Hopes For Uganda Peace?

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(Uganda’s Museveni flies to rebel talks in Juba).

Uganda’s President has flown to Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, in a dramatic attempt to salvage stalled peace talks with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

Government and rebel negotiators have been trying to hammer an agreement to end 20 years of war that has devastated northern Uganda. Both sides accuse the other of violating a recent ceasefire agreement.

President Yoweri K. Museveni has flown to southern Sudan yesterday morning to take part in the talks directly. Museveni arrived amid tight security in Juba, where the airport was closed late Friday morning. Four UPDF helicopter gun ships emerged in the southern Sudanese airspace before Museveni’s Presidential Gulf Stream jetted moments later. In a security strategy, it emerged that Museveni was actually not aboard his jet but was airborne in one of the army choppers, a clear indication that there is ways to go before government and rebels sign a deal.

South Sudan President, Gen. Salvar Kiir and his deputy and the chief peace mediator Vice President Riek Machar, along with over 150 people, met Museveni. His appearance in Juba was his first since the funeral of Gen. John Garang, the former leader of the SPLA in August 2005.

Talks to end Uganda’s bloody conflict have recently stalled with nasty scenes involving the killing of civilians and fighting on both sides taking center stage.

Leader of Uganda’s opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Dr. Kiiza Besigye, currently in Gulu, one of the districts most affected by the insurgency, on October 20 wrote to Gen. Salva Kiir expressing concern that recent clashes between the LRA and UPDF threatened to derail peace talks. Besigye cautioned against “unwarranted utterances” by President Museveni against the LRA and its leaders and the President’s ridiculing of the peace process as mere “conversations,” and the LRA’s killing of a UPDF captain.

Besigye noted that while FDC does not condone impunity, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) indictments of the rebel leadership presented a major hurdle to the peace process. “The peace process must continue without further adverse disruptions because we have placed our complete trust and hope in it,” Besigye said. “There is no better way to peace in northern Uganda and north eastern Uganda other than through peace talks.”

He added: “Both the government and the LRA must agree to halt all hostilities and unwarranted propaganda against each other; stop unilateral announcement of events related to the peace process; and strictly abide by the agreement.”

He called on the LRA to return to the assembly points agreed upon under the ceasefire, noting that: “Both the UPDF and the LRA restrict their movement and activities to the agreed positions and that the CHA monitoring team be strengthened and fully facilitated with African Union observers included on the team.”

Ssebaggala reports for The Black Star News from Uganda.

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