2 March 2008

Uganda: LRA Truce Extended to March 28

Juba — The Government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have agreed to extend the cessation of hostilities to the end of March, when the final peace agreement is expected to be signed.

The truce expired on Friday.

"The cessation of hostilities agreement is extended until the ceasefire comes into force, and in any event not later than March 28, by which date the final peace agreement shall have been signed," the addendum, signed on Saturday, reads. It was the sixth time the cessation of hostilities agreement was extended since it was first signed in August 2006.

The Government delegation led by internal affairs minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda had vehemently opposed the extension, arguing that a permanent ceasefire had already been signed.

David Nyekorach-Matsanga, leading the LRA delegation, walked out of the negotiations on Friday, hurling abuses at the government delegation, calling them thieves and liars, when they opposed the extension.

He, however, apologised to the delegation and the chief mediator, Riek Machar, the following day.

Capt. Chris Magezi, the spokesperson for the Government team, accused the LRA of unnecessarily delaying the signing of the final pact.

"All that is left is to append our signatures on the final peace agreement. Why are they dragging their feet?" he asked.

The negotiations have broken off until March 12, when the teams are expected to reconvene to iron out the remaining issues and fix the date of signing. Several African presidents have been invited to witness the ceremony.

"If we have to respect this document, we have to sign before March 28," Machar stressed.

"The date should be fixed when we meet. I will then go to Ri-Kwangba and meet Kony. I also want to organise a meeting between Kony and the religious leaders."

Rugunda said: "We have walked a long journey, through thorns and slippery ground. We have even crossed rivers with sharks. I have no doubt that we shall reach."

He urged the LRA delegation to ask Kony to talk on radio, reassure the people about his commitment and urge them to return to their homes.

Matsanga said the break would give his team breathing space and allow them organise themselves for the signing ceremony. He promised that Kony would speak to the people of northern Uganda on radio.

He reiterated his concerns about the indictments against Kony and his top commanders by the international Criminal Court (ICC).

Matsanga said Kony would not go to Juba when he is still being hunted by the ICC.

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