Monday, December 08, 2008

Ugandan president not opposed to Kony's request for direct contact

December 08, 2008 Xinhuanet report from Kampala, Uganda:
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is willing to have direct talks with the leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in order to end the over two-decade-long insurgency in the northern part of the country, an official said here on Monday.

Okello Oryem, minister of state for international affairs, told Xinhua by telephone that in a meeting between Museveni and the LRA top negotiator David Matsanga here on Monday, the president said he is not opposed to the rebel leader's request for direct contact.

Joseph Kony, the elusive rebel leader, failed to turn up at the expected signing ceremony of a final peace deal last weekend at the remote border area between Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, plunging the southern Sudan authority mediated peace process in disarray.

Kony said later that he would like to talk to Museveni directly, among other requests, including integrating the rebel fighter into national army and so on, which had been rejected by the Ugandan government during the talks since it started in mid-2006.

"He (Museveni) said he is willing to have direct talks with Kony anytime, even this evening if possible," said Oryem, who is also the deputy head of the government peace team.

He said Museveni gave his telephone number to Matsanga for Konyto call him.

Matsanga, along with Riek Machar, vice president of southern Sudan and mediator of the talks, briefed Museveni on Kony's failure to sign the final peace agreement last Saturday, the third time this year.

Matsanga told the closed door meeting that the rebel leader did not sign because of confusing telephone calls and text messages from his tribe-mates threatening him not to sign.

He also told the meeting that Kony needed a professional lawyer to help him understand the relationship between his International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments and the country's judicial system that will be used to try him.

Oryem quoted Museveni as saying that he has no problem with Kony getting a professional lawyer but he thinks the ICC indictments have been explained to Kony clearly.

The rebel group has vowed not to sign the final peace deal until the ICC withdraws the indictments against Kony and his top commanders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The government insisted that it would not appeal to the UN's court for the withdrawal of the charges before the peace deal is signed.

Machar also suggested that a regional approach involving the DRC needs to be taken since the rebel group is currently hiding in the eastern part of the vast central African country.

The LRA insurgency has left tens of thousands of people dead and uprooted some 2 million people in northern Uganda before the group shifted to southern Sudan and the DRC, then the Central Republic of Africa following Uganda's intensified military crackdown operations on the rebel group. (Editor: Sun Yunlong)


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