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Acholi elders to Juba to save talks
Publish Date: Feb 08, 2007
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By Denis Ojwee and Henry Mukasa

IN an effort to salvage the stalled peace talks, Acholi leaders plan to organise an all-inclusive Acholi conference in Juba, led by the Acholi Paramount chief, Rwot David Onen Acana.

The Governments of Sweden and the Netherlands have pledged $250,000 or sh.450m towards the initiative.

The conference plans to draw in leaders from the national down to sub-county level, leaders of IDP camps as well as Acholi living in the diaspora.

Gulu RDC Walter Ochola announced that the conference would deliberate on the fate of the peace process in Juba and the way forward.

“We want to see how we can salvage the peace talks,” Ochora said on Mega FM radio in Gulu yesterday. “People from the grassroot will give their views… not the elite. The people from the diaspora have been sending mixed signals. We need to synchronise on what message we send out.”

The conference is expected to take place in the first week of March, after a group of Acholi leaders have returned from a one week fact-finding mission to Owiny-ki-Bul, one of the assembly areas for the LRA fighters. The delegation to Owiny-ki-Bul, that leaves next week, will include traditional and religious leaders, RDCs, district chairpersons and speakers from Gulu, Kitgum, Amuru and Pader.

“We are going to camp in Magwi. We hear the LRA have uprooted people’s simsim. We want to compensate those people. We are talking to our partners to buy that simsim,” Ochora said.

Earlier in the week, Gulu LC5 chairman Norbert Mao said that atrocities committed by the LRA in South Sudan are creating animosity against Ugandans living there.

“Because of the actions of the LRA rebels who have dispersed from Owiny-Kibul, the population of South Sudan has become hostile to the Ugandan businesses community there,” Mao told the refugees and disaster preparedness minister, Prof Tarsis Kabwegyere.

The army confirms the LRA has gone on a rampage in Eastern Equatoria. “A group led by Kwoyelo is looting, killing and abducting around Magwe and Torit”, said Cpt. Chris Magezi, the UPDF spokesperson for Northern Uganda.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Western Equatoria Azande Community reported that another group of LRA is on a looting spree in the area as they are moving closer to the border with the Central African Republic. “They are said to number in their hundreds and are moving in two groups consisting of fighters, women and children. On February 6 they looted places in Sakure Payam, 20km East of Yambio-Anzara,” a press statement from Charles Kisanga read.

“It appears there is a split in the LRA because some are still in Ri-Kwanga/Nabanga area.”

According to the Azande, the Ugandan LRA rebels started appearing across their villages on February 1 as they moved out of Garamba Forest.

“The rebels then began trekking across the villages lying close to the border with Congo such as Birisi, Ringasi, Gangaura. They looted property, sending people fleeing and some villagers have been reported abducted.”

Other groups are reported to have set up camps south-east and south-west of Garamba National Park, in places like Suke and Bwendi, according to military sources.

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