Uganda prepares to sign final agreement to end 20-year war
(dpa) - Uganda will resume talks with the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) guerillas on Monday to fine-tune the draft peace treaty, officials said Saturday and emphasised that the deadline was March 28.
Speaking to reporters in Juba, southern Sudan, the venue of the talks, a government leader Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said the purpose of was to prepare the treaty, to agree on the implementation schedule and to agree on the dates to sign.
The talks began in mid 2006 under the mediation of the southern Sudanese government. The war has left thousands of people dead, mutilated and abducted by the LRA who forced them to fight and turn the abducted girls into sex slaves. More than 1.5 million people have been displaced by the conflict.
The signing of the final peace deal has been delayed with the rebels demanding that the International Criminal Court (ICC) withdraws arrest warrants issued in 2005 for five top LRA commanders including its leader Joseph Kony on charges of conscripting children into war and raping and killing civilians.
The Ugandan government, which requested the indictments at The Hague-based court, offered an amnesty to the LRA leaders in June 2006 provided they gave up their fight started talks with them shortly afterwards.
Two indicted have died in the bush including the deputy LRA commander, Vincent Otti, who was slain by Kony himself in late 2007.
The top LRA command is reported to have left for the Central African Republic in recent weeks from the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where the rebels fled in late 2004 from their original bases in Sudan.
The Ugandan government insists that the peace agreement be signed before March 28 and has said it will ask the ICC to rescind the indictments handed to LRA leaders once they agree to sign the final agreement.
"We are going to agree on the date by which to sign, be it earlier than but not later than March 28. Whether Kony is there or not, we will sign the agreement so long as he appoints somebody authentic to sign on his behalf," Rugunda said.
If the rebels sign the treaty and hand themselves over to Ugandan authorities, the government will ask the ICC to drop the indictments against Kony and his commanders so that they are tried in Uganda