Ugandan rebels sign deals, walk out of talks
A final peace agreement ending one of Africa's longest-running conflicts.
Uganda's government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have signed the last in a series of documents before a final peace agreement to end one of Africa's longest-running conflicts, officials said.
But only hours later, the rebel delegation stormed out of a meeting held after the signing ceremony late on Friday in protest at the chief mediator's insistence that a day should be set for a final peace deal.
"You have finally signed the necessary agreements and protocols for the final agreement," chief mediator Riek Machar told the delegations after they signed texts that provided for the disarmament and demobilisation of the LRA.
The Ugandan rebels' delegation head, David Matsanga-Nyekorach, told Reuters after emerging from the hall that the LRA would not sign a final peace deal until international indictments on its leaders are lifted.
An agreement already signed by the two delegations allows for special courts to prosecute war crimes to be set up in Uganda, a move that was seen as answering the rebels' demand not to be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The ICC has indictments out on LRA leader Joseph Kony as well as two of his deputies for crimes against humanity. The LRA has been accused of murder, rape, the abduction of children and slicing off body parts.
Although the rebellion has little direct impact on one of Africa's fastest growing economies, ending it permanently would be a major coup for President Yoweri Museveni and a relief in the coffee-exporting country of over 30 million.
It would also remove a destabilising element in a remote corner of the continent where conflicts can easily spill over national borders.
Reuters Last Mod: 01 Mart 2008, 17:13