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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 18:20 GMT
Uganda rebels release peace dove
An LRA fighter (July 2006)
The LRA has fought a 21-year rebellion in the north
The Ugandan rebels' chief negotiator Martin Ojul has released a white dove in the capital, Kampala, as a symbol of the group's commitment to peace.

It is the Lord's Resistance Army's first official visit to the city as part of efforts to end their brutal two decade rebellion in the north.

"We're here, committed to make sure we get a final agreement," Mr Ojul said.

During the visit, the rebels hope to meet the president and go up north to discuss justice and reconciliation.

They are being accompanied by some of the mediators and observers from the talks taking place in southern Sudan, where LRA leaders signed a truce with the government in 2006.

They were greeted at Entebbe airport by the interior minister and the government's chief negotiator at peace talks, Dr Ruwakana Rugunda

The value of what we are doing starting today is much higher than the fear
LRA spokesman Godfrey Ayoo

LRA leader Joseph Kony remains at a rebel camp across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He has refused to take part in long-running but stalled talks unless the International Criminal Court lifts an arrest warrant against him and other top rebel leaders.

On Wednesday, the LRA once again dismissed reports of fighting between Mr Kony and his deputy, leading to mass desertions and a split in the movement.

The person making the accusations is the LRA's Opiyo Makasi who arrived at Entebbe airport on Thursday evening after surrendering last week in DR Congo.

Sticking point

The BBC's Sarah Grainger in Kampala says the room where the LRA was holding its news conference was so packed that it was moved outside in the dark to the car park.


"We have always invited our brothers and sisters to come home - we are glad they have done so. And it shows progress that has so far been made in peace talks," Dr Ruganda said at the press conference.

Mr Ojul said that he had come to find peace for his people as he released the dove.

Our correspondent says the symbolic release didn't go entirely to plan as the tired dove careered off into the crowd and did not get very far.

Earlier, LRA spokesman Godfrey Ayoo admitted that the team had security fears about their visit but insisted that they will forge ahead with their mission.

"The value of what we are doing starting today is much higher than the fear, we want this to be the last conflict in Uganda whereby people will never again take up weapons to resolve their problems," Mr Ayoo told the BBC.

Mr Ojul will travel to northern Uganda on Friday where he will carry out consultations with local politicians, community leaders and the general public on the issue of justice and accountability.

This is a key sticking point in the negotiations, our reporter says.

The government and the rebels have decided broadly on how justice and reconciliation should be handled.

But the agreement signed in June fails to address the issue of the ICC, our correspondent says.

Traditional forms of justice have been suggested as an alternative to the ICC but are much less punitive.

During their rebellion, the rebels used the abduction of children and mutilation of adults to bolster their cause.

More than one million people have been driven from their homes.


The LRA delegation hopes to meet President Yoweri Museveni during their time in Kampala.

Children in a camp for displaced people in northern Uganda
More than 1.5m people still live in displacement camps in the north

The seeds of the conflict were sown in the defeat of the Ugandan army in 1986 by forces loyal to Mr Museveni.

The defeated fighters fled north, reformed and eventually rallied behind a spiritualist - Alice Lakwena.

She was in turn defeated a year later, leaving a power vacuum in northern Uganda.

It was this vacuum that Mr Kony filled.

In recent years, with dwindling support from Sudan, the LRA have been on the run.

The BBC's Africa analyst Martin Plaut says finding sanctuary in remote areas of DR Congo and funding their operations from diamond mines, the rebel movement is a shadow of its former self.

But ending their rebellion is still vital if peace is to come to northern Uganda, he says.


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