Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ugandan LRA terrorist organisation to spill army secrets

July 22 2006 Monitor Online report from Juba/Kampala by Frank Nyakairu, Angelo Izama, Jude Luggya:
Just when observers felt the chemistry between the government delegation and that of the Lord's Resistance Army negotiating an end to the 20-year northern Uganda crisis was getting better, they were treated to yet another shock yesterday.

At a press conference at the RA International Hotel in Juba yesterday, LRA dropped another bombshell on the government delegation sticking to their demands that the UPDF be disbanded.

"We are constrained to comment that the GoU Delegation includes a Colonel who one time went to Gulu Government prison cells at night with armoured vehicles, forcefully removed out some 23 detainees suspected of being rebel collaborators and shot one of them called Yumbe Lukac dead," said LRA spokesman Obonyo Olweny.

This allegation is apparently in response to claims by the Ugandan delegation two days ago that the LRA delegation harboured a man responsible for hacking civilians in Patongo Pader district and boiling their bodies in cooking pots in 2002.

The rebels delegation did not name the killer Colonel but the remarks seem to be aimed at the head of UPDF's northern intelligence, Col Otema Awany, who together with Col Leopold Kyanda are the only Colonels on the Ugandan delegation.

"This circus cannot go on," said Mr Robert Kabushenga of the Uganda Media Centre yesterday in reaction to the LRA deluge. He said the government feels the LRA delegation is unserious.

"Some of the demands made by the delegation are not practicable, which leads to the feeling that the LRA are not genuinely committed to the peace talks.

They should stop monkeying around" Kabushenga added saying the LRA High Command in Garamba had a more "realistic" view of the situation.

The government, Daily Monitor has exclusively reported, is maintaining high-level direct contacts with LRA leaders Joseph Kony and his core commanders holed up in Garamba.

Those contacts achieved a diplomatic break through on Thursday when government agreed to re-unite the Garamba commanders with members of their close family.

A meeting of Kony and Acholi elders is also in the works. While both sides in Juba insist they are committed to the talks, the impasse created by LRA demands and the unwillingness of the Uganda team to give way appears unlikely to be broken.

Uganda's team, led by Internal Affairs Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda wants a comprehensive agreement at the end but still consider LRA a terrorist organisation whose leaders have been indicted by the ICC.

Yesterday LRA insisted its political agenda was there for everyone to judge and threatened to present more evidence on UPDF atrocities if further provoked. The peace talks in Juba are seen by many as the best chance to end the civil war, which is regularly described by aid agencies as one of the world's worst and most forgotten humanitarian crises.

Meanwhile, the South African government has said it is ready to give the peace talks a shot in the arm if the parties asked.

"If asked by Uganda or Southern Sudan leaders or anybody to participate, we would be available to do that," South African Minister of Security and Safety Mr Charles Nqakula told journalists in Kampala on Wednesday. South Africa and Uganda are involved in engaging FNL, the last rebel group still holding out in Burundi to abandon their fight and join the government of national unity.

Nqakula is the facilitator at the Burundi peace talks while President Museveni chairs the Great Lakes Peace Initiative, which is sponsoring the talks.

Like LRA, the Burundian rebels have caused a stalement in the talks by demanding the disbanding of the current army in Burundi on the grounds that it is dominated by the minority Tutsi ethnic group.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Elders cite atrocities committed by Ugandan rebels, army

Elders from various counties in southern Sudan and northern Uganda on Thursday presented a statement at peace talks in Juba, alleging atrocities committed against civilians by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan army. - Full report IRIN July 21, 2006.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan government is to fly Kony's relatives and elders from Acholi region to meet him in the Democratic Republic of Congo next week in an effort to build confidence with the rebel group and facilitate the Juba peace talks.

"Kony has asked to meet his mother, while other commanders want to meet their relatives and we are arranging for this," the spokesman for the Ugandan delegation in Juba, Paddy Ankunda, said. "Though decisions taken at the peace talks will be by the LRA delegation, we think that efforts of the relatives could be supplementary. This is a confidence-building measure."

LRA should drop unrealistic demands

July 20 2006 New Vision Online report excerpt:
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has made several demands at the on-going peace talks in Juba. Among others, they want the scrapping of UPDF and a power sharing arrangement. These demands are untenable.

What the LRA should insist on is integration of ex-fighters who qualify and wish to join the army. The Government would have no problem with this as it has done it in the past. For example, in June 2004 hundreds of ex-LRA fighters were integrated into the UPDF, after training, at a ceremony witnessed by the army chief, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima. Earlier, fighters from other armed groups like FEDEMU, UFM, WNBF, FOBA and UNLA were integrated. This alone makes the UPDF national in character.

It would be a joke, for example, if the LRA demanded that their leaders be made Vice-President, Prime Minister or ministers in the validly elected government in Kampala. Their demands should centre on personal security, re-integration in the community and resettlement packages.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

LRA peace talks kick off in South Sudan

Peace talks between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) formally opened on Friday in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba, in a bid to end the brutal 20-year conflict ravaging northern Uganda.

"I have the distinct honour and privilege to open these peace talks between the government of Uganda and the Lord Resistance Army," southern Sudan's President Salva Kiir said. Full report IRIN July 14, 2006.

Kony will eventually face trial, says ICC prosecutor

Luis Moreno-Ocampo

Photo: Luis Moreno-Ocampo, ICC chief prosecutor. IRIN July 7, 2006:

The International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted five top leaders of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), including the commander Joseph Kony, in October 2005 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including abduction and sexual enslavement of children.

However, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has announced a total amnesty for Kony, on condition that the rebel leader renounced terrorism and accepted peace. Talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA are due to start on 12 July in Juba, Sudan.

In an interview with IRIN at The Hague on Thursday, the ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo insisted that Kony eventually has to face trial. Below are excerpts:

QUESTION: How do you respond to President Museveni's statement that the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, would be offered a total amnesty [despite his indictment by the ICC] if next week's peace talks are successful?

ANSWER: We are a prosecutor's office. We cannot make any comment on how the President of Uganda executes his mandate. What we know is that Uganda helped to carry out our investigations. We collected evidence showing how the LRA systematically attacked civilians, abducted children to use them as soldiers or as sex slaves. We even have evidence that Joseph Kony himself has been raping girls. We will show all this during the trial.

We believe that the best way to finally stop the conflict after 19 years is to arrest the top leaders. In the end, the LRA is an involuntary army [since] the majority of fighters are abducted children. Arresting the leaders is the best way to stop those crimes. That is our mission and we believe that we will achieve it in the long run. It is a challenge not for Uganda, Sudan or the [Democratic Republic of] Congo. It is a challenge for the international community. This is a new court supported by 100 states. We do our judicial work; we cannot be involved in the rest.

Q: After President Museveni's declaration, did you get in touch with Ugandan authorities to seek clarification on the meaning and implication [of the amnesty offer]?

A: We have a clear relationship with Uganda and we expect them to execute their legal duties. We hope this will be done.

Q: How do you qualify cooperation between the ICC and Sudan on the one hand and the ICC and Uganda on the other, now that the two nations seem to prefer putting peace before justice?

A: The Ugandan government helped us a lot during the investigation. They [Ugandan authorities] have a duty to execute the arrest warrants [issued against the five LRA leaders in October 2005] because they are a member of the ICC. The case of Sudan is different. Sudan is not party to the ICC, but in October 2005, that country voluntarily signed an agreement committing itself to execute the warrants and that is very important.

I remember meeting local people in northern Uganda who were telling me that the most important issue was to make sure that Sudan was not supporting Kony. That is why it is very important that they [the Sudanese authorities] signed an agreement. Also, the current peace process is the consequence of our warrants because they pushed Kony to move from his safe haven in southern Sudan into [the DR] Congo. There was pressure. Now he [Kony] is trying to transform the situation and our worry is that in the past he used this time to re-arm and attack again. But in the long run, Kony will be arrested.

Q: Do you fear that the ICC could be accused of sabotaging the ongoing peace efforts?

A: Our efforts to render justice [will] help to restore peace in Uganda. I met the Sudanese foreign affairs minister in 2004 and he told me that Sudan was no longer supporting the LRA. Sudan reduced its support because we intervened. The [DR] Congo too has requested MONUC [the UN Peace keeping force] to arrest Kony because that country is party to the ICC. I think the court is helping. We have a mandate to render justice. We want just the five top leaders. They can do whatever with the others; they can invite them to come out as most of them are former abducted children.

Q: Kony's deputy, Vincent Otti, says the ICC should send a team to their hideout in the Garamba national park in north-eastern DR Congo to hear their version of the story. Will you respond to the invitation?

A: This is a court. The court has to respect the law. We have to respect the victims. If these people want to give their version, they have to come to the court. The judges will guarantee their rights and safety and they will receive legal advice.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sudan: Uganda government, LRA peace talks delayed

Peace talks between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), scheduled to start in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba on Wednesday, have been delayed, a Sudanese official said. IRIN reported 12 Jul 2006.