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UGANDA: Officials head to Sudan for meeting with LRA leaders over stalled talks

KAMPALA, 10 July 2008 (IRIN) - A Ugandan government delegation is heading for Ri-Kwangba in southwestern Sudan to meet the leaders of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in a fresh attempt to convince them to sign a peace deal, officials said.

Deputy leader of the government negotiating team, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem, told IRIN by phone on 10 July that the meeting was scheduled for 12 and 13 July.

“Our aim is to give [LRA leader] Joseph Kony the opportunity to understand further the contents of the final agreement - which he said he did not understand fully and the justice system proposed thereunder”.

“We hope that after the meeting Kony will immediately be in a position to sign because we do not see any reason why he would not sign,” he said.

The LRA has said in the past that it did not understand the contents of the draft peace treaty, which indicates that criminal proceedings against LRA leaders accused of war crimes would take place inside Uganda, rather than at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has issued indictments on war crime charges against Kony and some of his colleagues.

Talks began in mid-2006, under the mediation of the South Sudanese government, to end a more than two-decade-old war that has displaced close to two million people in northern Uganda and left tens of thousands dead, mutilated or abducted by the rebels.

Several protocols were agreed during the talks, but Kony failed to show up as expected to sign a Final Peace Agreement in April.

“Negotiations will not be re-opened but we shall use the meeting to clarify a few issues so that the LRA can sign the agreement,” said Oryem, adding that the mediators, including South Sudan Vice-President Riek Machar, will attend.

Appeal for “commitment”

Vicar-General of Gulu Catholic Archdiocese Monsignor Matthew Odongo, speaking on behalf of religious leaders in the war-affected north who have been key players in the peace process, appealed for a commitment from both parties for the good of the suffering people.

"We strongly urge both parties to take this opportunity and embrace dialogue. The military option has already failed and we think that this current effort should be motivated by honesty and sincerity from all and for the good of peace and development,” he said by phone from Gulu, one of the areas most affected by the war.

“Joseph Kony should be open to dialogue and take this golden opportunity. Negotiations were completed and what remains now is the commitment from both parties. We urge the two parties not to misuse this ray of hope for our people who have borne the brunt of the war all this long,” he added.

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Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights

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Copyright © IRIN 2008
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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