Global Policy Forum

Government Ends Ceasefire, But Says Talks "Remain Open"

Integrated Regional Information Networks
February 22, 2005

Peace talks to end hostilities between the government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) will continue despite the expiration on Tuesday of an 18-day truce called by the government, James Nsaba Buturo, minister for information, told IRIN. "The military operation is continuing, but the door for talks will remain open," Buturo said on Tuesday.

The ceasefire, in a limited zone in the north of the country, ended at dawn on Tuesday, and President Yoweri Museveni was expected to make an official announcement later that day. Referring to the recent surrender of the LRA's chief spokesman, Sam Kolo, and other senior rebel commanders, Buturo said the government encouraged other rebel fighters to surrender if they so wished. "They have nothing to fear because their former commanders who have surrendered to us have been well treated and we are ready to receive and welcome them," Buturo added.

He admitted, however, that Kolo's surrender last week may have caused a regression in the progress of the peace talks, but hastened to add that the government team was ready to continue the discussions. Buturo said that there were divisions in the rebel army, with one group wanting to come out, while another, comprised of influential hardliners, was keen on remaining in the bush.

The chief government negotiator, interior minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, who recently held the first face-to-face talks with the LRA in a decade, on Tuesday morning travelled to the northern district of Gulu for meetings on the peace process. "I want to have the feel of the situation there and assess what should be the way forward," Rugunda told IRIN before he set off for Gulu.

The army spokesman, Shaban Bantariza, said that the army was resuming its military operations against the LRA, but would respect those rebels who were prepared to negotiate. "It will be fighting and talking, but [we will] pursue those who are not willing to come out to the logical conclusion," Bantariza said.

Bantariza told IRIN that the army had on Monday foiled an attempt by the LRA to attack the internally displaced persons' camp of Olukolum in Gulu. The plot, he alleged, targeted the mother of Onen Kamdulu, one of the rebel commanders who recently gave himself up to the Uganda People's Defence Force. "They wanted to kill Onen Kamdulu's mother, but we managed to rescue her," Bantariza said. "However, they had already killed two people."

The limited ceasefire, which covered a stretch of land in the districts of Gulu and Kitgum, was aimed at building trust between the government and the LRA in the fragile peace process. The LRA has been fighting the Uganda government since 1988, a war that has seen tens of thousands killed and at least 1.6 million displaced. The rebel group is best known for its brutality against the civilian population of the region, and relief agencies say the LRA has abducted as many as 20,000 children for use as soldiers, porters and sex slaves.




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