UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UGANDA: Govt calls for pressure on rebels to resume peace talks
KAMPALA, 9 Feb 2007 (IRIN) - Ugandan authorities on Friday urged the international community to pressure the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to rejoin peace talks with the government.
The LRA announced in January it was pulling out of peace talks mediated by the government of South Sudan in the city of Juba, following comments by Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir that the group was no longer welcome on Sudanese territory. The LRA leadership demanded a "neutral venue" for the talks, suggesting that Kenya or South Africa should mediate.
"We call upon the international community for all pressure to be exerted on the LRA to resume the peace talks," Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa told reporters.
He said South Sudan should continue facilitating the peace talks in Juba.
"The LRA came up with two states, Kenya and South Africa, as their chosen venues. I am happy to tell you that both states have said they will not host the talks," said Kutesa. "That is part of the international support we request and I call upon the LRA to embrace the peace talks," he added.
The two sides signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in August 2006. Under the terms of that pact, LRA fighters were required to assemble at designated sites in southern Sudan during the course of the talks.
In a related development, leaders from northern Uganda's Acholi ethnic group, the community most affected by the conflict, plan to have a meeting in Juba in a bid to salvage the peace talks, according to Gulu Resident District Commissioner, Walter Ochora. The meeting will be chaired by Acholi paramount chief Rwot David Onen Acana.
According to aid agencies, an estimated 230,000 internally displaced people in the region returned to their villages in northern Uganda in 2006 thanks to improved security following the start of talks between the government and the LRA. However, up to 1.2 million more remain in camps, while some have moved to satellite camps nearer their villages to gain access to their farms.
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