28 March 2008

Uganda: Govt, LRA Sign Second Agreement

Kampala — The South Sudan-mediated peace negotiations between the rebel LRA and the government of Uganda has ended in Juba with the signing of the second last agreement, which paves way for a possible final agreement on April 5.

The parties yesterday signed an agreement on monitoring and implementation, officially marking the end of negotiations that have come to be called the Juba Peace Process.

What now remains is the ceremony to sign the Final Peace Agreement, and a tentative date was yesterday postponed from April 3 to April 5.

Chief mediator Riek Machar appeared to be relieved that the penultimate agreement had been signed. "It has been a very difficult peace process with indictments hanging on one of the parties, but I am very happy that they have all agreed to sign the final agreement," Dr Machar, the South Sudan Vice President, told journalists at a Juba hotel.

Chwa MP Livingstone Okello-Okello, who is the chairperson of Acholi Parliamentary Group, told Daily Monitor yesterday that he was "happy" that the peace talks had been concluded. "We had many," Mr Okello-Okello said.

The MP, who is currently in Juba on a confidence building mission added; "This is good news for our people who have suffered for more than two decades. We hope that the signing of a comprehensive agreement will mark the beginning of a new chapter for the people of northern Uganda and the country at large."

If the deal is signed, as the parties agreed yesterday, it would be some 20 months since the talks started in Juba, South Sudan, where President Salva Kiir's government has played a mediation role.

Yet, as April 5 draws closer, the peace process is still clouded in uncertainty over the practical aspect of it.

Rebel leader Joseph Kony, wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, yesterday told Acholi elders gathered in Juba that he would sign the deal but keep his arms.

Kony, whose current hideout has become the subject of speculation, rang a Juba peace workshop to say that, deal or no deal, he would stay in Ri-Kwangba, a village in South Sudan where he says he is hiding.

Kony, it was revealed yesterday, will not leave his hideout, even if it is to sign a historic peace agreement with President Museveni's administration. Kony will sign the document from his base in Ri-Kwangba, about 100km from Juba, it was revealed yesterday.

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