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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
Uganda torn over price of peace
By Jenny Cuffe
BBC Radio 4

Brigadier Samuel Kolo (News Corp International)
Brigadier Kolo was a top commander in the rebel army
Reporter Jenny Cuffe spent a week with the team of international peace negotiators in Uganda during last month's temporary ceasefire.

As the talks collapsed, she met those faced with more violence after nearly two decades of conflict.

After 19 years in the bush fighting for the Lords Resistance Army against his own Acholi people, Brigadier Samuel Kolo has been granted an amnesty by the Ugandan Government and welcomed back into the fold.

The former rebel leader is now a guest at Gulu's smartest hotel, the Acholi Inn, where he enjoys VIP treatment, rubbing shoulders with officers from the Ugandan People's Defence Force and local politicians.

Thursday 31 March 2005
Radio 4, 2000 BST
An old colleague from the bush who sometimes joins him in the hotel garden is a notorious mass rapist now living on a generous stipend from the Government.

While the two men enjoy a cool drink in the shade, on the other side of the fence at the Gusgo Children's Centre, social workers listen in silence to the stories of atrocity told by boys and girls who were abducted by the LRA and have managed to escape.

Child victims

Mandela is one of thousands who have been torn from their families, witnessed the death of parents, teachers and friends and transformed into killers. At the age of 13, he took part in a macabre massacre in which rebels killed a group of villagers and started cooking their remains.

Ugandan child victim (News Corp International)
The LRA is said to have abducted more than 20,000 children
They were about to feed them to the grieving relatives when they were ambushed by the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF).

It is hard to imagine this skinny teenager with wide eyes could have taken part in such a grotesque incident but, in a matter-of-fact tone, he says, "They ordered me to kill, so I killed. I didn't count the number, but there were many."

Social workers have to coax youngsters like Mandela back into childhood. They also have to prepare the community to accept them back, by explaining that they were not born killers but have been groomed and brain-washed by the crazed cult-leader Joseph Kony and his comrades in arms.

In an area that is traumatised by conflict and where evil-doers are often victims, twin demands for peace and justice seem hard to reconcile.

Failed talks

At the same time as offering an amnesty to returning LRA soldiers, President Museveni invited the International Criminal Court to come and investigate war crimes for a show trial in the Hague.

This is one of the most disturbing and distressing crises in the world
Emma Naylor, Oxfam
During last month's temporary ceasefire, which allowed for tentative peace talks led by former Ugandan minister Betty Bigombe, the International Criminal Court announced that it was preparing to issue warrants for the arrest of Brigadier Kolo and other rebel leaders.

The Acholi traditional leader, David Onen Acana II, says the result was disastrous.

"If the ICC hadn't come out with this statement, the negotiating parties could have now been signing the memorandum of understanding that would lead to peace but instead the peace talks collapsed."

He and other civic and religious leaders have recently been to the Hague to urge chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, not to
Shelter for displaced Ugandans(News Corp International )
Up to 2 million people have been displaced
make any arrests, saying this will deter other rebels from giving themselves up and that peace has to come before justice.

They prefer traditional methods of ending conflict by reconciliation.

Emma Naylor, director of Oxfam's programme in Uganda, agrees. She fully supports the ICC in principle and says the LRA's outrageous crimes will need to be addressed - but that the priority is to relieve suffering among the 2 million people who are displaced and denied access to basic services.

"This is one of the most distressing and disturbing crises in the world. People cannot sleep in their homes or work in their fields and they are subject to appalling violence and neglect. We should think of justice in the broader sense."

Military campaign

In the past few weeks, since the collapse of peace talks, the LRA has stepped up the number and severity of its attacks on innocent civilians and has abducted more children to make up for those who have escaped or died in battle.

Man infront of fire (News Corp International)
Houses are being burned by rebels
Families who had begun to feel secure in their homes during the ceasefire are now pouring back into the night shelter run by Medecins Sans Frontiers in Lacor, a village outside Gulu.

The start of the rainy season will provide food and cover for the rebels but the Ugandan Government has stepped up its military campaign, claiming that the war is nearly won..

At the Acholi Inn, an armed guard sits, listless and hungry, in front of Samuel Kolo's bedroom door, though it is not clear whether he is there to ward off victims seeking vengeance, former colleagues who fear betrayal, or ICC investigators bearing an arrest warrant.

Whatever the threat, the Brigadier admits he does not feel entirely safe.

Seven Days: A countdown to killing: BBC Radio 4, Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 2000 BST.

Revenge or reconciliation for Uganda?
05 Mar 05 |  From Our Own Correspondent

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