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Peace talks for Uganda begin in the South Sudan

International Court of Justice makes peace process more difficult

Bolzano/Bozen, Göttingen, 14. July 2006

The International Court of Justice at The Hague is in the opinion of the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) threatening the peace talks for northern Uganda, which are scheduled to begin today, Friday, in the South Sudan. "The chances for a peaceful solution are sinking as the rebel leaders have not appeared for the negotiations with representatives of the Ugandan government for fear of being arrested", said the GfbV Africa expert, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen. The Ugandan Minister for Security, Amama Mbabazi, appealed in vain on Wednesday to the Court of Justice at The Hague to give up its inflexible attitude and suspend the warrants for the arrest of the five leading commanders of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

"The desire for justice cannot be an aim in itself and not at the cost of peace", said Delius in a letter to the International Court of Justice. "All forms of justice have their price, but to accept the deaths of some 1000 people per week in the north of Uganda is inhuman." This figure for the victims of attacks and the catastrophic humanitarian situation is given by the United Nations. It was only last Tuesday that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees stated that Uganda is one of the three most dangerous places in the world for children. Some 80 percent of the LRA fighters are child soldiers.

"It is a disgrace that the Court of Justice is totally ignoring the will of the civilian population in northern Uganda", criticised Delius. The Archbishop of Gulu, John Odama, appealed in vain to the Court not to endanger the peace process. "We must first secure peace, then we can strive for reconciliation and after that look for justice." Elders of the Acholi, the ethnic group suffering most from the war, called on Wednesday for forgiveness and reconciliation towards the LRA and demanded that peace should at last be given a chance.

"It is true that the LRA does spread terror and fear in the civilian population", said Delius. But this tyranny cannot be stopped by the warrants issued in July 2005 against the LRA commanders. There is in any case practically no chance for them to be implemented as no country is prepared actively to pursue and arrest these rebels.

Letter to President Museveni

His Excellency President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
State House, P.O. Box 25497, Kampala, Uganda

The Honourable President Museveni,

we are writing to you on behalf of a group of Italian Associations which deeply care for Uganda and its people. For years we have followed the unfolding of events within the conflict in North Uganda with apprehension. There are those among us who have been to these territories and have seen at first hand the gravity of the situation. They can bear witness to the tragedy of a war which has afflicted the population of the northern regions for nearly twenty years, in particular its children, and forced them to abandon their villages in favour of refugee camps where they lead miserable lives and die devoid of dignity. We value and appreciate your declaration, published to representatives of both the European Union and the United States of America on 6th March, in which you committed yourself to ensure the closure of the refugee camps and the safe return of refugees to their home villages. This was the sign that we had all been awaiting from you!

We, Italian peace workers, are also confident that your government (now at the beginning of your new mandate as President) will take concrete action to bring about peace in the North and re-establish fundamental human rights. Accordingly, we deem it necessary that the conditions allowing for a return home by the local population be guaranteed. We see these as: the safety of the civilian population; the reconstruction of villages, schools and public health structures; and the provision of adequate food supplies along with seeds with which to re-establish local agriculture.  We also deem it a priority that your Government open negotiations with the few remaining rebel forces of the Lord’s Resistance Army still in the area so as to reach a sure and lasting peace agreement. We would like to assure you all of our support towards the development of Uganda and, in a spirit of justice and peace, we wish you and your government success in your efforts on behalf of Uganda and its people.

Yours sincerely

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