It was in 2006 (14 years ago) that South Sudan decided to mediate peace talks between the Ugandan government and a rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony.
Dr. Riek Machar, who was the then Vice President of the then semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), was given the task as Chief Mediator by President Salva Kiir.
By then LRA fighters were all over in Eastern, Central and Western Equatoria states, terrorizing civilians, maiming them, burning villages, which caused deaths and displacements and untold suffering. They even used to attack JUBA at Gumbo, just across the Juba bridge.
The LRA forces were also attacking civilians inside Uganda and were engaging Ugandan army in fierce battles in many incidents. They displaced millions of people in Northern Uganda.
Ugandan government agreed to the peace talks mediated by South Sudan. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni appointed the current Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, to lead his delegation as Chief Negotiator for the negotiations with the LRA in Juba.
The current Ugandan Prime Minister was a tough, but honest negotiator. I witnessed that in the hall during the negotiations as I was in the Secretariat. A very honest politician, at least during the negotiations.
But before the negotiations started, Dr. Machar, as Chief Mediator, decided to first talk to the LRA leadership. We then went and looked for Joseph Kony in 2006 in the Garamba Park at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he was based.
It was difficult at first because of mistrust. And it was a very risky mission, by the way inside that thick forest jungle (no details for now).
Finally, Dr. Machar met Kony’s deputy, late General Vincent Otti. He was told by Machar face-to-face in very clear terms to choose among three options: 1. Leave South Sudan with all the LRA forces, or 2. Face joint military offensive by the SPLA and UPDF of Uganda if refused to leave, or 3. Accept peace talks with the Ugandan government under the mediation of South Sudan. General Otti chose peace talks and reported back to his boss, Kony. We also met Kony in person months later at the Garamba Park border with the DRC after the talks started at Juba Raha Hotel in Juba in June 2006.
Kony composed and sent to Juba a team of negotiators, majority of whom came from Europe and highly educated. Some were former officials and senior army officers who served in former Ugandan governments.
Dr. Machar, then toured countless affected villages and towns in Eastern Equatiria up to the border of Kitgum, meeting with local chiefs. He wanted to acquaint himself with the level of devastation caused by the LRA, and to consult with the grassroots. Sometimes we would return to Juba after midnight in a convoy.
We also toured Western Equatoria by land up to the village of Nabanga at the border with the DRC.
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We also travelled to Kampala twice and met with President Museveni at the State House. He and Dr. Machar briefed each other on the peace talks.
To cut the long story short, the peace talks removed the LRA from Eastern, Central and finally from Western Equatoria states, and brought peace and stability back to the South Sudanese communities in Equatoria region.
The peace talks also stopped the war in Northern Uganda and made possible the return to their homes of millions of Ugandans.
We can say that although Kony refused to sign the final Agreement, President Museveni finally signed it unilaterally in Juba in 2008, and vowed to implement its provisions without Kony.
So, practically, there is peace now in northern Uganda as a result of the peace talks which South Sudan successfully mediated in Juba.
The people of Uganda, or northern Uganda, deserved peace, also like the people of South Sudan.
And my point is, I believe President Museveni is too doing his very best to see that there is also a genuine peace in South Sudan, like in Uganda!
I believe he appreciates the good thing South Sudan did for his country.
James Gatdet Dak
The views expressed here are solely the opinions of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not The 211 Magazine.
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