The Ugandan government Friday said it had inked a disarmament accord with the Lord's Resistance Army rebels, the last step before signing a comprehensive peace deal to end more than 20 years of war.
"This is another major step towards achieving peace in northern Uganda. The agreement means the LRA must disarm, demobilise and re-integrate into the national army," government delegation spokesman Captain Chris Magezi said.
"The agreement paves the way for the former combatants and all those who qualify to join the (Ugandan) army," he said, speaking on the phone from the talks venue in South Sudan capital of Juba.
"Those who want to return to civilian life are also free to so," he said.
The accord on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration is the last outstanding item before a sweeping peace deal is signed to cap convoluted peace talks that started in July 2006.
The conflict in Uganda has raged since 1988, when elusive LRA chief Joseph Kony took charge of a two-year-old regional rebellion among northern Uganda's ethnic Acholi minority.
The original rebellion was started in 1986 by Alice Lakwena, who was visions and told her fighters she could turn enemy bullets into stones.
LRA rebels say they are fighting for the establishment of a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments.
The International Criminal Court (ICC), which has accused four LRA commanders including Kony, has refused to lift its indictments despite calls by northern Ugandan elders and some government officials.
Kony has vowed never to sign a final peace agreement unless the ICC indictments are lifted, a position that has cast a pall over the peace process.