Uganda still committed to peace talks with rebels

The Ugandan government is still committed to talks with the country’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels despite the resumption of military operations to flush out the elusive group, a minister said on Tuesday.

“We have maintained contacts and we are still negotiating,” Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said. “The talks have not collapsed.”

He added that the government wanted peace talks to be held abroad, but gave no location.

Fighting between Ugandan troops and LRA rebels resumed on January 1 after a temporary ceasefire to facilitate peace talks ended. President Yoweri Museveni said in a New Year message that the army would attack the LRA until it vowed to disarm.

Both sides have been holding talks in the remote Kitgum district of northern Uganda on the Uganda-Sudan border, with leaders from the LRA, government ministers and senior clergymen meeting top mediator Betty Bigombe.

The talks, the first in more than a decade, were made possible by a temporary truce that ran out on December 31 and have raised hopes of an end to the 18-year insurgency which has forced some 1.6 million people from their homes.

Spanish priest Father Carlos Rodriquez, involved in the talks, said the mediating team was expected to meet Museveni on Wednesday.

“We will meet the president on Wednesday so that we can debate what is next. The main issue we want him to resolve is extending the ceasefire at least for the next one week,” Father Carlos said.

Diplomats say the United States and Britain, two major donor countries, have been exerting behind-the-scenes pressure on Kampala to stick with the negotiations.

The cult-like LRA has abducted more than 20,000 children according to World Vision, forcing boys to fight on the frontlines and taking girls to use as sex slaves.

Neither LRA leader Joseph Kony, a self-proclaimed prophet, his senior commanders, nor Museveni have attended the talks.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Reuters, via The Standard (Kenya), USA
Jan. 5, 2005

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday January 5, 2005.
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