November 26, 2008 (New Vision) report by Henry Mukasa:
Photo: LRA leader Joseph Kony
LRA leader Joseph Kony is expected to sign the final peace deal on Saturday to end his two-decade long rebellion which ravaged the north, said the chief mediator, Dr. Riek Machar.
Addressing journalists in Juba yesterday, Machar said: “(Kony) said he will sign. Indications are that he will.”
Machar is also the vice president of South Sudan. “There will be signing on 29th [November],” the United Nations special envoy to LRA affected areas, Joachim Chissano, told the BBC.
Chissano, however, left room for disappointment considering that Kony has failed the peace talks many times in the past.
“I don’t have reasons to doubt that he will show up. I’m more confident than a few weeks ago,” the former Mozambique president said.
Chief Government negotiator Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda yesterday chaired an impromptu meeting with his team over the development.
Spokesperson Capt. Chris Magezi said after the meeting that the mediators had been informed of the “consistent signals” Kony has been sending.
“We are willing to go and participate in that function in Ri-Kwangba (South Sudan),” Magezi said. “We hope Kony is not fooling again as he has done in the past.”
He also hoped that Kony would also meet his obligations after the signing. The Rugunda team, he said, would fly to the signing venue on Friday only if Machar and Chissano, who travelled to Ri-Kwangba today, confirmed the elusive rebel leader had arrived.
If he signs, it will mark a climax of the long-drawn negotiations. Kony disappointed mediators and diplomats when he failed to show up for the signing ceremony on April 14 at Nabanga.
He said he would only sign if the world court withdrew charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against him.
He also wanted to understand how the traditional justice system and the special court which is to try war criminals would work.
However, foreign minister Sam Kutesa said Kony must first sign the peace before his indictment by The Hague is addressed.
Kutesa said Kony was the only serious obstacle to a final peace agreement.
“Our people are ready to sign any time, but Kony is the one who has been eluding us,” he told the BBC.
After a flurry of diplomatic missions to his hideout by Chissano, and a consultative meeting in Munyonyo last week, Kony seems to have been persuade to ink the deal.
Kony and his fighters had moved deep into the DR Congo, where they loot and abduct youth in “preparation for war.”
However, mediators gave Kony up to the end of November to sign the pact. The LRA leader had often called meetings with negotiators and elders from the north but failed to show up.