Hope for a peaceful end to the northern conflict was renewed yesterday when the Government negotiators handed over an improved version of the proposed ceasefire agreement to the LRA leader, Joseph Kony.
Internal affairs minister Ruhakana Rugunda said, “We have made a lot of progress today. We are on course.”
He said the rebels had received an improved memorandum of understanding for their comment. He said chief mediator Betty Bigombe delivered the memorandum.
Rugunda said it was “a question of time” before full negotiations commenced since the Government had taken the rebels’ interests into account. “We have built enough confidence,” he said.
An equally upbeat Bigombe said, “We are waiting for another response from them and then we shall move on.
“The whole thing looks very promising. We are continuing to explore more contact with
the LRA with a view to a peaceful settlement to this conflict. It is a question of time.”
Bigombe brokered the abortive talks with the LRA in 1994.
Bigombe and Rugunda would not give the details of the revised ceasefire agreement and how it was delivered to the rebels.
Hope of a peaceful settlement of the 18-year-long bloody conflict evaporated on December 31, 2004 when the LRA failed to respond, prompting President Yoweri Museveni to order an offensive against the rebels.
The war has displaced about 1.6 million people and maimed thousands.
Bigombe, the Acholi religious and civic leaders, and Rugunda last week met Kony’s negotiators led by his spokesperson, Brig. Sam Kolo, to agree on a ceasefire ahead of fullscale peace talks.
Opposition politicians accused the Government of not allowing the rebels ample time to consider the peace terms.
Religious leaders called for patience and urged the government not to abandon the peace process. Museveni said talks would continue outside Uganda as the army pursued the rebels.
The UPDF has reoccupied the 100 square kilometre truce area in Palabek and Adodi, north of Agem and Amogi hills, east of River Aswa and south of Lagaya, in Kitgum.
The uninhabited area, mainly a wilderness of rolling savannah grassland fortified by thorny acacia trees, extends to the Uganda-Sudan border.
Army spokesman Shaban bantariza said it was business as usual. “We are conducting a cordon, search and destroy operation in northern Uganda and southern Sudan.
“But we encourage those who want to surrender to take advantage of our goodwill,” he said.