KAMPALA, 3 May 2007 (IRIN) - The Ugandan government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have signed an agreement that binds them to finding lasting solutions to the underlying causes of the conflict in northern Uganda, officials said on Thursday.
The 'Agreement on Comprehensive Solutions', signed by delegates on Wednesday in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, and witnessed by mediators in the peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA, will form part of a final settlement at the end of the negotiations.
The agreement commits both parties to such principles as the need for broad-based government, affirmative action for marginalised groups and equitable land distribution. It also recognises the right to return and resettle of internally displaced people and the need for making more resources available for recovery programmes in conflict-affected areas of northern and northeastern Uganda.
Two decades of conflict in northern Uganda resulted in the displacement of nearly two million people, who were required by the government to move into crowded camps where authorities believed they would have better protection from marauding gangs of LRA fighters. The LRA has been widely accused of killing and maiming civilians and abducting thousands of children and using them to fight or become servants and wives of adult soldiers.
"The parties commit themselves to ending the conflict and thereby ensuring conditions for the voluntary, dignified and secure return of all IDPs [displaced people]," according to the agreement, seen by IRIN.
The agreement also has a clause on transitional security arrangements that recognises the need to "provide protection to the LRA leaders, combatants and personnel during transition from conflict to peace".
"Our fighters who are willing and qualify shall be integrated into the national armed forces and other security agencies in accordance with subsequent agreements that we shall sign," said Martin Ojul, the LRA chief negotiator.
After the signing of the partial agreement, the talks were adjourned until 11 May to give delegates an opportunity to consult on the next issue on the agenda - justice and accountability.
Five of the LRA's senior commanders, including the group's leader, Joseph Kony, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes.