Ugandan govt agrees to dialogue with rebels

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President Yoweri Museveni

Ready for dialogue with rebels

President Yoweri Museveni / IRIN, 12 July - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has agreed to talks with the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), but stressed his government was keen to continue to pursue the group and root it out of its bases in Sudan, Ugandan media reported today. "I have authorised bishops to talk to them, but in the meantime, I will pursue them," the government-owned 'New Vision' newspaper quoted him as saying.

Explaining the renewed insecurity in northern Uganda, Walter Ochora, the local council chairman for Gulu, said the LRA was carrying out attacks to divert the Ugandan army's attention from southern Sudan. Since April this year, the army has been carrying out a military campaign, dubbed "Operation Iron Fist" to flush the LRA from its bases.

- They are diverting attention by sending groups to terrorise the population in northern Uganda, Ochora told IRIN. "They have taken advantage of the fact that most of the soldiers were sent to Sudan." 

Caesar Poblicks, a project officer with the UK-based Kacoke Madit - a forum which advocates a peaceful end to the armed conflict in northern Uganda - criticised the government's military approach to the conflict.

He told IRIN on Friday that so far, Operation Iron Fist had failed to yield the results the government had hoped for. "The international community should start to verify what is actually happening in southern Sudan," he said. "The only information we are receiving at the moment is coming from military commanders." 

Meanwhile, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) on Friday said Sudanese refugees living in camps in northern Ugandan had mounting security concerns, following a new spate of LRA attacks by on villages and displaced people's camps.

Earlier this week, the IRC sent a monitoring team to its emergency and rehabilitation programmes in the Acholi Pii Refugee Settlement in Pader District, northern Uganda, where refugees requested more military security for their settlements.

The refugee concerns follow reports of a weekend LRA attack on the Maaji refugee settlement in the nearby Adjumani district. "There is great concern among the refugees in Pader. The Acholi Pii camp is aware of the attacks in the refugee camp in Adjumani," said Timothy Bishop, the IRC country director for Uganda. 

- The IRC team accepted a request from the refugee population to transmit their views on the current insecurity in northern Uganda to Ugandan government officials in Kampala, Bishop said. "The IRC has subsequently written to the Office of the Prime Minister in Kampala."

By UN agency IRIN


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