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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 11:47 GMT
Uganda welcomes rebel truce
By Will Ross
BBC, Kampala

There is still optimism that the ceasefire announced by the Lord's Resistance Army rebels over the weekend will provide a chance to end the 16-year-old war in northern Uganda.

Uganda army tank
The army offensive continues, despite the LRA announcement
After a meeting between a group of religious and cultural leaders and senior rebel commanders, the LRA announced that it is to cease ambushes, stop abductions and stop attacking government soldiers.

Lieutenant General Salim Saleh, who is on the presidential peace team, welcomed the move and said he will soon hold face to face talks with the rebels.

But there is no sign that the military operation against the rebels is ending.

In the northern town of Kitgum which has been hit hard by the insurgency in recent weeks, there is still an element of disbelief.

Attacks continue

Particularly when reports from outlying villages to the east of Kitgum indicate that the LRA has attacked several parishes and abducted over 30 civilians.

We've been here before and failed but we mustn't give up hope
Gulu resident

Happening just hours after the ceasefire had been announced, some will put this down as an indication that the LRA is not serious about peace.

Others suggest there is a lack of communication amongst the rebels or even warn that Joseph Kony is not in control of all his commanders.

Army spokesman Major Bantariza told me that on Sunday there had been an ambush by the rebels in Atiak, Gulu District which left one civilian dead.

Major Bantariza said that despite the reports of a ceasefire, the military offensive against the rebels, Operation Iron Fist, is continuing.

Scepticism

Lieutenant General Salim Saleh, who is President Museveni's brother, told me today that he hopes to hold those talks by the end of this week.

He said only then can a decision be made on whether to offer a ceasefire.

The chairman of the government peace team, Uganda's Interior Minister Erya Kategaya has welcomed the ceasefire and said different options are being considered by the peace team including involving the United Nations.

Commenting on the fact that Operation Iron Fist is continuing he told me: "The LRA ceasefire has only just been announced and the Ugandan army's operation is not like a clock that can be stopped immediately."

MP for Gulu Norbert Mao described the ceasefire announcement as a massive breakthrough adding that within a few weeks the peace moves will have reached a point of no return.

Despite some scepticism, people in the north are overwhelmingly hoping that the government seizes the opportunity for peace.

"I am excited but cautious. We've been here before and failed but we mustn't give up hope," said one Gulu resident.




SEE ALSO:
Uganda rebels call ceasefire
03 Mar 03 |  Africa
Ugandan rebels kidnap children
28 Feb 03 |  Africa
Surviving Uganda's rebellion
02 Dec 02 |  Africa
Uganda's rebels keep the faith
03 Jul 02 |  Africa
Country profile: Uganda
11 Jan 03 |  Country profiles


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