Uganda

Uganda: Kony declares unilateral ceasefire

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NAIROBI, 3 March (IRIN) - Uganda's rebel leader, Joseph Kony, has declared a ceasefire in northern Uganda to pave the way for talks to end the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in the region, but his gesture has been greeted with a mixture of hope and scepticism.
Kony's right-hand man, Charles Tabuley, reportedly told a team of religious leaders who met him at the weekend that Kony had declared the ceasefire with immediate effect, as part of his willingness to begin peace talks with the government. The recorded message was reportedly broadcast on Ugandan radio.

The religious leaders said they spoke for over an hour via satellite phone with Kony during the meeting, the BBC reported. In the recorded message, which was reportedly broadcast on Ugandan radio, the LRA leader also promised to stop abducting civilians, ambushing vehicles and attacking government troops, according to the BBC.

Lam Cosmas, the coordinator of the Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative, which has been playing a mediating role in the conflict, told IRIN on Monday that the body was happy with the LRA's gesture, and was monitoring the ceasefire. "We are happy about this. The fact that he [Kony] asked for a meeting is very important for us," he said. "Now we implore them [the LRA], we exhort them to implement the ceasefire. The process of peace must be nurtured," he added.

However, he did not rule out renewed confrontation between the army and the rebels during the ceasefire period. "The commanders are all aware of the ceasefire. But we know there are problems of coordination and communication. So there could be isolated incidences," he added.

Salim Saleh, President Yoweri Museveni's brother and a member of the government's peace team appointed last year to negotiate with the rebel group, welcomed the ceasefire and said arrangements were currently being made "to organise face-to-face discussions" and that he would "personally" take part in those talks, according to BBC.

A representative of the Ugandan military has, however, stressed that the army would only accept Kony's ceasefire if the LRA leader abided by conditions set earlier by the government before talks can begin. The conditions included stopping attacks on civilians.

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesman in Gulu, Paddy Ankunda, told Radio Uganda that the UPDF had "no choice" but to continue hunting for the LRA rebels for so long as they failed to abide by the conditions.

[ENDS]

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