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Last Updated:  Monday, 10 March, 2003, 16:37 GMT
Uganda declares short truce

Will Ross
BBC Correspondent in Uganda

Uganda army tank
The halt to hostilities is to enable peace talks

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has announced a temporary halt to fighting in order to allow the rebel Lord's Resistance Army to hold peace talks with the government.

A statement said that from today until 15 March the military is to cease operations in two areas, Wipolo and Koyo La Logi, in Pader District in the north of the country.

The safe zone provided by the five-day ceasefire is intended to allow the LRA to make contact with religious and cultural leaders and the presidential peace team.

Last week the rebels announced a unilateral halt in hostilities.

President Museveni's announcement follows a meeting last night in Gulu involving key players.

Peace talks to end 16 years of fighting were due to take place last week but a negotiating team was prevented from meeting the rebels by the military.

Assembly points

The presidential peace team is currently based in Gulu and is expected to hold face to face talks with the LRA rebels very soon.

In addition President Museveni also called on the LRA to assemble in various locations in Pader and Kitgum districts.

Last year when a similar request was made, the LRA refused to assemble fearing they would be attacked.

Although the locations are different from last time, there is still a huge question mark over whether the LRA trusts the government enough to follow such instructions.

Lam Cosmos the spokesman for the Acholi religious leaders peace initiative described President Museveni's announcement as an extremely positive step.

Rebel worries

Mr Cosmos said he was travelling to Pader District this afternoon in order to physically pass on the president's statement to the LRA.

He said the difficult task will be convincing the rebels that the call to assemble in certain areas is not a trap.

MP Okumu Reagan who is a member of the president's peace team also welcomed today's statement and said he trusts the military to stick to the pledges as the order has come from the president - the overall commander of the army.

President Yoweri Museveni
Museveni may now want to end the war through talking
There have been accusations by peacemakers in the north that some members of the military are gaining financially from the war and are therefore against peaceful efforts to end it.

Monday's statement also advised the LRA to notify the government of their movement to the areas so that safe passage can be arranged.

The statement said that this was in order to ensure that no confusion arises.

However with so little trust between the LRA and the government it seems unlikely that the rebels will pass on specific information about their movements at this stage.

But in an indication that he is warming to the idea of ending the war via talking rather than shooting, President Museveni over the weekend reiterated that he is willing to pardon LRA leader Joseph Kony and his top commanders under an amnesty if they give up their rebellion.

The BBC's Will Ross on Focus on Africa
Reports on peace efforts in Gulu

Uganda welcomes rebel truce
04 Mar 03 |  Africa
Ugandan rebels kidnap children
28 Feb 03 |  Africa
Surviving Uganda's rebellion
02 Dec 02 |  Africa
Country profile: Uganda
11 Jan 03 |  Country profiles
Ugandan children face hunger
05 Mar 03 |  Africa

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