UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UGANDA: Unilateral rebel ceasefire unacceptable - gov't
KAMPALA, 9 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - Talks between Ugandan officials and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), due to resume in the southern Sudanese town of Juba, have been delayed by a disagreement over the recent announcement of a unilateral ceasefire by the rebels, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.
The LRA, which announced a ceasefire on Friday, has insisted it will not return to the negotiating table until the government too declares a ceasefire. The government, however, has rejected the demand.
"We believe in a ceasefire that has rules and a framework, but those announced unilaterally on radio may not have any basis and framework for implementation," the government spokesman, Robert Kabushenga, said. "Discussions must be held and an agreement reached."
Saying some mechanisms had to be followed before agreeing to a ceasefire, the spokesman added that Kampala wanted a ceasefire with specific terms outlining what could constitute its violation. The government also proposes the establishment of a ceasefire-monitoring team comprising the rebels, Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army. It also wants the rebels to agree to assemble at designated areas where they could be supplied with food.
"These are fighters who have no source of food and if they are not fed, they have to make raids for food and this will result in a breach of the ceasefire," Kabushenga told IRIN. "Things like recruitment, abduction, acquisition of arms and hostile propaganda would constitute a breach of the ceasefire."
According to the Ugandan government, Friday’s declaration by LRA leader Joseph Kony, through his deputy Vincent Otti, would preempt the agenda for the peace talks.
"We came here for the talks and these talks have an agenda and we shall follow that agenda," Ugandan Interior Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, who has been leading the government delegation since 14 July, said on Wednesday from Juba. The next item on the docket, he added, was the cessation of hostilities.
Ugandan officials have accused the LRA of using previous ceasefires to re-group, re-arm and recruit new fighters.
Rugunda also said the LRA delegation was incomplete. "As far as we are concerned, the LRA delegation is not complete. When the LRA delegation is complete, we shall start the talks," he said.
Kampala's delegation returned to Juba on Monday expecting an immediate restart of the talks after several hitches, including the refusal of senior LRA commanders to attend. Sources said Kony and Otti rejected appeals by Sudanese mediators to participate, fearing arrest, because they have been indicted on war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Thousands of people have been killed and almost two million displaced in northern Uganda since the LRA took leadership of a regional rebellion in the Acholi sub-region in 1988.
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