Uganda peace team meets LRA rebels at border

SUDAN/CONGO BORDER, July 29 (Reuters) – The deputy leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) ventured out of the bush on Saturday for a meeting on the Sudan-Congo border with a delegation seeking to persuade the group to agree to peace.

Laughing and cracking jokes, south Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar — who wants to broker a deal to end the two-decade insurgency — sat under a tree in a plastic chair to receive the LRA’s internationally wanted second in command, Vincent Otti.

The LRA has previously launched attacks in northern Uganda from bases in south Sudan, a region which has won autonomy under a 2005 peace deal with the Sudanese government in Khartoum.

Machar’s delegation included wives and children of LRA rebel commanders keen to persuade their men to lay down their arms.

About 40 rebels, some in their early teens and many wearing their trademark dreadlocks and mismatched fatigues, stood guard as the relatives, elders and religious leaders from northern Uganda and southern Sudan waited to speak to Otti.

“We want peace,” one LRA captain, who gave his name as Sunday, told elders who assembled under a white tent in the clearing, which lies almost exactly on Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Journalists were allowed to attend on condition that they did not reveal the exact location.

Otti had swapped his uniform for a light coloured short-sleeved shirt and trousers, although other senior LRA officers there kept their green fatigues.

Soldiers from south Sudan’s rebels-turned-military, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, also stood guard in the clearing, where they had slashed grass and set up thatched huts.

LRA leader Joseph Kony did not attend the start of the meeting and it was unclear whether he would come later.

The delegation wants to convince Kony he will be safe to go back to his native Uganda if he agrees to a peace deal that LRA representatives and Uganda’s government hope to reach in south Sudan’s capital of Juba.

On Monday, the talks adjourned for a week of consultations.

Both Otti and Kony are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, but Uganda has promised to protect LRA leaders if a deal is reached.

The LRA set up bases in southern Sudan during the mid-1990s before shifting to the jungles of lawless northeastern Congo.

The cult-like insurgency is accused of killing civilians and mutilating victims in its brutal war against Uganda’s government, which has uprooted nearly two million people in the north and killed tens of thousands.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Reuters, via AlertNet, UK
July 29, 2006
Matthew Green
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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday July 31, 2006.
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