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UGANDA: Gov't, rebels to resume talks soon - minister

KAMPALA, 13 March 2007 (IRIN) - The Ugandan government and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have agreed to resume peace talks after two months of uncertainty following a rebel demand that the talks be moved from south Sudan, whose leadership was mediating.

"We have agreed that the mediation of the southern Sudan government is going to be beefed up with South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo," Interior Minister Ruhakana Rugunda told reporters in Kampala on Tuesday, after returning from south Sudan, where he led a government team that met the LRA leadership, including rebel leader Joseph Kony.

In January, the rebels pulled out of talks being held in south Sudan's capital, Juba, demanding a new venue and new mediators, on the grounds that they had lost confidence in the mediators. The government dismissed the demands as a "time-wasting ploy" by the LRA.

Rugunda said, however, the issue of the venue for the talks had been resolved at a meeting in the bush near Sudan's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and it was agreed that the talks, aimed at ending two decades of conflict in northern Uganda, would continue in Juba.

"Both parties agreed to resume talks and proposed another meeting that will be convened within the next two weeks for preliminary discussions," said Rugunda, the first senior government official to have met Kony. "Legitimate issues raised by the LRA will be handled and resolved," he said.

"The government of Uganda is working for an early resumption of the peace talks. We also remain committed to an expeditious conclusion of a peace agreement which will usher in durable and lasting peace in northern Uganda, which will ensure peace and justice; see the end of our people living in IDP [internally displaced persons] camps and resettling in their villages to rebuild their homes and lead normal and productive lives," Rugunda added.

The government team that met the LRA leaders last weekend was accompanied by representatives from Mozambique, the DRC and South Africa.

Previous rounds of the peace talks, which started in July 2006, led to the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement in August. The truce lapsed at the end of February, but northern Ugandan has remained calm.

According to aid agencies, an estimated 230,000 internally displaced people in northern Ugandan returned to their villages in 2006 thanks to improved security once the talks began. 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.




Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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