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LRA Asks S. Africa to Mediate Peace Talks with Gov't
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The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has sent a letter to South Africa to request its government to mediate the peace talks with the Ugandan government.

"We received a request from LRA and we have forwarded it to our government in South Africa," South African High Commissioner T.H. Chiliza was quoted by New Vision on Friday as saying.

"Nonetheless, the government of South Africa supports the Juba talks and expects all parties to it to reach an agreement. My point of view is that South Africa is not a country that will refrain from participating in making peace," the envoy said.

The LRA rebels and the Ugandan government, the long time warring parties, have been engaged in the peace talks in Juba, southern Sudan which was brokered by Salva Kiir, the first vice president of Sudan and president of southern Sudan.

The LRA asked South Africa to join the mediation efforts after expressing doubts in current mediator Riek Machar, vice president of southern Sudan.

In a statement, LRA leader Joseph Kony's deputy Vincent Otti said South Africa had a successful track record in conflict resolution in Africa.

"I, Lieutenant General Vincent Otti, deputy chairman of the high command and second-in-command of the Lord's Resistance Armydo hereby appeal to the government of the Republic of South Africa to come and act as co-mediator," he said.

He said South Africa would complement the efforts of the government of southern Sudan in the talks in Juba.

"In order for the Juba negotiations to be meaningful, successful and binding, the (LRA)... calls upon the government of Uganda to respond positively and declare a cessation of hostilities and respect the agenda and code of conduct agreed upon by the negotiating parties, the mediators and facilitators," Otti said.

Uganda insisted that any truce would be at the end of the peace process, arguing that the rebels had in the past taken advantage of ceasefires to regroup, re-arm and recruit.

Talks are expected to resume on Friday after a three-day recess asked by the rebels to mourn one of their top commanders, Raska Lukwiya, who was recently killed by the Ugandan army.

"We hope to resume on Friday because the mourning period requested by the LRA has ended. We hope that we shall resume to consider proposals for a ceasefire and cessation of hostilities," Capt. Paddy Ankunda, the spokesman for the Ugandan team, said.

The LRA's two-decade insurgency has left tens of thousands of people dead and more than 1.4 million people displaced in northern Uganda, which was labeled as "one of the world's most neglected humanitarian crisis" by UN official.

(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2006)


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