Uganda demands Lord’s Resistance rebels disarm

JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) – Ugandan negotiators at talks to end one of Africa’s longest wars demanded on Sunday that Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels disarm and hand over all their weapons in order to receive amnesty.

Tentative talks to end the guerrillas’ brutal two-decade insurgency began in earnest on Sunday, mediated by the government of neighboring southern Sudan.

Uganda’s government said it welcomed the rebels’ decision to attend, but called on them to abandon “all forms of terrorism” before being re-integrated into civilian life, according to a copy of the Ugandan demands seen by Reuters.

It called on the rebel group to “dissolve itself and hand over all arms and ammunitions in its possession together with their inventory (and) assemble in agreed locations where they will be demobilized, disarmed and documented.”

It said resettlement and retraining would be given to former fighters who wanted it, and that the government would work with northern Uganda’s cultural and religious leaders to reconcile the ex-combatants with their local community.

The demands reiterated that any deal would have to be reached before September 12. Talks are due to resume on Monday.

The top five LRA leaders are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Despite that, Uganda’s government said it took a “painful” decision to offer amnesty, despite objections from the international community.

South Sudan’s regional government says it wants to broker an end to the LRA’s conflict, which has killed tens of thousands, uprooted nearly 2 million people in northern Uganda and destabilized south Sudan, itself emerging from war.

For years the cult-like rebels have raided both sides of the Uganda-Sudan border. And late last year they set up camps in the lawless jungles of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, fuelling rampant insecurity in the region.

Earlier on Sunday, the Ugandan negotiators had demanded the rebels withdraw corruption claims and threats to continue fighting that the Ugandan team said were “absolutely unacceptable” and “completely out of touch with reality.”

The LRA had surprised many at Friday’s opening ceremony in the southern capital Juba when they accused Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s government of war-mongering, graft, ethnic bias and political persecution.

At least a dozen previous attempts to end the war through dialogue have failed, most recently early last year.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Reuters, via the Washington Post, USA
July 16, 2006
Daniel Wallis

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday July 17, 2006.
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