Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni yesterday warned rebels who failed to sign a ceasefire that they should respect the peace process, otherwise he would pursue them in the bush and kill them.
Museveni told hundreds of people in a stadium in the northern town of Gulu minutes after midnight that his forces were poised to use force to fight the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and kill its commanders if they fail to respond to the ceasefire that was supposed to be signed Friday but which the rebels failed to endorse.
"For 47 days since the ceasefire was declared, nothing has been achieved," Museveni told the cheering crowd at Pece stadium in the city 360km north of the capital, Kampala.
"The army is going to maintain pressure, but negotiations will continue. The combination of both the military option and dialogue will bring peace in northern Uganda," he said.
In mid-November, Museveni offered a ceasefire to the LRA, whose 18-year rebellion has left more than 1.6 million people displaced.
The ceasefire was supposed to expire on Friday, but contacts had been going on between the rebels and mediators -- including religious leaders, diplomats and U.N. officials -- and both the LRA and the government were to sign a draft memorandum of understanding on Friday that would lead to a cessation of hostilities.
The rebels failed to sign the document as members of peace groups, government officials, diplomats and UN officials waited for hours in the town of Kitgum, 80km north of Gulu.
"It is good the international community has witnessed what has happened," the president said. "The bishops and diplomats were here, but it is the rebels who refused to sign the ceasefire memorandum of understanding.
"If the rebels do not come out of the bush, we are going to fight and kill them. They should respect the ceasefire. If they don't, we shall pursue them and kill them."
He did not say whether he will extend the ceasefire period.