Uganda: the long, hard road to peace; After 10 months of protracted, stuttering peace talks that have given rise to hopes of ending Uganda's two-decade "forgotten conflict", protagonists are to take their seats at the negotiating table once again. Stuart Price reports from Kampala.

Author:Price, Stuart

In any situation of uncertainty or doubt, it is always best advised to proceed with caution. So has been the case regarding the negotiations between the Ugandan Government and rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).


After 20 years of conflict and mass displacement of northern Uganda's population, where the epicentre of the insurgency has been located, there was suddenly reason to dare hope in July last year when a ceasefire was declared in order to pave the way for peace talks to begin.

When the two sides agreed to come together in an attempt to finally bring the rebellion to an end, many in NGO circles and the media dressed the talks up as "the best chance for peace in years".

That is perhaps not an overestimation. Yet after six months of discussions brokered by the government of Southern Sudan in the capital Juba, little real progress had been made when in December last year the LRA pulled out citing security concerns regarding their fighters.

With many people starting to get that sinking feeling once again, as has been the case in previous attempts to bring the two sides together, it looked like efforts were about to fail once more.

The rebels withdrew from their seats at the negotiating table in December, saying they had lost trust in the mediators led by Southern Sudan's vice-president, Riek Machar. The Ugandan government retorted that this was just a time wasting tactic.

Following comments made by the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir--an alleged one-time supporter and backer of the group--accusing the rebels of attacking, abducting and killing civilians in the south and vowing to "get rid of the LRA from Sudan", rebel mediators also appealed for a new venue for the talks.

Both Nairobi and South Africa were proposed, yet their calls were not heeded. At the beginning of February, Kenya's foreign minister, Raphael Tuju, said the talks should not "be distracted by venue or forum shopping", and that the Juba peace process should continue to be supported.


With the majority of the LRA's negotiating team comprised of rebel sympathisers from the Ugandan Diaspora, their emergence to represent the group at the talks and the lack of progress to date has led to the theory that they have their own political agenda and in fact, have little in common with LRA leader Joseph Kony and his hardened fighters who have been living and waging their rebellion in the bush for most of their lives.

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