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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
03 July 2006

UGANDA: Gov't, LRA to hold talks despite ICC indictments

KAMPALA, 3 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - The Uganda government is ready to hold peace talks with the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) despite indictments issued against its leaders by the International Criminal Court (ICC), a spokesman said on Monday.

Announcing the departure of a government delegation to a meeting with the rebels in southern Sudan, deputy premier and information minister, Kirunda Kivejinja said: "If [LRA leader Joseph] Kony has announced his intention for peace. That's our problem. It is not a problem of the international community. The Hague [ICC headquarters] is not under our control and we are not under its control. Each can act independently."

He told reporters at a news conference in the capital, Kampala, that the Ugandan government was ready to talk to the rebels and had sent the delegation for preliminary consultations. The LRA stands accused of mass murder and abduction of thousands of children in its two-decade violent campaign in northern Uganda.

"We are ready for the peace talks. When the rebels said they wanted peace, we responded and raised a team for the talks," said Kivejinja. The government of southern Sudan is mediating between the Ugandan government and the LRA. Kivejinja, however, said that Kampala will maintain a double-pronged approach to ending the conflict in the north, noting that the military option remained open.

"The government position has not changed. And that is to take up the military option as we engage in talks to end the war," he said. "We have sent the team today [Monday] and it is an indication that we want to end the war through peace, which has eluded us for the past 20 years. We hope that this time around, peace will come," he added.

He claimed that Kampala had no jurisdiction to carry out the arrests of rebel leaders representing the LRA in the talks in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba nor was it under obligation from the ICC to execute the tribunal's arrest warrants.

"Kony is not under our jurisdiction. Kony is under the jurisdiction of the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] and the United Nations who can arrest and hand him over for trial. We cannot borrow other people's jurisdiction," said Kivejinja.

The Uganda delegation to the talks is headed by Interior Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and junior minister for international relations, Okello Oryem.

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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