22 March 2007Welcoming a recent meeting between the Ugandan Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has waged a brutal rebellion in the country’s north for two decades, the Security Council today expressed hope that peace talks could soon resume. The 15-member panel issued a presidential statement that also called for the extension of last year’s cessation of hostilities agreement after being briefed on the latest developments by Joaquim Chissano, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the LRA-affected areas.Mr. Chissano chaired a meeting in Ri-Kwangba, southern Sudan, on 11 March between the Government, the LRA – including its leader, Joseph Kony – and community representatives.Noting the progress made at that meeting towards a resumption of formal peace talks, the Council stressed the need for a negotiated settlement to be concluded quickly and for those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law to be brought to justice.Thousands of civilians have been killed or abducted since the LRA began its rebellion in 1986, and more than 1.5 million people have become refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs).During the conflict the rebel group became notorious for abducting children and then using them as soldiers or porters, while subjecting some to torture and allocating many girls to senior officers in a form of institutional rape.Humanitarian operations in southern Sudan, which the LRA has often used as a base, have also been severely disrupted by the fighting.In today’s statement, read out by Ambassador Dumisani S. Kumalo of South Africa, which holds the rotating presidency this month, Council members urged the LRA to release all women, children and other non-combatants to the conflict.They noted the recently improved security and humanitarian situation in northern Uganda, but expressed hope that civilians living in the area will see further advances, and called on the international community and the Ugandan Government to do more to achieve that aim.The statement also thanked Mr. Chissano and some States in the region for their efforts to reach a solution.A former president of Mozambique, Mr. Chissano was named last December as the Secretary-General’s envoy to help with efforts to speed up negotiations towards a durable peace deal. He will also liaise with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has indicted Mr. Kony and four other senior LRA figures for war crimes. read more