Uganda Relents To Rebels

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The chief mediator for the talks, south Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar says he is confident that things will be better this time. "The leadership of the LRA recommitted his organization to the peace process. The Ugandan government also committed itself for the peace talks so I think there is more optimism, there is seriousness in the current peace talks," he told the BBC's Network Africa program.

AFRICA NEWS



Uganda's government says it has agreed to rebel concessions to kick start stalled peace talks to end the 20 year civil war in the north of the country.


But the power to drop international war crimes charges against the Lord's Resistance Army leadership is beyond its power, a spokesman told the BBC.


A northern MP says the warrants are a stumbling block to a final peace deal. The negotiations have reopened in Juba, southern Sudan, three months after the rebel negotiators walked out.


The chief mediator for the talks, south Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar says he is confident that things will be better this time. "The leadership of the LRA recommitted his organization to the peace process. The Ugandan government also committed itself for the peace talks so I think there is more optimism, there is seriousness in the current peace talks," he told the BBC's Network Africa program.


Some two million people have fled their homes and thousands of children have been abducted by the LRA during the civil conflict. The talks were officially reopened by former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano on Thursday morning.
Ugandan minister for international relations says that concessions were made to the rebels as a "process of confidence building".


"The government of Uganda has decided to relent or support the process by accepting any conditions by the LRA that will create a amicable and confident atmosphere to proceed to peace talks," Henry Okello Oryem told the BBC.
Some of the concessions include: The expansion of the mediation team to include Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique; Rebel fighters to gather at a single assembly point - Ri-Kwangba in south Sudan - by the end of June, instead of the two locations originally agreed; and, an allowance increase for the LRA negotiation team.


When the talks broke up in January both sides were on the brink of signing an agreement on the economic and social development of the north as well as the settlement of the region's thousands of displaced people.


The BBC's Sarah Grainger in Kampala says once these issues have been dealt with the difficult issue of reconciliation and accountability will be on the agenda.

LRA leader Joseph Kony and three of his top commanders are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).


Jimmy Akena, Ugandan MP for Lira, who has attended the talks told the BBC's Swahili Service these arrest warrants were the main stumbling block to peace.

But Uganda government spokesman Major Felix Kulayigye says this issue is something that cannot be dealt with now.


"My suggestion to the LRA leadership is to get on with the peace talks which will allow their fighters to return home," he told the BBC. "Once agreement has been reached it will be easy for both parties to go home and under our traditional ways could find ways of convincing the international community and ICC to drop the charges."

 

 

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