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Sudan Tribune

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SPLM/A leader pledges to help Ugandan peace effort

KAMPALA, Jan 31, 2005 (IRIN) – The leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), John Garang, said on Friday that his movement was ready to help end a rebellion in neighbouring Uganda.

Noting that southern Sudan’s people would not enjoy peace if rebellion continued in northern Uganda, Garang said during a lecture he delivered in Kampala that the SPLM/A would not allow the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – a Ugandan rebel group – to operate from Sudanese soil.

The LRA has long used southern Sudan as a launching pad for cross-border raids into northern Uganda. Sudan’s government had been accused by Uganda’s of backing the rebel group, while Khartoum had accused Kampala of supporting the SPLM/A.

“We will not be putting down our arms,” Garang said with reference to countering LRA actions. “We are going to defend our country and we don’t want any foreign armed groups within our territory.” Garang added: “We are expressing our unreserved willingness to help [?] We are determined to achieve peace in northern Uganda, so that all our people can put their lives together again and engage in development.

Uganda’s 18-year-old war has taken a heavy toll on the inhabitants of the north of the country. Many have been subjected to atrocities, including abductions, rape, forced labour and forcible recruitment, while an unknown number have been killed. About 1.6 million people have been displaced.

Under a peace agreement signed on 9 January between the SPLM/A and the Khartoum government, Southern Sudan will enjoy a large measure of autonomy within the state of Sudan. This includes having a regional government that will administer the internal affairs of the south.

“We will do everything as a government in Sudan to see that peace is achieved in northern Uganda,” Garang said. “The government of southern Sudan will not give guns to [LRA leader Joseph] Kony to come and kill people in northern Uganda. The complication in the past was that the government of Sudan was supporting the LRA. We, as part of the central government, will not be supporting any foreign armed groups anywhere in southern Sudan.”

Efforts to end the Ugandan war through peaceful means have been limping along as mediators continue to engage both sides on a possible ceasefire agreement.

“The two sides are still studying every bit of the agreement and this has delayed the announcement of the date when the agreement will be signed,” chief mediator Betty Bigombe, a former Ugandan government minister, told IRIN by phone from northern Uganda. “But the process is still on course.”

This was confirmed by Uganda’s interior minister, Ruhaka Rugunda, who heads the government’s delegation to the talks. “Agreement has been reached on many of the issues,” said Rugunda. “What remains are the polishing of certain areas and other things like logistics before the signing. Otherwise the process is definitely still on course.”

At a public rally on 26 January in the northern district of Gulu, Garang and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said there were good days ahead for northern Uganda’s people.

Garang said there was a project to build a rail line from Pakwach in northwestern Uganda to Juba, via the towns of Kaya and Yei, to facilitate trade and transportation.

He also said a paved road would be built between Gulu and Juba.