Uganda to sign final peace agreement with rebels by February 29

Other News Materials 17 February 2008 15:45 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- The government of Uganda said Sunday it expects to sign a final peace agreement with rebels by the end of the month to bring an end to the brutal 20-year conflict that has left thousands dead or mutilated in the north of the country.

"By February 29th, we expect to have finalized agenda item number five of the cessation of hostilities agreement. We have extended the ceasefire period for the fifth time since the talks began, to February 29," the leader of the government's negotiating team, Ruhakana Rugunda told reporters.

Talks between government and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels began under the mediation of southern Sudan's leaders in July 2006 and a partial ceasefire agreement was signed the following August.

But the conclusion of the final peace treaty has been delayed because of feuds between the two sides and the ceasefire period being extended several times.

The government, Rugunda said, did "not have plans ... to go beyond" the latest deadline.

President Yoweri Museveni had urged the LRA to meet the February deadline or risk a resumption of war. The two sides are set to resume the talks in southern Sudan's capital Juba on Monday.

Over half a million people have been displaced by the conflict while up to 25,000 children have been abducted by the rebels who forced them to carry loot, fight alongside them and commit atrocities or act as sex slaves.

The International Criminal Court( ICC) in 2005 issued warrants for the arrest for five LRA commanders, including its leader Joseph Kony for war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the Ugandan government, eager for a quick end to the war, pardoned the guerrillas and paved way for the peace talks.