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UN envoy to northern Ugandan conflict holds talks to try to energize peace process

UN envoy to northern Ugandan conflict holds talks to try to energize peace process

The United Nations envoy for the conflict in northern Uganda has arrived in southern Sudan for talks on how to achieve a political settlement and end the brutal 20-year rebellion of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Joaquim Chissano, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the LRA Affected Areas, met yesterday with Sudanese First Vice-President and Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir and with Riek Machar, the Southern Sudanese Vice-President and the facilitator of the peace negotiations for northern Uganda. The talks were held in the southern Sudanese town of Juba.

Mr. Chissano is scheduled to meet senior LRA representatives as well before heading to Khartoum for a meeting with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir and other Government officials.

Thousands of civilians have been killed or abducted since the LRA began its rebellion in 1986, and more than 1.5 million people have become internally displaced in Uganda. Humanitarian operations in southern Sudan, which the rebel group has often used as a base, have been severely disrupted.

The LRA became notorious for abducting children and then using them as soldiers or porters, while subjecting some to torture and allocating many girls to senior officers in a form of institutional rape.

Mr. Chissano was appointed last month to help with efforts to speed up negotiations towards a durable peace deal. The Ugandan Government and the LRA agreed to a cessation of hostilities in August, but a comprehensive agreement has not yet been struck and some senior LRA figures face International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments.

Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa told the UN General Assembly in September that his Government has offered an amnesty to the LRA leadership because it believes this is the best way to end the conflict.

Mr. Chissano, a former Mozambican president, has been tasked with addressing the regional ramifications of the Ugandan conflict – particularly its impact on neighbours such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – as well as its root causes. He will also liaise with the ICC.