UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UGANDA: LRA rebels should just surrender - Museveni
KAMPALA, 27 Jan 2005 (IRIN) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Wednesday his army had defeated the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, whom he advised to surrender, saying no retribution awaited them.
In an address to the nation marking the 19th anniversary of his rise to power, Museveni made no reference to on-going peace efforts aimed at ending the 18-year war between the military and the LRA, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in northern Uganda.
There had been a glimmer of hope on Tuesday that the peace process might be moving ahead when the chief mediator, former Ugandan minister Betty Bigombe, announced that "by the end of the week, both sides will have agreed on a date when to sign a ceasefire agreement".
Museveni said: "Kony's group has been completely defeated and its remnants are simply fugitives whom we are capturing day by day [.] Those still remaining in the bush should come out now, because they have nothing to fear."
Museveni took power on January 26, 1986 after a five-year bush war. A few months later, armed men - mostly from the defeated government army - began a rebellion in the north of the country.
In 1987, an agreement was reached between Museveni's government and the main rebel Uganda People's Defence Army. However, some of the rebels joined a new group, the Holy Spirit Movement led by Priestess Alice Lakwena, which later gave rise to the LRA.
In his address, Museveni outlined his government's achievements over the past 19 years, including turning around the economy and improving social sectors, such as education and health.
While war raged in southern Sudan, the LRA used the neighbouring country as a rear base, with the Ugandan government accusing its Sudanese counterpart of supporting the rebels. The Khartoum government, in turn, accused Uganda of backing a Sudanese rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).
However, agreements between the two governments, and between Khartoum and the SPLM/A have left the LRA increasingly isolated.
At Wednesday's celebrations, SPLM/A leader John Garang pledged to work towards peace in northern Uganda.
"We have just achieved peace in southern Sudan," Garang said. "We will now work towards peace in northern Uganda - the people there, and Uganda as a whole, are also my people."
The Ugandan government and the LRA had been expected to sign a peace deal on 31 December 2004, but the process collapsed when the rebels asked for more time to consult on a draft agreement the government had proposed.
The government then launched a new military offensive against the rebels, but Bigombe kept up her mediation effort, meeting rebel leaders in northern Uganda, where they are based.
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