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Vol 48 No 23

Published 16th November 2007


Uganda

Problematic peace as the Commonwealth meets

The government wants a peace deal to show its guests but the rebels do not want to go to gaol

One billboard proclaimed: '1.6 billion eyes on Uganda'. As the country rushes around making last-minute preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on 23-25 November, officials extended an olive branch to the northern rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army. It invited them home for their first visit since peace talks started in Southern Sudan in July 2006. After 20 years of fruitless war, diplomatic pressure had helped to convince President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to swallow his pride and talk peace. That the LRA delegates met Museveni and his negotiators without fear of arrest is a sign of fresh confidence. The government's peace negotiatons leader, Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, warmly welcomed the rebels at the airport, exchanging handshakes, jokes and hugs with the delegation leader, Martin Ojul. Much credit for this progress goes to the affable Rugunda's patience. In the words of a colleague: 'God forbid, if you've managed to upset Rugunda, you've done something very wrong'. His easy-going number two, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Henry Okello Oryem, is from the LRA's northern stamping-ground, an Acholi, the people who once ran the country and who now feel marginalised.

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