UN Boosts Uganda Peace

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Hopes to end the 20 year war was given a shot in the arm after the recent visit of Jan Egeland, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who has since been in direct contact with Vincent Otti, the deputy commander of the LRA and top spokesman.

(Ambassador Egeland's and the UN's increased role give new lease to peace prospects).

Prospects for a peace deal between Uganda government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) seem brighter now that a top United Nations official is speaking directly with the rebel leadership.

Separately, the South Sudanese authority have now demanded that Uganda pull out its troops from South Sudan, one of the key demands made by the LRA commanders who say they won’t encamp their fighters there and risk being surrounded in a Uganda trap.

Hopes to end the 20 year war was given a shot in the arm after the recent visit of Jan Egeland, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who has since been in direct contact with Vincent Otti, the deputy commander of the LRA and top spokesman.

Otti, has said he will regroup fighters at assembly points along the Sudanese border, Egeland told Reuters this week.  Otti did not give a date for demands that the LRA release women and children under captivity. Egeland met Joseph Kony, the LRA boss and Otti, November 12 on the Sudan-Congo border.

“He confirmed they are going to assemble, that they have noted with satisfaction that we will make it attractive to assemble,� Egeland said, following a phone conversation with Otti Wednesday. “We will come with water, sanitation, food, et cetera, in the assembly points," Egeland, who is back in New York, said.

“I again demanded an answer to my question of release of underage wounded, sick,� Egeland said. “He says he’s actively pursuing that with the groups coming from Uganda—he claims there are only elite combatants in Congo with them.�
“Otti said he would have an answer within the "next couple of days," Egeland added.

Commenting about the standing arrest warrants for the rebels, Egeland said the LRA could “influence their international image and the exercise of justice by making this historic peace deal and by also respecting the cease-fire that is now effective.� He added, “There can be no peace without justice. But it’s also very clear that justice will never be served if we do not have a peace achieved.�

South Sudan authorities also seem eager to accelerate the negotiations, ongoing in Juba, capital of the South. 
Sudan’s national parliament has reportedly issued a resolution calling for non-renewal of the current military protocol with the Ugandan Peoples Defence Force (UPDF) in south Sudan. That deal was signed in 2002 between Khartoum and Kampala and gives the UPDF, Uganda’s army, explicit rights to carry out operations against the Lords Resistance Army in parts of southern Sudan the rebel group has used as its bases.

Army Spokesman Maj. Felix Kulayigye said yesterday that the protocol has not been revoked but government would not pronounce itself formally on the matter because the recommendation is not yet a government decision, neither is it a Parliament resolution. 

Sudan legislators have also recommended that joint forces comprising the regular Sudanese army and former southern rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army be given enhanced means to control the border. The recommendations come days after President Museveni ordered the UPDF to pull back from some of its bases in southern Sudan, a directive seen as an attempt to boost the talks aimed at ending two decades of conflict between Kampala and the LRA.

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