Uganda Talks Face Collapse
â€œWe are Ugandans so there is no way we shall accept to be engaged in Sudan, we would be better off heading back to Uganda so war can resume should attacks continue on us,â€? said Vincent Otti, the LRAâ€™s second in command.
(Rebel commander Otti, shown far right, seated with Joseph Kony, says war may be only alternative).
Uganda’s shaky peace talks between government and Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels took a downward turn this week when the LRA announced they would rather resume fighting rather than be surrounded by government troops in encampments.
A condition to a ceasefire agreement signed August calls for LRA fighters to assemble in designated sites in Southern Sudan, where the talks are being hosted and mediated by Riek Machar, VP of that region’s autonomous government. The LRA argues that since Uganda won’t withdraw its troops from the region, encampment would allow their fighters to be surrounded in a trap.
“We are Ugandans so there is no way we shall accept to be engaged in Sudan, we would be better off heading back to Uganda so war can resume should attacks continue on us,” said Vincent Otti, the LRA’s second in command. He wants Uganda troops to completely withdraw from Southern Sudan and claims there have been persistent attacks on his troops on the eastern side of the river Nile in Southern Sudan. “These attacks are causing unrest to me and my people so that is why I think we should just leave the peace talks and go to war,” he said.
The Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) denies any military engagements with the LRA, saying moreover, government troops have been pulled from Magwii, Pollutaka and Tabita in Southern Sudan, following a directive from President Yoweri Museveni. “The Juba peace process is the best way to go for sustainable peace. If they jump out, we shall not allow them to disrupt the positive in northern Uganda,” said UPDF spokesman Maj. Felix Kulayigye, referring to the LRA.
He adds that the LRA should take advantage of the negotiations going on in Juba because should they fail it shall leave them with no solution. “We shall not relax on security. Ours is to protect the people which we shall,” he said.
Kulayigye adds that presently the UPDF are deployed only along river Nile and not anywhere near the areas they occupied before.
With this looming threat, it’s unclear if Uganda's 20-year war can ever be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
Separately, Otti accuses Machar, the chief mediator of bias, a charge his made often in the past. “The mediator is not neutral at all because all the responses on the reports I have given him are not satisfactory,” he said.
Ssebaggala writes for The Black Star News from Uganda.
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