28 April 2007

Uganda: LRA Rebels Threaten Another Walkout

Juba — ONE day after the peace negotiations between the Lords Resistance Army and the government resumed, the rebels yesterday threatened a walk out alleging the UPDF shelled their positions.

The rebels yesterday refused to meet the government negotiating team led by Ruhakana Rugunda. The consultative meeting which was scheduled to take place at 12 noon at the Civicon Oasis Hotel, where the government delegation is residing was rescheduled to 2.30p.m but the rebels again refused to show up.

At 1.15p.m, the LRA team headed to Chief mediator Riek Machar and presented a protest letter, saying the UPDF yesterday morning attacked two LRA positions in Magwi county in South Sudan.

But the government delegation spokesman Barigye-Bahoku said the UPDF has no force in Magwi.

"May be these (LRA) are looking for excuses. But then why would they look for one? he asked. "We have been waiting for them since morning. At the close of the day (Thursday) we agreed to meet first and work out a programme of action, even if the attacks happened they should have told us. So as far as we are concerned we are still waiting for them."

As the information filtered through about the rebels threat to walk out of the talks, the UN, Ambassadors from African countries, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLA) and Army rushed to the LRA camp at Juba Bridge Hotel, to convince them not to throw the talks in jeopardy.

In the LRA protest letter to Dr Machar by LRA delegation chairman Martin Ojul, the rebels said the UPDF attacked their positions yesterday at Got Rwot near Parajok, from 8.30a.m and Obbo Hills, all in Magwi county. The letter was copied to the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on the areas affected by the LRA insurgency Joachim Chissano and the African Union Observer Mission at the talks,

"Your Excellency we wish to register our protest against these blatant and flagrant violations and call upon you through the Cessation of Hostilities Monitoring Team, to immediately intervene," the LRA said.

"We also wish to draw your attention to the fact that it may be futile to continue with the peace talks when there is no inkling that one of the parties is committed to respecting any agreement signed as a result of the present effort," they added.

Rebel delegation spokesman Godfrey Ayoo said the rebels called off the planned meeting with Dr Rugunda after learning of the attacks. Strangely, the areas LRA claim UPDF attacked, have been demilitarised after President Yoweri Museveni ordered the withdrawal of the army as a gesture to build confidence among the rebels.

"This development has become a priority and for that matter we sent our deputy delegation head (Josephine Apira) and three other delegates to submit our protest formally to the mediator. We condemn the act which may probably still be going on," Mr Ayoo said.

He, however, declined to say whether the LRA will continue with the talks or not, insisting that "the acts (attacks) must stop". The peace talks resumed on Thursday after a four-month lull. The LRA walked out of the talks in January alleging lack of personal security.

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