace process of this nation,? Matsanga noted.
He said the rebels take an exception to the government?s statement that it has an alternative solution if the current peace talks in Juba between the government and the rebels should collapse.
?The Lord Resistance Army does not work on empty promises, it works on facts on the ground. Our position on the ground is that we have signed an agreement with the government of Uganda to cease hostilities; we have moved on to sign an agreement on comprehensive solution, accountability and reconciliation. We are looking at the picture; we are not looking at statements of empty people who have given empty deadlines for 21 years,? he said.
Matsanga said he has been mandated by the rebel high command to condemn the statement from President Yoweri Museveni?s government.
?The minister should be reprimanded by her government for making such a statement, and this should not be accepted. That is why I have been told and mandated by the high command to tell the world that we are committed to the peace process, and we shall continue to be in the peace process. We shall not entertain hostile propaganda, either by media or that comes from the government of Uganda that has signed all those arrangements,? he pointed out.