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Pax Christi: Breakthrough in Peace Talks in Northern Uganda

Pax Christi Netherlands

PRESS RELEASE

Juba,Sudan / Utrecht, the Netherlands, August 26, 2006

Lord’s Resistance Army and Government of Uganda agree on Cessation of Hostilities

Today, Saturday August 26, 2006 the Government of Uganda and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) have agreed on an official cessation of hostilities. The Agreement was signed by Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Minister of Internal Affairs and leader of the delegation of the Government of Uganda and Mr. Martin Ojul, leader of the LRA delegation and officially witnessed by Dr. Riek Machar, Vice-President of Southern Sudan and Chief Mediator.

This is the first major breakthrough in the peace talks that started on July 14 in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The Government of Uganda had resisted a cessation of hostilities for fear that the LRA might use it to regroup. Direct talks in Kampala last week between the President of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir and President Museveni helped to bring about the breakthrough. The LRA has agreed to surface and to assemble its troops in Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) protected assembly areas inside South Sudan within 14 days. The Ugandan Army will provide safe passage to LRA groups and individuals moving towards the assembly points.

This weekend a delegation of local leaders of areas which were most affected by the LRA, will meet president Museveni of Uganda. The peace talks will continue on Monday, August 28. All papers on the different issues of the agenda have now been presented. The LRA and the Uganda Government will identify areas of agreement and sort out remaining differences.

If the LRA assembles in South Sudan as agreed, the peace process will be irreversible. “This is a point of no return. It is now a matter of working out the technical details,” says Simon Simonse of Pax Christi who has been working on the peace process for over 8 years. “This optimism may be justified with respect to the arrangements for cease-fire, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. There remain, however, tough issues to deal with: an agreement on the procedures of accountability in ways that will be approved by the International Criminal Court while respecting the Amnesty to the LRA leaders accorded by President Museveni; and foremost an agreement on the policies addressing the root causes of the conflict and measures that will make an end to hostile prejudices between Nilotic Northerners and the Bantu Southerners in Uganda.”

Pax Christi, which has advocated a negotiated solution since 1998, was requested in the fall of 2005 by Church leaders in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan to explore possibilities for a political solution to the civil war between LRA and the Government of Uganda. The present peace talks in Juba, headed by the Government of South Sudan in the person of Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, started in Juba on July 14, 2006. Pax Christi heads the resource group that provides advice to the chief mediator of the peace process.

The conflict in Northern Uganda is one of the greatest humanitarian disasters worldwide. In terms of civilian displacement (1.8 - 2 million), Uganda ranks fourth after Sudan, DRC, and Colombia. According to recent estimates 129 human lives are lost daily as a result of violence and poor conditions in the displaced camps. This is three times the figure given for Darfur in October 2005 and for Iraq after the invasion of 2003.

(Source: Counting the Cost, Twenty years of war in Northern Uganda, Civil Society Organisations for Peace in Northern Uganda, 30 March 2006)


For further information please contact: Pax Christi Netherlands

Jan Heerkens, Press officer +31 - 652 61 67 53 or Pax Christi office: +31 30 – 2333346