New breakthrough in Uganda talks

BBC News/February 22, 2008

The Ugandan government has signed a new agreement with the Lord's Resistance Army rebels, a day after the LRA walked out of peace talks in South Sudan.

The agreement allows the rebels to be considered for government, diplomatic and military posts.

But they will not be assigned these posts automatically, as the LRA wanted.

Talks broke down on Thursday after the government refused the rebels' demands for cash and positions in government as a condition for disarming.

In the current phase of the peace talks, the LRA negotiators got much less than they asked for, the BBC's Sarah Grainger reports from Kampala.

They had demanded five cabinet minister positions, five ambassadorial posts and 20 other top government jobs.

They wanted LRA fighters integrated into the army at their current rank, and they wanted resettlement packages for themselves, including a "golden handshake" in cash and kind on completion of a peace deal.

The government negotiators have now agreed to consider people from the conflict-affected areas for appointment to top political and diplomatic positions.

Former LRA combatants will be assessed for rank and experience before being integrated into the army.

The agreement makes no mention of resettlement packages for the LRA peace team.


Our correspondent says the deal came as a surprise so soon after the talks broke down.

She says, though, that the LRA's wish list had always seemed unobtainable, and their apparent willingness to accept compromises will be good for their public image.

On Tuesday, the two sides finalised an agreement over justice and accountability for war crimes, which had been a major obstacle.

A special division of the Uganda High Court will be set up to try those accused of serious crimes.

The rebels hope this means their leaders will not be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, which has issued arrest warrants for three of them.

Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, as well as the details of a full ceasefire, still need to be discussed.

The government has given the LRA until 28 February to end the war.

Around 20 years of fighting with the LRA has killed tens of thousands of people and uprooted some two million.

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