Uganda: Museveni refuses to avoid elections

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Ugandan government has rejected demands by rebel leader ship of the Lords Resistance Movement (LRA) to share power, saying they must go through the election process as required by the constitution.

LRA’s peace negotiating team, late Thursday in Southern Sudan capital of Juba, demanded to have 35 per cent representation in government, which was rejected, an act that stalled a process aimed at ending a 21-year long war in the country’s northern Uganda.

The rebels chief negotiator also demanded for 35 per cent of government contracts and unconfirmed reports said they wanted to head the army.

Monday, both parties signed a second landmark truce, setting up a special court to handle what they described as serious crimes – committed during the conflict, believed to have claimed over 500,000 lives among a catalogue of crimes against humanity – signaling its end and signing of a comprehensive peace agreement by the end of this month. “The LRA team, led by David Nyekorach Matsanga, walked out of the negotiating room in Juba Raha Hotel at about 5:30pm, protesting the government’s rejection of their demands,” said Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, head of the Ugandan government negotiating team. “They later reduced their demand to five key ministries, five ambassadors, two commissioners and 20 senior positions in the army.”

“They also wanted the government to finance the return of LRA political leaders and members of the negotiating team living abroad, and protect them from prosecution or victimization.

“They wanted to be given a “golden handshake in cash and kind, in recognition of all the LRA delegates and their efforts in brokering peace,” Rugunda narrated.

In response, he said their demands about power sharing and government positions can only be achieved by them following the constitutional requirements.

“Like President Museveni has said before, that Uganda is a country governed by laws.

For anyone to get a position which is elective, he/she must contest for it,” Rugunda said, noting this was why they rejected LRA’s key demand, prompting their walk out. LRA negotiating team head, Dr. Matsanga attributed the protest to lack of faith in a process cruising in its last phase, citing mistrust. “We have decided as LRA delegation, to give the mediator time to talk to the gov ernment side until they see sense, asking him to tell President Museveni to come up and state that he will keep the promise he made during the consultations,” Matsanga said.

“Museveni had promised that the people of northern and north-eastern Uganda woul d be included in the running of the country. What we are asking for is not power – sharing but inclusiveness with proposed percentages,” he averred.

Asked whether they were worried of the international arrest warrants issued by the UN- sponsored International Criminal Court (ICC), Matsanga said it was a matter resolved in truce, signed earlier in the week, to set up a special court along s ide traditional courts to handle high profile charges.

“We are no longer bothered by the ICC. We agreed to handle the matter as Ugandan s and if this threat continues, it is unlikely that we will sign the comprehensive agreement,” he warned. Furious elders of the war-affected ethnic groups in the country’s north, mainly the Acholi, accused the LRA negotiators of prolonging the Juba peace talks for personal financial gains. The state-owned daily, New Vision, Friday quoted Dr. Martin Aliker, a prominent Acholi and former government mediator, noting “the government of Uganda is not n e gotiating with Joseph Kony.

“If that was the case, the agreement would have been reached long before Vincent Otti lost his life. The longer the talks take, the more money the negotiators make.”

He also pointed out that the demands made by the LRA team in Juba do not represent the views of Kony, but those of the Acholi in the diaspora.

According to Aliker, Kony asked for an iron sheets- roofed house in his village, Odek, a Pajero jeep, a television set and a music system to come out of the bush .

“I worked out all this duty paid and it came to about US$ 100,000. The demands you read about are for frustrated Acholi in the diaspora.”

“The most unreasonable Acholi are those in the United Kingdom. They include some of the best brains from Acholi, down to those who never had pit latrines before going to Europe.

“They are on the dole, have all the time to gossip and complain. None of the neg otiators held any jobs,” New Vision quoted Aliker as saying.

Meanwhile human rights organisation, Amnesty International, insisted that LRA rebels, accused of crimes against humanity should be tried by the International Criminal Court, not domestic tribunals.

The organisation was reacting to a pact, signed Monday night by the LRA and the government, where both sides agreed to try severe crimes committed in northern Uganda under a special division of the High Court in Uganda.

“It is not acceptable for the Ugandan government and the LRA to make a deal that circumvents international law,” said Christopher Keith Hall, senior legal advis e r with the organisation’s justice project.

“Many of these people have been charged with horrific crimes and international w arrants have been out for their arrest for more than two and a half years.

“They must be handed over to the ICC so that their guilt or innocence can be det ermined once and for all. The people of Uganda deserve no less.”

Amnesty said Uganda, as a signatory to the ICC, was bound to co-operate fully with its investigations and prosecutions, including arresting and surrendering anyone charged by the court as soon as possible. ICC statutes provide for applications for domestic prosecutions once the accused parties have been surrendered, it added.

In a related development, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has urged the Ugandan government and the LRA to quickly reach a comprehensive peace deal.

In a statement, UN hailed the signing of a protocol establishing “the legal fram ework for accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in the promotion of peace with justice in Uganda.”

Ban Ki-Moon said he was encouraged by the commitment of the parties to the talks and urged them to “renew their efforts to expeditiously conclude a comprehensive peace agreement in order to bring lasting peace with justice to the people of n o rthern Uganda.”


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