Global Policy Forum

SUDAN-UGANDA: Optimism As Government, LRA Sign Ceasefire

Integrated Regional Information Networks
February 25, 2008

Mediators and negotiators at peace talks between the Ugandan government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have expressed optimism that both parties would soon reach a final settlement after signing a permanent ceasefire agreement.

The ceasefire, which would come into effect once a comprehensive peace accord is reached, was signed on 24 February in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, where the talks have been continuing intermittently since 2006. The discussions are aimed at ending two decades of a bloody LRA insurrection in northern Uganda.

"We can see there is willingness from both sides to finish the talks this month," Joachim Chissano, the UN's special envoy for northern Uganda, said. "The feeling I have is that with this signing of the agreements, we are signalling to the combatants to start cleaning their weapons in order to store them. This is the end of the war, but the reason we are here is not just to end the war; we are looking for peace and peace is much more complex than the laying down of arms," said Chissano, a former president of Mozambique.

He said the peace agreements sought to ensure equal distribution of wealth in Uganda. "We may be overwhelmed by joy, [but] let us not be incapacitated by this joy; we must take this peace to each household in Uganda," he added.

The Vice-President of Southern Sudan, Riek Machar, the chief mediator in the talks, said the signing of the permanent cessation of hostilities was crucial because it laid the foundation upon which the implementation of other provisions of the final peace deal would be based. Pressure is being increased by donors who are saying that they can only afford to support this process up to the 29th of this month [February]. They can only afford to support the implementation. We must move fast," said Machar.

The head of the LRA delegation, David Matsanga, expressed optimism that both sides would honour their commitments. "I now can comfortably sit on this chair knowing very well that nobody will remove me from here until I sign the final agreement," said Matsanga. "You can now prove that on the LRA's side there are people who cannot renege on their positions. We shall sign and shall not make even a single step backward."

Similar sentiments were expressed by the Ugandan government's chief negotiator Ruhakana Rugunda. "We have reached a point of no return. We will stand by our words and our focus will shift towards implementation of the agreements," said Rugunda.

The ceasefire agreement requires that LRA fighters gather in Southern Sudan's Ri-Kwangba assembly area from their hideouts in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Any movement by LRA fighters outside Ri-Kwangba, purchase of weapons or recruitment would be considered a violation of the agreement. Protection of the LRA forces would be the responsibility of the government of Southern Sudan.

The LRA, active since 1988, has been widely accused of atrocities against civilians and the abduction of thousands of children, forced to serve as soldiers or concubines. The International Criminal Court has indicted five LRA commanders, including the group's leader Joseph Kony, but two of those indicted are believed to have since died. The conflict in northern Uganda killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands more, who were forced into crowded settlements as the government struggled to protect civilians.

More Information on the UN Security Council
More Information on Uganda
More Information on the International Criminal Court Investigations: Uganda


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