UGANDA: Museveni optimistic peace will prevail
President Yoweri Museveni
KAMPALA, 5 December 2006 (IRIN) - Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday expressed optimism that lasting peace would prevail in the north, despite a decision by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to pull out of peace talks.
He said the Ugandan military was capable of pacifying the entire country and that no "trouble-making" would be allowed in the north.
"As far as we are concerned here in Uganda, there is nobody that will disturb our peace," he said. "Whatever happens in Juba [the southern Sudan venue of the talks] there will be peace in northern Uganda," the president told reporters in Kampala.
He said he had yet to talk to the southern Sudan leader, Salva Kiir, about the status of the faltering peace talks. The government of southern Sudan is mediating the talks to end 19 years of conflict in the region.
The LRA last week pulled out of the talks, claiming that the Ugandan army had killed three rebel fighters, thereby violating a ceasefire agreement.
The army, however, denied the claims, saying they were intended to divert attention from the rebels’ failure to assemble their fighters at Owiny Ki-Bul and at a second camp in Ri-Kwangba, along the border between southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as provided for under the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.
The LRA walkout was seen as a significant blow to the peace process, which started in July in the south Sudan capital of Juba, and was viewed by many as the best chance to end the conflict that is regularly described as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
Other than the truce agreement, the talks have made little progress on how to restore lasting peace in northern Uganda. Both sides have bickered repeatedly over allegations of ceasefire violations and failed to reach compromise positions on how to deal with war crimes. Post-war power sharing has also been a bone of contention.
The LRA leaders have said they will not sign a peace deal unless the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, lifts its arrest warrants against its leader, Joseph Kony, and four of his senior associates.
Museveni used Tuesday's news conference to address human-rights concerns over the disarmament exercise in the restive northeast region of Karamoja, promising to punish soldiers who tortured civilians. He, however, justified the army's use of force in the exercise, saying there was no other way to disarm people.
"The cordon and search operation in Karamoja will continue and will be intensified, but soldiers who torture people in the process will be punished," he added.
In a related development, the outgoing United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has named Mozambique's former president Joaquim Chissano as his envoy to help end the conflict in northern Uganda.
"He will develop a cohesive and forward-looking policy approach among all external actors," the outgoing UN chief said in a letter to the Security Council.
Annan said Chissano would also address the regional dimension of the conflict, which has left thousands of people dead and displaced two million more. "Its [the LRA’s] presence and activities in the north-eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo also represent a serious security threat for the civilian population and the region," he wrote.
The statement added that Chissano would seek a solution that addresses the root causes of the conflict and would liaise with the International Criminal Court.