KAMPALA, Uganda, Nov 14, 2004 (AP) — President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday ordered the army to suspend attacks on insurgents for a week in a part of northern Uganda to allow rebel leaders to gather and discuss his offer to end a civil war that has forced more than 1.5 million people from their homes, a spokesman said.
- Joseph Kony
Museveni will order the army to suspend attacks for another 10 days in the whole of northern Uganda if the rebels "makes a clear, recorded statement that they accept the president’s offer" to end the 18-year insurgency, presidential spokesman Onapito Ekomoloit said.
The announcement comes as Uganda faces increasing pressure to end the conflict, with the United Nations describing the war with the Lord’s Resistance Army as one of the most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world. The U.N. Security Council will meet in neighboring Kenya next week to press for an end to conflicts in the region.
A former Cabinet minister trying to broker peace talks "has had clear indications from (the rebel) group that they want to end the conflict" during the past three weeks, Ekomoloit said in a statement.
Rebel leaders, however, say army attacks prevents them from meeting to discuss Museveni’s offer that they "come out, receive amnesty and rejoin civilian lives or the army," Ekomoloit said.
"So this will give them a breathing space to make a decision," Ekomoloit said.
The army, however, will continue attacking rebels in all other areas of northern Uganda and southern Sudan "until the government gets an irreversible commitment indicating their intention to end violence against civilians and end once and for all time the terror campaign," Ekomoloit said.
Sudan has allowed Uganda to send troops into its territory to dismantle Ugandan rebel bases there.
Museveni declared a unilateral cease-fire on March 2003 in designated areas of northern Uganda, and told the rebels to assemble in the areas. But the elusive rebels refused to cooperate for fear of betrayal and called for a region-wide cessation of hostilities.
Museveni extended his offer three times until the end of that month, but fighting continued. He ordered the army to resume fighting in April 2003.
A rebel spokesman told local and international radios that there is no military solution to the conflict, and the rebels want Museveni to say his government is looking for a peaceful end to the war.
The rebels routinely attack villages and abduct children for use as fighters, laborers or sex slaves. More than 1.5 million people have fled their homes in fear of such attacks.
Rebel leader Joseph Kony, a northerner, has said he wants to overthrow Museveni, who hails from southern Uganda.
The seven-day suspension of army operations against the rebels will begin late Monday and end in the early hours of Nov. 23, Ekomoloit said.