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Chief Mediator calls on Ugandan rebels to assemble to de-escalate hostilities

By James Gatdet Dak

December 20, 2008 (JUBA) – The Chief Mediator of the Uganda peace process, Government of Southern Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar Teny has called on the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to assemble in Ri-Kwangba to “de-escalate” the ongoing hostilities with regional forces.

Riek Machar

A joint regional force launched offensive against the LRA bases inside north-eastern DR Congo last week and still escalating.

In his 2nd report on the status of the Juba peace process, dated 15th December and of which copy the Sudan Tribune received today, the Chief Mediator stated that it was the Ugandan army that carried out the attacks on LRA on 14th December in Garamba forests, but was to be joined by Congolese forces while the SPLA would deploy along Southern Sudan borders to prevent the LRA from infiltrating into the semi-autonomous region.

He urged the LRA rebels to assemble in Ri-Kwangba area, respect the terms for assembling, sign and implement the peace deal.

The Government of Southern Sudan’s Vice President further stated that the military action was neither intended to destroy the Juba peace agreements nor abrogate the Ugandan government’s commitments towards the peace process.

Machar blamed the LRA leadership for not signing the Final Peace Agreement (KPA), which prompted regional military offensive against the rebels and called on them to assemble.

"I would therefore invite the LRA to signal its readiness to return and assemble in Ri-Kwangba in order to expeditiously conclude the Juba process,” he stated.

Some of the rebels were already reported to have infiltrated into Southern Sudan following the fighting and were accused by government officials of killing two civilians yesterday in Western Equatoria state.

He said the LRA should contact the Mediator who would, through the Cessation of Hostilities Monitoring Team, work with the relevant forces, to arrange for safe passage to Ri-Kwangba at Sudan/DR Congo border.

Machar said the mediators were aware of the concerns raised by the LRA on the ICC which they said were impeding the signature of the FPA, but he stated that these would be addressed within the framework of the peace agreement and "should therefore not delay this process any longer."

"The LRA must act swiftly and in good faith to conclude this chapter of violence so that peace can return to this region," he concluded.

(ST)