Museveni orders troops to cease fire

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni issued the order as a weekend “cessation of hostilities” accord came into force at 6:00am (0300 GMT) under which LRA fighters will move to camps in southern Sudan for the duration of the talks.

Officials in Kampala said the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) were preparing routes of safe passage for the rebels to move to the two sites and would soon begin publicising their locations by radio.

“The commander-in-chief of the UPDF has directed all UPDF to cease all search-and-destroy operations against the LRA,” army spokesman Felix Kulaije said, reading from the presidential order.

“It is hereby directed that the UPDF should withdraw to their barracks and to the guarding of internally displaced people,” he said. “They should not shoot at the LRA unless in defence of the population.”

In the southern Sudanese capital of Juba, where the peace talks are being held, LRA officials said rebel supremo, Joseph Kony, who declared a unilateral ceasefire on August 4, had reaffirmed the earlier truce.

“We have just heard that the president has announced a cessation of hostilities (and) that is sufficient to move the process forward,” said rebel spokesman Obonyo Olweny.

Uganda’s Deputy Defence Minister Ruth Nankabirwa said military experts were mapping out safe corridors for the LRA to use to move to the camps.

“We expect the LRA to start using those corridors that will be announced later in the day and our troops have been directed not to shoot at them unless it is to protect civilians,” she told a Kampala news conference.

Under the agreement, Uganda has guaranteed the rebels ‘ who number anywhere between 500 and 5 000, according to various estimates ‘ safe passage to the assembly points.

They will stay there under the protection of the government of autonomous southern Sudan, which is mediating in the negotiations that are to resume today.

On Sunday, less than 24 hours after the truce was signed, LRA commanders began informing rebel fighters of the agreement and telling them to prepare to leave the bush in accordance with its provisions.

In recorded messages broadcast over radio stations in war-ravaged northern Uganda, they told their forces not to attack or molest civilians as they make their way out of the bush toward the sites. The commanders also appealed to local communities not to be alarmed if they see LRA fighters moving through their villages.

Many of the rebels are illiterate, hungry and desperate children cut off from most communication in remote jungle locations in northern Uganda, southern Sudan and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Juba talks are seen by many as the best chance to end northern Uganda’s conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced nearly two million people since the LRA took leadership of a regional rebellion in 1988.

However, mediators have warned of a tough road ahead with the two sides at deep odds on a variety of wealth and power-sharing issues. ‘ AFP.

September 2006
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