Monday, December 22, 2008

LRA wants peace talks

From New Vision by Reuben Olita 22 December, 2008:
LRA wants peace talks

LRA rebels have demanded the immediate halt to the UPDF attacks and resumption of peace talks, spokesman David Nyekorach Matsanga said in Nairobi yesterday.

The negotiations should be moved from South Sudan to Tanzania or South Africa, Matsanga added.

Addressing a press conference at Chester, Matsanga, flanked by another LRA activist, Justine Labeja, said chief mediators Riek Machar, the South Sudan’s vice-president, and former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano should be dropped from the talks because they are biased. Matsanga described Machar as a traitor and an enemy.

In a statement, Matsanga said the venue should be changed because the government of South Sudan “is not neutral in the conflict”.

Tanzania or South Africa , he said, were preferable given their “political stability and democratic” credentials and their capacity to “enforce the agreement”.

Matsanga said the new talks should address rebel chief Gen. Joseph Kony’s concerns about his indictment for war crimes at The Hague, which he blamed for his refusal to sign the agreement.

Uganda, Congo and South Sudan last Sunday jointly attacked Kony’s camps in the thick Garamba forest in the north-east of the DR Congo, where he had been holed up for about two years as the talks were going on in Juba, South Sudan.

The allies said the offensive, code-named Operation Lightning Thunder, was intended to push Kony into signing the final peace agreement, which he refused to do thrice this year after a painstaking process.

Operation Lightning Thunder spokesman Capt. Chris Magezi said the operation had been a success because Kony would not be able to mount serious war again.

He said weapons, Kony’s personal effects, including his wig and guitar, and household items were recovered and expansive gardens of food crops destroyed. Eight abductees have been rescued, Magezi said.

However, Matsanga insisted that Kony and his high command survived the bombardment. He would not say where he was or confirm reports that he had fled to the Central African Republic.

Matsanga said he spoke with Kony “very recently and his spirit was very high”.

President Yoweri Museveni yesterday said Kony was trapped in the forest and would not escape this time unless he signed the pact.

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