The Ugandan Government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army are to sign a ceasefire today, opening the way for an end to a bloody 18-year insurgency.
The rebels, whose only stated aim is to rule the east African country by the biblical Ten Commandments, have rampaged through the north of Uganda, attacking civilians, kidnapping children and forcing 1.6 million people to flee to refugee camps.
Both sides expressed hope the ceasefire would bring an end to a war described by the UN as the world’s most-neglected humanitarian emergency.
“This is a very important day because the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels have just agreed to sign the agreement to end hostility before this year ends,” said the chief negotiator and former government minister, Betty Bigombe.
The talks were held on the Uganda-Sudan border, with rebel leaders, government ministers and senior clergymen meeting Ms Bigombe.
It was not immediately clear what concessions, if any, either side made to secure the ceasefire, which Ms Bigombe said would not be limited by time or scope unlike previous cessations in hostilities.
Neither the rebel leader, Joseph Kony, a dreadlocked self-proclaimed prophet, nor President Yoweri Museveni attended the talks.
“If the Government continues showing us what it has just shown us, then the suffering will soon end,” said Brigadier Sam Kolo, leading the rebel delegation.
His forces routinely target civilians, slicing off the lips and ears of their victims and kidnapping thousands of children who are forced to work as porters, fighters and sex slaves.
The peace talks are the first in more than a decade. It was also the first time journalists had met top leaders of the elusive insurgency.
“If we were really killers … we could kill you all now for nothing but that’s not our aim. We are committed to peace 100 per cent,” Brigadier Kolo told the negotiators.
The United Nations has suspended food deliveries to the troubled Sudanese Darfur region following outbreaks of rebel violence and retaliation by the Government.