UN Official Hints At ICC ‘Solution’ To Spur Uganda Peace?

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(UN official, Egeland---Is the ICC cooking up a possible solution?)
Hinting at a possible move by the International Criminal Court that would allow Uganda’s warring parties to conclude a peace deal, a top United Nations official says the UN will also increase its involvement in the ongoing peace talks between the Uganda government and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The official, on a visit to Uganda this past week voiced optimism that a peace agreement will soon be hammered out between the parties notwithstanding the ICC’s indictments of the LRA’s top commanders handed last October.

"I don’t think the ICC indictments will in any way make it impossible to make a peace agreement and I would warn against too much attention being focused on the legal intricacies of the ICC,� Jan Egeland, the United Nations Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs told media, here in Uganda.

Moreover, referring to Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Egeland added: “The prosecutor said to me that we can move vigorously on the peace talks first irrespective of these indictments. The LRA leaders have also said they are not opposed to a justice process. What will be the result then, I do not know. But I think they will find a practical solution to it and I am hopeful that there will be a peace agreement before too long.�

The UN official didn’t elaborate on what that “practical solution� may entail. Vincent Otti, the LRA’s second in command has in the past insisted that the ICC drop the indictments and last week said the LRA’s top commanders won’t show up at the designated encampment locations as part of the peace process.

Nonetheless, Egeland remains optimistic after having visited Opit, one of the camps where nearly two million innocent civilians in northern Uganda have been confined as the government and LRA have battled through the years. Egeland also visited several children’s centers in Gulu town and held closed meeting discussions with local religious leaders and various non governmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian agencies operating in northern Uganda.

"On my fourth visit to Uganda, and particularly to Northern Uganda, where we have had one of the worst human emergencies for half a generation, this has been the most encouraging so far,� Egeland said of his trip. "I strongly feel that we are now embarking on the road to peace. There is more hope than ever before. We sat, last night at one of the traditional Acholi bonfires and we discussed for hours the future, the return, the possibilities to rebuild and the possibilities for reconciliation. I think the whole international community has to invest in this opening for peace, we need to pressure the parties to make a peace agreement in Juba.�

The UN official said all sides must be pressured to conclude a deal. War has raged in northern Uganda for nearly 20 years. Egeland said release of women and children by the LRA would be a confidence builder and vowed more UN direct involvement in the peace process. “I will also ensure both the South Sudanese mediation and the two parties that the UN is supporting the peace talks, that they are having a fulltime observers there to facilitate and that they are going to help logistically and even with some physical support to the mediation effort,� Egeland said, noting that he will call also ask for more International community funding to help finance the return of civilians to their homes from the camps.

“This winter and in the months ahead, what we have to make sure is voluntary return and that when they return they will have help to restore livelihoods and descent living conditions,� he said.

Ssebaggala writes for The Black Star News from Uganda.

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