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UGANDA: LRA talks reach agreement on accountability

JUBA, 30 June 2007 (IRIN) - Peace talks between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army inched closer to success on 29 June with a late-night agreement on the principles for handling accountability and reconciliation for crimes committed during the conflict in northern Uganda.

The agreement, which deals with the third item on the talks’ five-point agenda, will incorporate both the formal legal system and traditional mechanisms to achieve accountability and reconciliation for crimes committed by both sides during the two-decade-long conflict.

Mato Oput is an elaborate reconciliation ceremony of the Acholi people of northern Uganda, who are among the communities worst affected by the war. Similar reconciliation ceremonies are held by ethnic communities across the region affected by the conflict, and all processes will be incorporated into the accountability and reconciliation agreement.

"This agenda item was make or break for these talks, and I’m happy we have come out on the positive side," Captain Barigye Ba-Hoku, the Ugandan delegation spokesman, told IRIN. "We discovered that neither the usual legal system nor the traditional system were sufficient to achieve accountability for crimes on such a large scale."

Barigye acknowledged that despite having reached agreement, the International Criminal Court’s outstanding arrest warrants remained a stumbling block to the talks.

"We know the ICC’s main problem is the issue of impunity; we hope that once all agenda items are signed we will be able to go to them and present an argument that our agreement ensures that the commission of crimes in the conflict does not go unpunished," he added. "Each person who committed a crime will be held individually accountable and will be punished accordingly."

The agreement also provides for reparations, in the form of rehabilitation, restitution, compensation, guarantees of non-recurrence, apologies, memorials and commemorations. It also takes into account the 'special needs' of women, girls and children.

Discussions on the subject have taken the better part of one month; the signing was presided over by lead mediator for the talks and Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan Riek Machar. S. P. Kagoda signed on behalf of the Ugandan government, while Martin Ojul, signed on behalf of the LRA delegation.

In order for agenda item three to be wrapped up, however, both parties need to agree on the mechanisms of its implementation. The parties agreed to return to their constituencies for consultations and will return on 29 July to finalise discussions.

"This is just the first part; we now have to thrash out the modalities of how these principles will work in practice," the LRA’s Justin Labeja told IRIN.

Since August 2006, talks have been underway in Juba, capital of Southern Sudan, to end over 20 years of hostilities that have devastated northern Uganda and displaced more than one million of the region’s residents.

The five-point agenda:
-    Cessation of hostilities and LRA assembly at designated points in Sudan
-    Comprehensive solutions to the conflict; tackling the root causes of the conflict
-    Accountability and reconciliation
-    Ceasefire agreement
-    Demobilisation, disarmament, reintegration

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more coverage: Living with the LRA

Theme (s): Conflict, Human Rights,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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