Home | News    Thursday 23 November 2006

Ugandan rebels promise UN to assemble fighters

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Nov 22, 2006 (UNITED NATIONS) — A top official of Uganda’s notorious Lord’s Resistance Army confirmed on Wednesday he would regroup fighters at assembly points along the Sudanese border, U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said.

LRA soldiers stand guard at the assembly point in Owiny Ki Bul, some 160km (100 miles) south of Juba, Sudan in this Sept 20, 2006. (Reuters).

But Vincent Otti, the second in command, did not give a date for demands he release women and children the cult seized by the thousands, raping them and forcing them to kill other children and engage in combat over the past 20 years.

Peace talks between the LRA and Ugandan officials, mediated by South Sudan officials in their capital of Juba, resulted in a truce agreement in August and plans for where and how the LRA fighters would assembly at two neutral points and be disarmed.

Egeland, who had met the LRA’s reclusive leader, Joseph Kony, on Nov. 12 on the Sudan-Congo border, had a telephone conversation with Otti on Wednesday.

"He confirmed they are going to assemble, that they have noted with satisfaction that we will make it attractive to assemble. We will come with water, sanitation, food, et cetera, in the assembly points," Egeland said.

"I again demanded an answer to my question of release of underage wounded, sick," Egeland said. "He says he’s actively pursuing that with the groups coming from Uganda (and) he claims there are only elite combatants in Congo with them."

Otti said he would have an answer within the "next couple of days," Egeland added.

One major problem is that Kony and Otti have been indicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of murder, rape and other crimes.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has offered amnesty if the peace talks succeed. Uganda, which had asked the ICC to intervene, would have to seize the LRA leaders since the court has no police. But Museveni has no power to have their arrest warrants withdrawn as part of his amnesty offer.

Egeland said the court was an independent body but that the LRA could "influence their international image and the exercise of justice by making this historic peace deal and by also respecting the cease-fire that is now effective."

"There can be no peace without justice. But it’s also very clear that justice will never be served if we do not have a peace achieved," Egeland said.

LRA attacks and the Ugandan army’s response have left about 100,000 people dead and forced nearly 2 million people to flee their homes in the north of the country. Many live in squalid camps, overseen by the Ugandan army, also criticized by human rights groups for their own abuses.

(Reuters)

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