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Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Friday, 14 July 2006 14:32 UK

Ugandan views: Juba peace talks

Internally displaced people line up to receive food aid at the Pabbo camp outside Gulu, northern Uganda
Many northern Ugandans will be able to return home if the peace talks succeed
Ugandans living in the north of the country have been explaining what the delayed peace talks, which are now underway in Sudan, mean to them.

The government delegation is in Juba taking part in the discussions, considered northern Uganda's best chance for peace in years, even though the LRA has not sent its top leaders.

Dennis Kibwola, 28, Gulu Youth Centre Manager

If all goes well, we will be very grateful.

Staging peace talks is not new to Uganda - we have been here so many times, it is frustrating.

I am putting everything into prayer and hoping for the best.

We are optimistic but not very certain because as I was reading in the papers yesterday, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels are refusing to send their top leaders and that has angered the government.

Tricky

Also basing on the fact that the LRA have been very tricky in the past.

In the past they have called for peace talks to buy themselves more time - time to be able to grow more food, and time for the grass to grow taller. Taller so that they can hide.

I've been talking to my friends and like it is for me, it's not big news for them either. We are all praying that this time it will be different but if it is not, we shall not be surprised.

Here in the municipality of Gulu it is safe but when you go deeper into the villages, 10km away and further, it is not safe.

I work in five of the internally displaced people (IDP) camps: Pabbo, Palenga, Bobi, Awere and Alero. But when I go to the camps I travel with army escort.

Two wrongs

The situation has carried on, like it has and for so long, because of wrongs on both sides of the conflict. I blame the government and the LRA.

LRA victim, Ochola John
He just ordered his soldiers to cut off my hands. They did
Ochola John
LRA victim

President Museveni has been reckless with his statements. He speaks and it incites the rebels to kill more people.

A while ago President Museveni said that the LRA had nine days to come out of the bush and end the war. Nine days? Nine days is not enough to end a war that has been here for 20 years.

Then some government officials have offered five million Ugandan shillings (US$2,500) to whomever hands over Joseph Kony. If the government is serious then why so little?

It is not an incentive. All it did was annoy the rebels, driving them to more killing.

When words like these have been uttered, the rebels have retaliated, badly. They go out and kill, wipe out a whole village - maybe 60 people. Dead.

Empty promises

As for the LRA, when you are fighting a rebellion you need support from the local community. They do not and it is because of what they have done and what they continue to do.

In the past couple of years they have changed their style of abductions - they no longer take adults. They know that the adults will not stay and join in rebelling. They will escape because they know their way out of the bush and back to town.

So now they want to take our children. The ones in the community who are innocent, who will believe in their empty promises.

The LRA also kill people. They chop off limbs and heads.

The mutilation of human beings is wrong. And however much they say they are not doing that, we have evidence. We see the people who do return to us and when they do, they come home mutilated, with their limbs missing.

Joel Odongo, 52, agriculture and environment minister in the Lango traditional government

The traditional government body in Lango District is lead by Won-nyaci - the paramount chief, Yocam Odur, who is elected by clan leaders.

We hope that these peace talks are the last chance and will succeed but they are contrary to what the International Criminal Court (ICC) wants.

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
First permanent court to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and other human rights violations
Rome Statute set up in July 1998, when 120 countries adopted the treaty
Came into force in April 2002 after ratification by 60 countries
Uganda and DR Congo investigations began in 2004

In Lango district many feel that the ICC's warrant is the only option. This is because we have participated in delegations with the court's people.

I agree with what the president of Uganda is doing, offering Kony [LRA leader Joseph Kony] amnesty.

If it achieves peace then there is no problem.

If Kony comes out and surrenders, then everything will be all right but if he insists on rebelling then the ICC's arrest warrant must stand.

A song

However, if there are going to be real peace talks then Kony and Vincent Otti and the other top leaders must participate in the discussion.

Former LRA child soldier [Pic: Anna Kari www.annakari.com]

They cannot rely on delegating. They must be there themselves.

This notion of talking peace, it becomes a song - everybody talks of bringing peace, they say how they will meet, they say of their plans to discuss what needs to be done. But then nothing comes out of it.

Nothing is done, nothing happens. Like a song the process repeats itself. It becomes joke-like and then we don't take it seriously.

The Langi want peace and will struggle to attain harmony.

None of the Langi brothers have ever gone into the bush to fight.

Go home

If peace succeeds, there will be no need for the Langi to stay in the IDP camps. They will move back, go home and be resettled in their homes, and when they do they will start taking part in cultural activities.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Kony's intention is to play over Ugandan politics and gain international fame for having been a thorn in Museveni's side
Herbert Masaba, Kampala

At present we have very little infrastructure in the communities that will be resettled. There are no schools educating our children. Health centres require reconstruction. Roads need to be built and boreholes must be drilled.

So long as we have confirmation of security then these projects can begin, as soon as we are sure that peace can come.

Unfortunately the funding for these projects is not there. Money is not available because for the last three/four years, people have not been involved in economic activities.

The people are poor.

When they are resettled they will have no food. They will struggle to survive, it will take a lot of input and effort to get things growing, to produce food.

We are opening land so that it is cleared and ready to be planted but we are appealing for things like farming implements, seeds and necessary technical services.

These can come from any source.

We will welcome any, and all, help that is offered, be it from the government or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or even any international organisation that sympathise with these people's plight.


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