Ugandan foes set hopes on renewed talks

Time of article published Apr 26, 2007

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Kampala - The Ugandan government on Wednesday called for commitment from the rebel Lord's Resistance Army on the eve the reopening of stalled peace talks, an attempt to halt the country's two-decade war.

Government delegation spokesperson Felix Kulaije urged foreign nations to pressure the LRA rebels to commit to the talks that kick off Thursday in the southern Sudanese capital Juba.

"We appeal to the international community to exert more pressure on the other side so that they are serious this time because for us we are ready to go all the way," Kulaije said.

For their part, the LRA said they hoped the talks would proceed without hiccups.

"We hope it will be smooth this time," said rebel delegate Ayena Odongo.

The talks in Juba, southern Sudan, stalled in December when the rebels walked out, citing fears for their lives.

They demanded a new venue and new mediators, accusing the southern Sudanese autonomous government of bias.

However, on April 14, the LRA agreed to resume negotiations after meeting with UN envoy to the conflict Joaquim Chissano.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday that war crime suspects in the LRA leadership had to be prosecuted if their region was to achieve durable peace.

LRA supremo Joseph Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti and three other commanders have been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity - specifically for murder, rape, mutilations and mass abductions.

"Ensuring justice for the most serious crimes is critical to achieve the durable peace sought by the people of northern Uganda," Richard Dicker, HRW's International Justice Programme director, said in a statement.

He added that Ugandan military forces had also been implicated in serious human rights abuses.

The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced around two million people.

"The people here who have endured the suffering are (hopeful) that this time the delegations will take the talks to a logical conclusion so that they can return to their homes," Archbishop John-Baptist Odama, the head of the Catholic Church in northern Uganda, said. - Sapa-AFP

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