Saturday, June 03, 2006

Southern Sudan's SPLA create market for LRA rebels regrouping around Congo-Sudan border

Sunday Vision report by Frank Mugabi June 3, 2006:

REBELS of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have started regrouping around the Congo-Sudan border in preparation for peace talks that are expected to kick off next week in Juba, a top Sudanese officer has said.

The Yei River County Commissioner, Col. David Lokonga, said in an interview last week that the Government of Southern Sudan had further facilitated the rebels by establishing for them a special market along the border in Sudan where they can purchase food items as they reorganise for talks.

Lokonga said the market, which mainly stocks produce, was created shortly after the Southern Sudan Vice-President, Riek Machar, handed Joseph Kony, the elusive LRA leader, $20,000 for purchasing "food and not arms".

"The market is located between Yambio and the DRC and is only a three-hours walk from the LRA base in the Garamba National Park of Congo."Lokonga said.

Press reports on Thursday indicated that plans were underway for Kony and the Government to meet in Juba to decide on where peace talks could be held.

Describing as genuine the latest call by the LRA for peace talks, Lokonga said the rebels were waiting to hear from the Ugandan government as they regroup in the Congo jungles.

Lokonga, meanwhile, refuted press reports which indicated that the rebels had been given only $20,000.

"They were actually given $25,000," Lokonga said.

He said the SPLA and the Southern Sudanese government were aware of the tricky nature of Kony and were therefore taking no chances with him.

"We know the LRA are a tricky rebel force. That is why we have given them three options. Note that with or without the peace agreement the SPLA is not ready to allow them to operate in Southern Sudan," he said.

He said the first option the rebels had been given was for them to remain in the Congo but not attack Government of Southern Sudan positions, civilians, expatriates and NGOs.

The second option, which he said the rebels accepted, was for them to agree to peace talks with President Yoweri Museveni under the mediation of the Southern Sudan government.

The third and last option, Lokonga said, was that should the LRA not respond to either of the first two options, then the SPLA would be forced to flush them out by force or otherwise from their bases in the Congo and Sudan.

Also at the interview, Col. Vincent Kujo Lobung, the Lainya County Commissioner, said that as a sign of commitment, the LRA had since April 20 not attacked any part of Sudan.

He said they last attacked the Nuni area in Lainya County between April 18 and 20.

In that attack they abducted 10 people and looted food and property. The captives were later released.

The Sudanese officials urged Museveni to take the peace talks seriously so that peace prevails in Sudan and northern Uganda.

"The SPLA and Government of Southern Sudan have unanimously agreed that there should be peace in Uganda and Sudan because instability on either side disrupts both of us," they said.

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