Uganda rebels declare ceasefire

Uganda's Lord Resistance Army has declared a unilateral ceasefire with peace talks due to start next week, but the government has yet to reciprocate the gesture.

    Kony is wanted in The Hague to answer war crimes charges

    A spokesman for the LRA confirmed the decision on Friday from the rebel group's base in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    He said the laying down of arms had been ordered by the deputy commander, Vincent Otti, acting on behalf of Joseph Kony, the LRA leader.

    "I order all of our field commanders to, with immediate effect, cease all forms of hostilities against UPDF (Ugandan army) positions and others," Otti said in the statement.

    "We hope that the government reciprocate this gesture of goodwill."

    In the capital, Kampala, a spokesman, Robert Kabushenga, said the government would not declare a ceasefire but confirmed the Uganda delegation would return to peace talks in Juba, the capital of autonomous southern Sudan next week.

    Further talks

    Uganda's government rejects signing a ceasefire as a preliminary step in peace talks, accusing the rebels of using truces to re-arm in the past. It has repeatedly said it will only agree to a ceasefire as part of a comprehensive peace deal.

    "We hope that the government reciprocate this gesture of goodwill"

    Vincent Otti,

    Lord's Resistance Army

    "We want to formally agree everything first, then a ceasefire can be signed," said the head of Uganda's delegation, the internal affairs minister, Ruhakana Rugunda.

    The government said it would attend the talks even if Otti and Kony did not.

    The two have refused to attend the talks so far, citing their fear of arrest as they, and three other LRA commanders, have been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

    Atrocious conflict

    However, in his statement, Otti hinted that he or Kony could attend the talks in due course.

    The talks began on July 14 but were adjourned for consultations after 10 days and re-started on July 31 before being stopped again on Wednesday.

    Tens of thousands of people have been killed and about two million displaced in northern Uganda since the LRA took leadership of a regional rebellion among the Acholi ethnic minority in 1988.

    The group is infamous for atrocities, particularly the kidnapping of an estimated 25,000 children to be used as sex slaves or fighters.

    The conflict has been described as one of the worst humanitarian situations in the world by the UN.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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