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Saleh, rebels clash on radio

By Vision Reporter

Added 4th May 2003 03:00 AM

REBEL chief Vincent Otti has warned the UPDF to lay down its arms or his forces will unleash terror on civilians

REBEL chief Vincent Otti has warned the UPDF to lay down its arms or his forces will unleash terror on civilians

By Dennis Ojwee

REBEL chief Vincent Otti has warned the UPDF to lay down its arms or his forces will unleash terror on civilians.

Lord’s Resistance Army deputy chief “Brig” Otti said the rebels would only lay down their arms if the UPDF did the same.

Otti was responding to Lt Gen. Salim Saleh’s proposals on a local FM radio station in Gulu over the weekend.

Otti said if the the condition is not met, the rebels will attack camps for the displaced and kill every one there whom he said are government agents.

Saleh urged the LRA to stop abducting children but perhaps go for the adults.

Asked by Saleh about President Yoweri Museveni’s letter, Otti denied seeing any such letter from the Presidential Peace Team, which Saleh heads. He said the rebels were interested in peace talks but Museveni was not.

“Ladit Otti, kop ango (How are you Mr. Otti?) Are you interested in peace talks at all?” Saleh asked.

Otti shot back, “The LRA is ready for peace talks, even now if the UPDF can lay down its arms.” The angry-sounding Otti said the UPDF must leave northern Uganda and leave the rebels decide where to have the ceasefire.

He said if the UPDF offensive against the rebels stopped, the rebels would not ambush vehicles, kill or abduct anyone.

He said the rebels ceased fire temporarily to reorganise. He said the Acholi should support them as the “third” option to end the war.

Answering Reagan Okumu, the MP for Aswa, Otti said the UPDF was carrying out “boo-kec” or armed robbery and blaming it on the rebels. “There is no boo-kec. It is the UPDF that charges against the people and claims it is the LRA,” Otti said.

Otti said Museveni had tried all ways to crush the rebels in vain. “So let’s try the third option; let the Acholi turn to support us and we see if we can’t fight Museveni,” he said.

Another rebel commander, “Col.” Sam Kolo, called in and said, “Confidence building is the most important. We are not going to accept to be confined in any area. Those are government tricks.”

The Government has asked the rebels to assemble in certain places before the talks can take off.

Kolo said traditional chiefs were ignorant of their work which he said was to talk to the government so that civilians go back home from camps.

He said Museveni, who is buying more weapons, should speak the truth. He said no one will pressure them into peace talks but it has to be their own decision.

Pader MP Santa Okot asked, “For you to accept that Museveni is interested in the peace talks, what should he do?”

Kolo said, “As I talk now, the UPDF helicopter is looking for me.”

Okumu said, “If the LRA works with MPs, the peace talks can go on.”

Former minister Betty Bigombe said the debate was healthy and she hoped it would bring lasting peace to the northern region which has suffered for at least 17 years of war.

Saleh, rebels clash on radio

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