The Ugandan government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) separatists are to sign a historic ceasefire on Friday to pave the way for peace talks to end 18 years of conflict in the north of the country, Ugandan Interior Minister Ruhakana Rugunda announced.

 

"We are preparing to sign the ceasefire agreement tomorrow. We are still making consultations on a few things. But we shall sign it in Kitgum (northern Uganda) tomorrow," Rugunda said on Thursday.

 

"We are waiting for them to tell us what it will be. But I had a positive impression because they told me that they have agreed and now they want (to) resolve all the issues through dialogue, not war."

 

Rugunda, who headed the government delegation and Sam Kolo, the separatist spokesman, held their first ever face-to-face talks at Ludwa near the border with Sudan on Wednesday to discuss a ceasefire in the conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced a million people.

 

The signatories to the truce are still unknown.

 

During the meeting, the two sides decided to sign a ceasefire accord in the coming two days, a chief mediator Betty Bigombe said afterwards.

 

An earlier truce, which was announced by President Yoweri Museveni on 14 November, had only allowed the rebels to gather in specific areas of northern Uganda to discuss the possibility of launching serious peace talks.

 

That truce was due to expire on Friday.


Logical conclusion

"People are happy, but not yet excited. They are cautious because of the past experiences that saw processes collapse when they were about
to succeed"


Walter Ocholla,
Gulu District Chairman

"We thank the government, the LRA and the mediator for this great news," Roman Catholic Bishop John Baptist Odama, the head of northern-based Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, said. 

 

Gulu district chairman Walter Ocholla added: "We pray that the process goes up to its logical conclusion."

 

Ocholla said people in the Gulu district have been cautious about the expected ceasefire because earlier truce deals had collapsed.

 

"People are happy, but not yet excited. They are cautious because of the past experiences that saw processes collapse when they were about to succeed," he said, speaking from the north.

 

In 1994 Bigombe presided over an abortive peace process between Kampala and the LRA, which collapsed after Museveni called on the rebels to surrender or "face the might of the army."

 

Since then the war has raged on, with several false starts in the search to revitalise peace talks to end the fighting that the United Nations has described as the world's forgotten conflict.