Jan 25, 2007 (MAPUTO) — Uganda’s stop-start peace talks will resume only if the government agrees to negotiate with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels at a different venue, the U.N. envoy for the conflict said on Thursday.
The LRA, a northern Ugandan rebel movement fighting for two decades with no clear aim, said earlier this month it would not return to talks in south Sudan’s capital Juba because it was worried about the security of its fighters in Sudan.
It asked that another country be chosen instead.
“The way forward now is to concentrate on finding the solution to the problem of the venue,” Joaquim Chissano, Mozambique’s former president, said after returning to Maputo following a 10-day mission to break the impasse.
“I think this (venue change) can … reignite the dialogue,” said Chissano, who agreed last year to become the U.N.’s point man on the Ugandan conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people and forced 1.7 million others into refugee camps.
He, however, has made little progress in forging a political settlement that would end the violence that has at times spilled over into southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A landmark truce renewed in November gave the LRA until December to assemble in two places in south Sudan.
But the rebels said the army attacked them as they tried to reach a meeting point east of the Nile, prompting them to end further talks.
A paramilitary group that says it wants to rule Uganda according to the biblical Ten Commandments, the LRA has been accused of widespread human rights violations, including massacres, torture, rape, the abduction of civilians and using children as fighters and sex slaves.
Some fear the LRA will never sign a peace deal until the International Criminal Court drops indictments against rebel leader Joseph Kony and other key commanders. Uganda says it may ask the court to drop the charges if the LRA signs a deal.