July 22 2006 Monitor Online report
from Juba/Kampala by Frank Nyakairu, Angelo Izama, Jude Luggya:
Just when observers felt the chemistry between the government delegation and that of the Lord's Resistance Army negotiating an end to the 20-year northern Uganda crisis was getting better, they were treated to yet another shock yesterday.
At a press conference at the RA International Hotel in Juba yesterday, LRA dropped another bombshell on the government delegation sticking to their demands that the UPDF be disbanded.
"We are constrained to comment that the GoU Delegation includes a Colonel who one time went to Gulu Government prison cells at night with armoured vehicles, forcefully removed out some 23 detainees suspected of being rebel collaborators and shot one of them called Yumbe Lukac dead," said LRA spokesman Obonyo Olweny.
This allegation is apparently in response to claims by the Ugandan delegation two days ago that the LRA delegation harboured a man responsible for hacking civilians in Patongo Pader district and boiling their bodies in cooking pots in 2002.
The rebels delegation did not name the killer Colonel but the remarks seem to be aimed at the head of UPDF's northern intelligence, Col Otema Awany, who together with Col Leopold Kyanda are the only Colonels on the Ugandan delegation.
"This circus cannot go on," said Mr Robert Kabushenga of the Uganda Media Centre yesterday in reaction to the LRA deluge. He said the government feels the LRA delegation is unserious.
"Some of the demands made by the delegation are not practicable, which leads to the feeling that the LRA are not genuinely committed to the peace talks.
They should stop monkeying around" Kabushenga added saying the LRA High Command in Garamba had a more "realistic" view of the situation.
The government, Daily Monitor has exclusively reported, is maintaining high-level direct contacts with LRA leaders Joseph Kony and his core commanders holed up in Garamba.
Those contacts achieved a diplomatic break through on Thursday when government agreed to re-unite the Garamba commanders with members of their close family.
A meeting of Kony and Acholi elders is also in the works. While both sides in Juba insist they are committed to the talks, the impasse created by LRA demands and the unwillingness of the Uganda team to give way appears unlikely to be broken.
Uganda's team, led by Internal Affairs Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda wants a comprehensive agreement at the end but still consider LRA a terrorist organisation whose leaders have been indicted by the ICC.
Yesterday LRA insisted its political agenda was there for everyone to judge and threatened to present more evidence on UPDF atrocities if further provoked. The peace talks in Juba are seen by many as the best chance to end the civil war, which is regularly described by aid agencies as one of the world's worst and most forgotten humanitarian crises.
Meanwhile, the South African government has said it is ready to give the peace talks a shot in the arm if the parties asked.
"If asked by Uganda or Southern Sudan leaders or anybody to participate, we would be available to do that," South African Minister of Security and Safety Mr Charles Nqakula told journalists in Kampala on Wednesday. South Africa and Uganda are involved in engaging FNL, the last rebel group still holding out in Burundi to abandon their fight and join the government of national unity.
Nqakula is the facilitator at the Burundi peace talks while President Museveni chairs the Great Lakes Peace Initiative, which is sponsoring the talks.
Like LRA, the Burundian rebels have caused a stalement in the talks by demanding the disbanding of the current army in Burundi on the grounds that it is dominated by the minority Tutsi ethnic group.