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Positive Moves In Ugandan Peace Process - UN

Security Council encouraged by positive moves in Ugandan peace process

Welcoming recent positive steps in the peace process between the Ugandan Government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the Security Council today called on all sides to maximize the opportunity to make further progress and to improve the living conditions of the people of northern Uganda.

In a press statement read out by Ambassador Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, the 15-member body said it was encouraged by recent progress and the resulting improved humanitarian and security conditions.

"Security Council members reiterated their support for a negotiated settlement and their hope for an expeditious conclusion to the peace process," according to the statement, which followed a briefing to the Council by Joaquim Chissano, the former Mozambican president and now the Secretary-General's Special Envoy on the peace process.

The Ugandan Government and the LRA, which have been fighting since the mid-1980s, signed a ceasefire last year, leading to hopes of a comprehensive peace accord to formally end the conflict. But disputes between the two sides had dampened hopes and many LRA members have been hiding out in southern Sudan or the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement welcoming the recent official visit of a LRA delegation to Kampala, the Ugandan capital, which has led to further consultations between the Government and the rebels.

Mr. Natalegawa said Council members reiterated their call on the LRA to immediately release all women, children and other non-combatants. The group has become notorious for abducting as many as 25,000 children and using them as fighters and porters. The children were often subject to extreme violence shortly after abduction, with many girls allocated to officers in a form of institutional rape.

The Council also stressed today that anyone responsible for serious violations of human rights or international humanitarian law must be brought to justice.

Speaking to reporters after his briefing, Mr. Chissano noted recent agreements between the two sides on various issues, including one on principles of accountability and reconciliation.

He also underlined the importance of both the Government and the LRA consulting the local population, including the victims of atrocities during the long conflict, on moving forward in the peace process to ensure that there is broad-based community support.

They are now working towards an agreement "that takes into consideration the requirements for an alternative justice, alternative to the ICC," Mr. Chissano said, referring to the indictments issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague of five senior LRA members.

"This is a complicated issue, delicate but not impossible. The lawyers of the country are keen, studying the ways of bringing new legislation which would take into consideration some cultural aspects of the problem and some cultural methods of bringing solution or making justice after commitment of grave crimes, as seen by the clans and the tribes in the country.

"The challenge is to blend this with the modern and ordinary type of judiciary systems. And, more than that, [the challenge] is to blend them with the international standards."

Reconciliation remains the key to preventing violence in the future and to building national unity, Mr. Chissano said, noting that some people in the international community have raised concerns about a route to justice that does not include the ICC.

"Some will perceive this as lack of punishment and they will say that a culture of impunity is being installed, while for the Ugandans there will be punishment enough, according to their perceptions, according to their culture. So it's delicate. It's a challenge."


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