Northern Uganda Cautiously Courts Freedom as Peace Talks Progress

Northern Uganda Cautiously Courts Freedom as Peace Talks Progress

GULU, Uganda -- After one-and-a-half years of rocky peace talks between the government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), northern Ugandans are cautiously courting freedom. Although many internally displaced people are still sleeping in the camps they've called home for about a decade now, they're beginning to move furniture and farming tools back to their village homes.

Meanwhile, in the northern town of Gulu, new hotels and apartment buildings are being constructed and buses are now leaving for Kampala, the southern capital, at 11 p.m. (A late-night trip was unthinkable just three years ago, when rebels could be lurking by the roadside.)

The third attempt at peace talks between the government and the LRA, some 1,800-strong, has come farther than ever before and the parties are close to a resolution. Over the weekend, a ceasefire agreement was signed. And last week the government appeased LRA demands on the contentious issue of justice, promising that top commanders will be tried in a Ugandan High Court as opposed to the much-feared International Criminal Court. By the end of next week, officials expect to resolve the remaining outstanding issue of demobilization and integration of LRA soldiers into the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF).

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