LRA Encampment To Start

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(Uganda's Museveni...peace in Uganda after 20 years?)

There are contradicting comments about whether women and children with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels will be released. A spokesperson says they won’t contrary to earlier remarks by another official.

As the landmark cessation of hostilities agreement between the Uganda government and the LRA in Juba last Saturday went into effect, LRA fighters as well as children and women are expected to assemble at designated points in Southern Sudan, under the close watch of the Sudan People's Liberation Army. LRA delegation spokesman at the ongoing peace talks in the southern Sudanese city of Juba, Obonyo Olweny, said they would only start moving slowly to the designated areas after mobilizing logistics and ensuring all arrangements are in place.

“There are women or children in captivity,� he said, in a telephone interview. “Those children are biological children of the soldiers in the bush and the women are their wives and any separation must be well negotiated and planned by the LRA but it is not a blanket demand.� He also dispelled claims that the LRA leaders and commanders were moving away from Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as reported in the local press. “That is not accurate, I am not aware of that. In any case for any movement to take effect, it has to go through the planning and logistical stages of it.�

His comments contradict a statement previously issued by the head of the LRA peace delegation in Juba, Martin Ojul, indicating arrangements were underway to free women and children. "Children and women cannot be part of the combatants as they move in these places," Ojul said. "We are currently working with the UN and the government of South Sudan to arrange for a separate camp for them in South Sudan."

According to the plan, the LRA fighters in northern Uganda would move to Owiny Ki Bul, in Eastern Equatoria State on the eastern side of the River Nile and those in the DRC at Ri-Kwangba in Western Equatoria State on the western side of River Nile. The LRA have up to three weeks to assemble, according to the deal. The truce has a ceasefire coming into effect on Tuesday.

It also remains to be seen whether the LRA can move to designated locales without incident. Uganda president Yoweri Museveni directed the army to withdraw from its bases in order to implement the agreement. He said if rebels were found outside the mapped out routes to assembly points they should be attacked, according to armed forces Spokesman Maj. Gen Felix Kulaigye while addressing a media briefing at the government’s media center in Kampala. “The army has been directed not to shoot at the LRA rebels unless in defense of civilians. The Commander of the Land Forces Maj. Gen Katumba Wamala is in a meeting with division commanders to map out routes heading to Owiny Ki Bul and once these have been mapped out, the message will be sent to them indicating which routes have been earmarked to use.�

He added: “In case a patrol or squad or an individual of the UPDF is attacked, he should repel the attack but we have hope that both sides will indeed respect the ceasefire conditions and if a rebel goes out of the mapped corridors, he shall be dealt with according to the laws of the land, we shall apprehend him and if he resists, we shall use force.�

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