Uganda + 1 more

Ugandan rebel group given three more weeks to assemble in southern Sudan

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KAMPALA, Jun 6, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Uganda's rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), has been given three more weeks to leave all its hide-outs and assemble at Ri-Kwangba in southern Sudan, as the peace process with the Ugandan government enters a crucial stage.

Riek Machar, the chief mediator of the talks and also Vice President of southern Sudan, was quoted by the state-owned New Vision as saying he has officially communicated the route LRA fighters must use to assemble at Ri-Kwangba.

In his declaration, Machar gave the LRA another three weeks within which they have to assemble at Ri-Kwangba, the single gathering point they had demanded and haggled for since October last year.

"There was some declaration three days ago on the routes to be used by LRA fighters. They need to act and start moving and the monitoring team will monitor them," Machar said.

The former deadline, according to the addendum to the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in April by both the LRA and the government, expired on May 26.

The LRA fighters then had up to one week to leave their hideouts and assemble at Ri-Kwangba or else they risked being attacked by both the Ugandan and southern Sudanese armies.

Initially, the LRA fighters from northern Uganda were supposed to assemble at Owiny-ki-Bul in South Sudan, while those west of River Nile were to gather at Ri-Kwangba.

Vincent Otti, LRA's second in command said he advised all his troops in Sudan and northern Uganda to be ready to move to Ri- Kwangba as soon as possible.

"I have been advising my troops in eastern equatorial province and northern Uganda to assemble in one point closer to the border of southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo so that they can move to us," he said in an interview on a local radio in war-ravaged northern Uganda.

"The chief peace talks mediator, Riek Machar gave the LRA remnants still roaming in south Sudan and northern Uganda three weeks more to move and assemble at Ri-kwangba. We shall need food to be provided to the LRA rebels who shall be walking from Eastern Equatorial and northern Uganda to join us in Ri-kwangba," Otti added.

The LRA and the government have been negotiating a peace deal since last July aimed at ending a two decade long insurgency that has left tens of thousands of people dead and over 1.4 million people homeless in northern Uganda.

The talks have now reached accountability and reconciliation, the third item out of the four on the agenda.

Otti described the third item as being the heart of the peace talks and that did not need to be rushed.