The first face-to-face negotiations between the LRA and government representatives took place on 25 November 1993 at Pagik, in the Aswa region of Gulu. In addition to her army bodyguards, Bigombe was accompanied, at the LRA's suggestion, by several elders, including Yusuf Adek, as well as the author who was responsible for recording the proceedings. The NRA's Wasswa, Toolit and their aides also accompanied Bigombe. Upon arrival Bigombe seemed taken aback that only middle-ranking officers of the LRA were sent for such a historic contact. The delegation was selected apparently as a snub to the army's insistence on guarding the event, but they brought with them a tape-recorded message from Kony.
The LRA opened the proceedings with prayers led by their 'Director of Religious Affairs' Jenaro Bongomin. He indicated that Kony sent their delegation in response to the letters exchanged with Bigombe. Bigombe said that she had initiated the peace talks because of the suffering and insecurity experienced by Acholi as a result of the war. She pointed out that economic and social development would be blocked unless the war ended. The LRA team noted that they saw this first get-together as a contact meeting; if it went well proper talks for discussing the modalities for peace would follow. An LRA Commander, Cirilo Jurukadri Odego, insisted that if the talks were to succeed, then ‘old wounds should not be re-opened’ and that the LRA ‘should not be publicly blamed for what occurred in the past because what is happening now marks a new beginning’. They declared they had come to the talks in good faith and would therefore not present any conditions to the government. They nevertheless had a number of requests.
They asked for the past to be forgotten and a general amnesty given to all the fighters. They insisted that the LRA should not be seen as a defeated force but as people who had responded positively to the peace initiative because the LRA itself wanted peace. They asserted that they were not 'surrendering' but 'returning home', and they did not want to be referred to as 'rebels' but as 'people'. The delegation described why they had begun their struggle, that they were fighting those who had rejected the way of God and therefore had to struggle against both the NRA and UPDA fighters. They further claimed the UPDA surrendered to the NRA in 1988 in order to return to battle against the LRA from a point of advantage and to avenge their earlier defeats. They insisted the negotiations should therefore exclude former UPDA officials.
Furthermore, they asked the NRA to cease hostilities in order to allow the LRA to organise their men for 'return'. They noted that the ceasefire they had requested the previous month by letter to Bigombe and Wasswa had been granted. They now wanted the government to formalise it. The LRA also wanted the opportunity to bring in their fighters from elsewhere, ‘including from Kenya and Europe’. Referring to the earlier experience of UPDA demobilisation, they claimed that if these 'scattered' fighters were ignored then fighting would continue again at sometime in the future. ‘If you don't allow us to bring out all our men, it means you want us to come and turn around fighting our own brothers in another war’, said Jenaro Bongomin. They also demanded that the government treat their sick and wounded in government hospitals under the supervision of government and LRA officers. In return, they indicated their desire to open clinics in Acholi to treat diseases like AIDS, for which they claimed to have a cure. Because of the blood shed between LRA and NRA fighters, they recommended a formal traditional ritual performed by selected Acholi elders. Such a ritual could then ‘formally mark a reunion between brothers who were once enemies’. They issued assurances that Kony himself, without whom no binding decision could be made in the LRA, would attend the next meeting.
In response to these requests, Bigombe promised the LRA delegation that the existing general amnesty and presidential pardon would cover them. She assured the delegation that no one in this war could be categorised as either victor or vanquished. Emphasising that ‘the government is very sincere in its attempts to have you back home’ she agreed that the past should be forgiven. She asked the LRA to establish the exact number of their sick and injured so treatment in government hospitals could be arranged. She also agreed not to bring former UPDA members to the talks.
Bigombe further indicated that although they understood that the LRA would need time to reorganise themselves for a formal return, the process should occur within a set time frame and as quickly as possible. Wasswa said the NRA on its part would order its troops to avoid operations against the LRA, who would be given an area in which to freely operate and regroup. Interestingly, both the LRA and NRA negotiators expressed their concern that a 'third force' might try to sabotage these arrangements in order to wreck the process, and they both agreed on the need to be vigilant to prevent this.
The day-long proceedings agreed on the arrangements for the next meeting and allowed LRA commanders to present their case and explain their cause. Bigombe did the majority of the talking, but Wasswa and Toolit also participated. Although intended as a confidence-building contact, the meeting turned into a negotiation session with the exchange of demands and offers. The tone was cordial and, by the end, all agreed they had gone far and paved the way for the next, bigger meeting that would include Kony. Confidence had been established to the point where the LRA was later able to send their representatives to the NRA's Gulu barracks, where Bigombe lived, to discuss the progress of the talks.
Bigombe's team initially felt that the absence of Kony and most of his senior commanders at the first talks was a snub. They were later told that 'the ear, the soul and one of the brains behind Kony's movement' was Jenaro Bongomin, who had led the prayers. He was the only person present when 'the Holy Spirit descended' upon Kony in 1987 and was among Kony's closest confidantes. Other participants were also key figures. Jackson Achama served as a Kony's personal secretary, Yardin Tolbert Nyeko – later to become one of the highest-ranking LRA officers – his close aide, as was Cirilo Jurukadri Odego, a former UPDA officer from West Nile.