Global Policy Forum

Govt to Consult LRA Victims on Juba Talks


By Samuel O. Egadu

Daily Monitor - Kampala
August 14, 2007

The government will begin consultations with LRA rebel victims in northern Uganda this week, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the leader of government peace talks delegation announced last week. The government and the LRA delegations broke off for recess in June to consult with stakeholders and LRA victims to develop proposals for mechanisms to implement Agenda Item Number Three on accountability and reconciliation, which deals with traditional justice systems.

The consultations, that will focus on the third item on the talks' five-point agenda, will consider creating a commission to investigate alleged war crimes committed by both sides and explore possibilities of using the traditional Acholi justice system (Mato Oput) other than the trial of the indicted LRA top commanders by The Hague based International Criminal Court.

The LRA leader, Joseph Kony, his deputy, Vincent Otti and top commanders; Domenic Ogwen, Raska Lukwiya and Okot Odhiambo are wanted by ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Lukwiya was killed in August 2005 in a battle with government forces. The rebels are accused of abduction, sexual slavery, mutilations, killing civilians, rape and forceful recruitment of child soldiers. However, the consultations have not quite taken off due of lack of funds. Dr Rugunda who is also internal affairs minister confirmed the funds' squeeze but said the situation has now changed because the government has secured some money.

"We have got the funds earmarked for consultations and we shall start next week (this week)," Dr Rugunda told Daily Monitor in an interview last week. "We shall give all the necessary details and information (timing and funds) regarding the consultations next week (this week)," he said. The government team needs $1.9 million for consultations while the LRA delegation has demanded $2 million. Dr Rugunda said the peace process is on course and the South Sudan mediated talks will resume in Juba after consultations on agenda item number three.

The LRA says they want the money to airlift 500 delegates from northern Uganda to the rebel base in Garamba forest, DR Congo for consultations. And also to enable experts travel to Argentina, South Africa and Sierra Leone to conduct research on how they addressed conflict and implemented alternative justice and reconciliation systems. Head of LRA delegation, Martin Ojul, said in a press statement in early August, "Without these consultations, it would be pointless to resume the talks as the materials for the next round of talks are supposed to be derived from these consultations." He said visiting the countries for consultations is important because it would enable the delegates to assess the failures and successes of the alternative justice systems and develop how to improve them as opposed to lectures.

Acting LRA spokesman, David Nyekorach Matsanga, said, "Continuing the talks without consultations will be meaningless. We will not engage in any further talks [without that]." Analysts say such a pronouncement casts the LRA as unserious in peacefully resolving the 20-year conflict. Ojul however, said the LRA delegation has not been soliciting $2 million from donors and made receipt of the money a precondition to resume talks. "It's not true that we have been soliciting funds everywhere, including Canada. What is true is that we have been following the Chief Mediator's [Riek Machar] plan to have the consultations funded by the donor community," he said.

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