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Sudan Tribune

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South Sudan offers to mediate between Uganda, LRA rebels

April 20, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Southern Sudanese officials have offered to mediate between the Ugandan government and rebels who have been fighting for 19 years, a Sudanese official said Thursday.

Riek_Machar_3-2.jpg“We are in the process of bringing the two together,” Riek Machar, vice president of the autonomous southern Sudan government, said in a telephone interview from the southern capital, Juba.

“We have offered to act as facilitators and if they see that we could be mediators in their talks then we will do it,” Machar said, adding both sides seemed open to the overture and that peace talks could start “any time.”

Ugandan officials, however, said they doubted the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, a force with no clear political agenda, was ready for peace talks.

“I don’t think any previous overtures to the LRA have yielded positive results…I don’t think they are interested in dialogue,” Uganda’s presidential spokesman Onapito Ekomoloit said in a telephone interview.

The LRA is infamous for abducting thousands of children, forcing them to become fighters, porters or concubines. The group has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than a million to flee their homes. It has had very little contact with the outside world.

Many organizations, including one led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, have tried to mediate without success and it is unlikely that the rebels would change their attitude now, Ekomoloit said.

“They are militarily defeated and should take advantage of the existing amnesty that covers all except those” facing international war crimes charges, Ekomoloit said.

Sudan once backed Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army rebels against the Ugandan government, which in turn had supported Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army in its civil war with the Sudanese government.

Sudan and Uganda normalized relations in 2001 and the north-south Sudan war ended with a 2005 peace treaty that created the autonomous government in the south as well as a national unity government.

Last year, The Hague, Netherlands-based International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants on charges of crimes against humanity for LRA leader Joseph Kony and four of his deputies. Sudanese Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit, a southerner, said at the time he would hand over Kony if he found him in southern Sudan. LRA members are believed hiding in Sudan and Congo.

U.N. officials and others have complained about LRA raids on civilians and aid workers in southern Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a northerner, in February instructed government forces along with former Sudanese rebels in the south to coordinate their efforts to drive the LRA out of southern Sudan.

(ST/AP)

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