Global Policy Forum

Kony Rejects Talks Deadline


Tensions Rise as Rebel Leader Claims Ugandan President Is Pressuring Him to Sign Peace Deal

By Samuel Okiror Egadu

Institute for War and Peace Reporting
January 9,2008

Lord's Resistance Army, LRA, leader, Joseph Kony, has reacted angrily to the January 31 ultimatum for a peace deal set by Uganda president Yoweri Museveni, significantly raising tensions surrounding pending talks to end the conflict in the north.

"Museveni is setting unreasonable deadlines," Kony said in a recent phone call to Norbert Mao, the Gulu district commissioner told IWPR. "The January 31 deadline is unreasonable. These threats by Museveni undermine the peace process." Kony insists he is committed to peace, but Museveni has warned that the Ugandan army is ready for him if he returns to war.

In late December, Museveni said the army has used the past 18 months of relative peace to prepare for any future armed clashes should Kony's rebels attempt to re-enter northern Uganda."We want Kony and his remnants to come out peacefully. If they don't . the army is ready for everything," said the president. "The army is much stronger than ever. Nobody is ever going to cause troubles in Uganda using a gun. No more guns. If there is anything, we should use the mouth."

Kony flatly rejected Museveni's deadline, however. "Why should deadlines be there?" Kony complained, according to Mao. "If deadlines are to be set, they should be set in Juba, not in Kampala, Arusha or Adisababa. Why can't he leave everything to be done in Juba?" "We have not yet completed our consultations," continued Kony, said Mao, who has become a friend and confidant to the rebel leader.

Kony was referring to a six-week rebel delegation tour late last year of northern Uganda during which members consulted victims of the LRA insurgency on accountability and reconciliation aspects of the Juba peace proposal.

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court, ICC, along with three of top commanders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kony's army has conducted a guerilla-style war in northern Uganda since 1986 that has displaced over 2 million people and left an estimated 100,000 dead. At the same time, his forces have abducted around 40,000 people, mostly children to become soldiers and sex slaves.

Mao said Kony also rejected Museveni's claims that he was delaying the peace talks to retrieve buried weapons and plan a fresh military offensive in the war-ravaged north. "I am being judged wrongly," said Kony reportedly. "I have not sent anyone to pick bullets or guns. I am not going to attack or declare war."

Kony, however, was silent on the fate of his former second-in-command, Vincent Otti, who Museveni said was killed by Kony over a dispute about the peace talks and accusations of disloyalty. Otti was considered a key to the success of the talks because he was readily available to the media and strongly advocated an end to 20 years of hostilities.

Following Kony's comments, negotiators for the LRA said the January 31 deadline was impossible because they had been unable to reach Kony's camp in the Garamba Park of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC. Before talks can proceed in Juba, rebel members who took part in the six-week tour of the north have to discuss their findings with Kony, said LRA delegation leader Martin Ojul.The team must get Kony's views on accountability and reconciliation, he said, before discussing the remaining peace deal topics - a permanent ceasefire, demobilisation and disarmament and the reintegration of rebels.

"The peace process is on course," Ojul told IWPR this week. "Kony himself is committed to the peace process." Ojul rejected any deadline because, he said, there were a number of issues relating to the peace agreement which remained unresolved, "All this can't be done in two or three weeks."

Other members of the rebel consultation team concurred. Yusuf Adek, a senior advisor to Kony, said, "Peace talks [are] a process. It takes time. The order of January 31 for us to sign a peace deal is not possible." Ojul told IWPR that the LRA will not be intimidated by Museveni's comments and that the president has issued deadlines before, but with little effect."This is not the first time Museveni is making such threats and deadlines. We are committed for the conclusions of the talks," he said.

Ugandan interior minister Ruhakana Rugunda, however, said the LRA can't forget that more than 1.7 million displaced internal refugees are waiting for a peace deal to be signed before they return to their homes."We have been talking for the last one and half years," Rugunda told IWPR. "We want a peace deal to be signed as soon as possible so that we can redirect our energies to rehabilitation and rebuilding of insurgency areas. "The government will continuously work for the expeditious conclusion of the peace talks so that a final sustainable peace agreement is signed by the two parties."

Although the LRA delegation has rejected a deadline, Ojul flew to Juba this week to meet Riek Machar, the vice president of South Sudan, who is mediating the talks. The two were to discuss arrangements for the team to meet Kony. The delegation has apparently been hampered by a lack of funds, which are being handled by a third party. They failed to pay a number of hotel bills during their recent tour. Some members were temporarily held in their rooms until outstanding sums were paid.

More Information on International Justice
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More Information on the International Criminal Court
More Information on ICC Investigations
More Information on Joseph Kony


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