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Ceasefire Between Ugandan Government, Rebels Expires

28 February 2007

The deadline for the Ugandan government and a northern rebel group to renew a provisional ceasefire expires Wednesday. Both sides accuse the other of refusing to resume peace talks that would come up with a permanent peace agreement. Cathy Majtenyi reports from Nairobi.

The Ugandan government and the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group were to have reviewed and renewed the cessation of hostilities agreement they signed last year and, hopefully, come up with a permanent peace agreement arrived at through peace talks.

But the talks, which began in the southern Sudanese town of Juba last July, were patchy at best and eventually broke down.

It is unclear what will happen to the agreement or the peace talks after Wednesday, the deadline of when the two were supposed to have renewed the agreement.

Rebel spokesman Obonyo Olweny describes to VOA the situation.

"The ceasefire, the cessation of hostilities agreement, remains valid," he said. "So the two forces - the LRA and the UPDF [Ugandan army], the government of Uganda, are still obligated to observe the cessation of hostilities. But then, we must continue pressing for a resumption of the talks."

But media reports quote a top rebel official as saying the rebels will not renew the ceasefire.

Presidential advisor John Nagenda accuses the rebels of not wanting to resume the peace talks. He says, if the rebels do not return to the table soon, the talks will be over and so will the ceasefire.

"The whole reason there's a ceasefire was because the talks were going on - that is why there's a ceasefire. If these people have left the talks, how can they expect the ceasefire to continue," he asked.

Both the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government are deadlocked over the location of the talks.

The rebels accuse Sudanese negotiators of being biased and say they are willing to hold talks only in Kenya, South Africa, or another location outside of Juba, while the government insists it will only negotiate in Juba.

They also accuse each other of refusing to continue the peace talks, not negotiating in good faith, stalling for time to build up their armies, and violating the ceasefire.

The Lord's Resistance Army rose up in northern Uganda in the late 1980s to fight what they said was political repression.

They are said to have committed brutal atrocities, including kidnapping tens of thousands of children and indiscriminately killing, raping and attacking the local population.

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