Recent Attacks Aim to Pressure Rebels to Sign Peace Deal, Says Uganda Minister
By Peter Clottey Washington, D.C 23 December 2008
Ugandan residents affected by the insurgency of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels are expressing fear that their lives are in danger after regional forces attacked rebel held positions. The residents in northern Uganda say the recent attacks might spur the LRA to attack innocent civilians and commit more atrocities. This comes after President Yoweri Museveni said yesterday (Monday) that the attacks on the LRA were successful. President Museveni added that his government has no option left to resolving the over two decades of LRA insurgency. Ruth Nankabirwa is Uganda's defense minister. She tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Kampala that the attacks were aimed to put pressure on the rebels to sign a final peace deal.
"The LRA is a threat whether you attack them or not, they will kill and abduct the children because that is their method of work. But we just want to assure them (residents of restive northern Uganda) that I think what the region has done is the best. The LRA has been hiding there thinking that they are in the world of their own, disregarding the agreement, which we signed in Juba. Taking all the time they want and not even showing any goodwill for example releasing of abducted children," Nankabirwa noted.
She said the region has had enough of the LRA insurgency.
"So, what the region has done is that their base of the residents there would be short lived. If Joseph Kony (rebel leader) is flushed out they will go back to their normal life. But with Joseph Kony present in that area, they cannot be assure of normal life because this terrorist group will always plan to disrupt peace by killing and abducting people," she said.
Nankabirwa said President Museveni's government is mandated to protect ordinary Ugandans.
"Those are being assured and my government is working hard to make sure that the LRA does not come back. Good enough that we have a good working relationship with our neighbors in Southern Sudan and that gives us confidence this guy will not come back to northern Uganda," Nankabirwa pointed out.
She said Kampala is still open for negotiations with the rebel delegation despite the recent attacks LRA positions.
"The objective of launching the air strike was to put pressure on Joseph Kony to come out and sign. So, that means the road to the peace talks is not closed and Ri-Kwamgba as an assembly area is still free. And Joseph Kony and his people are being told to come out and assemble at Ri-Kwamgba. There are also other three areas that have been identified where LRA will assemble and they will not be attacked. But if they continue to loiter around beyond the gazetted assembly area, then they will face problems with the regional force," she said.
Nankabirwa dismissed as diversionary tactic demands by the rebels to have a new mediator to the peace negations as well as a venue changed.
"That is diversionary and my government is not going to accept that. It is diversionary and the document that we have so far produced out of the Juba peace talks is the best document. It has been recognized by the LRA team, Dr. Matsanga and his group and I don't think that they want to negotiate a better document better than what Juba produced," Nankabirwa noted.
Regional forces from Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and south Sudan launched the attacks on 14 December against an LRA hideout in northeastern DR Congo. But President Museveni said LRA leader Joseph Kony escaped because he had eavesdropped on military radio communications and escaped just before the attacks began.
The offensive was launched after the rebel leader repeatedly refused to sign a final peace agreement with the Kampala government
Meanwhile, the spokesman of the LRA rebels said the rebel leader is hiding in the Central African Republic but still holds out the possibility of a peace deal. David Matsanga said the rebel leader instructed him to tell the world that he was ready to resume talks but at a neutral venue either in Tanzania or South Africa or under a new mediator to replace South Sudan's Vice President Riek Machar.