Attempts are being made to revive peace talks between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda.
International Affairs State Minister, Oryem Okello, reveals that the leader of the LRA peace team, David Nyekorach Matsanga, last week met with Riek Machar the Chief Mediator of the talks to discuss resumption of the roundtable. Okello says Matsanga passed on the message that LRA commander Joseph Kony is interested in returning to dialogue with the government.
According to the Minister, who served as deputy government negotiator at the peace talks, the opportunity for the LRA to sign a peace deal is still available. He says the process remains open despite a UPDF-led offensive against the rebels in December last year.
Okello however stresses that the rebels will not be granted safe passage to assembly points in South Sudan, as was previously provided for in a cessation of hostilities agreement, until Kony himself commits to the process.
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The whereabouts of Joseph Kony are unknown. The military offensive against the LRA failed to lead to his capture, but the Ugandan army says it managed to rout the rebels and to cut them off from any food or arms supplies.
In the meantime, a Juba-based newspaper, The Sudan Tribune, reported over the weekend that local defense forces in Sudan's Western Equatoria State are alarmed about the wide-scale devastation from attacks by the LRA. It says people are fleeing to the major towns such as Tambura, Ezo, Nzara and Yambio.
The most recent attack was at dawn on Wednesday last week when the LRA hit the village of Atanziri.
Attacks on civilian bases by the LRA have caused considerable concern to local South Sudanese officials. According to a 2009 report by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, Sudanese officials disregarded a presidential disarmament order during 2008, largely out of fear to remove guns from local militia while the LRA remained armed and active in the region.