UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UGANDA: Gov't to send team to Sudan over proposed LRA talks
KAMPALA, 28 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - Uganda has been formally invited by the government of southern Sudan to attend peace talks with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group whose brutal attacks, mostly directed at civilians, have wreaked havoc in northern Uganda over the last two decades.
"The invitation has been sent to us and we are preparing to send a technical team to meet with [southern Sudan's] President Salva Kiir and also sort out issues to do with the format of the talks, the agenda, the composition of delegations, and other procedural issues," said James Mugume, the permanent secretary in the Ugandan foreign ministry.
The southern Sudanese administration is trying to broker a peace deal between the Ugandan government and the LRA.
Mugume said that the technical team would try to establish whether the LRA was genuine in its latest peace overtures. Kampala, he added, was still emphatic that Ugandan government representatives would not talk to LRA officials already indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). LRA leader Joseph Kony and four of his is top commanders have been indicted by the ICC.
Denying reports that Kampala was not keen on reaching a peaceful settlement with the LRA, he added: "Nobody here is reluctant to go for talks, but it is a question of interest. We have interests that we follow. We are looking at many issues. For example, we must make sure that we are not taken for a ride."
Since 1988, when the LRA took over leadership of a two-year-old rebellion against the Ugandan government, it has terrorised the civilian population by abducting thousands of boys and girls and forcing them into a life of violence, forced combat and servitude.
The conflict is concentrated in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira and Apac, where close to two million people live in more than 200 camps, relying heavily on humanitarian assistance to survive.
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