Global Policy Forum

LRA Leader Must Be Arrested, ICC Insists

Integrated Regional Information Networks
July 5, 2006

President Yoweri Museveni has offered the leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) an amnesty for crimes committed in northern Uganda, but the International Criminal Court (ICC), which indicted him, insists the insurgent must be arrested. "The governments of Uganda, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo are obligated to give effect to the arrest warrants, and we are confident that they will honour their joint commitment to do so," Christian Palme, the acting ICC spokesperson, told IRIN on Wednesday.

Apart from LRA leader Joseph Kony, the other indictees are LRA commanders Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya. According to the ICC, each is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed in Uganda since July 2002, in the context of a 20-year campaign of brutality against civilians. Museveni on Tuesday pledged to grant Kony total amnesty if the rebel leader responded positively to peace talks due to open in southern Sudan next week. "The Ugandan government will grant total amnesty [to Kony] despite the International Criminal Court indictments if he responds positively to the talks with the government in Juba, southern Sudan, and abandons terrorism," Museveni's office said in a statement.

Saying he would not respond to international pressure to have the rebel leader, whom he likened to Adolf Hitler, arrested, the president blamed the international community for failure to cooperate with him in his war against the LRA. "To hand over Kony after he has come out himself; that's out," Museveni told Walter Kälin, the UN Secretary General's Representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

Criticising the UN, Museveni claimed that the "noble cause of trying Kony before the ICC had been betrayed by the failure of the United Nations, which set up the court, to arrest him, despite knowing his location in DR Congo's Garamba National Park." The UN system would, he added, therefore have no moral authority to demand Kony stand trial after failing to arrest him for the nine months he has been in the Congo, and even killed UN troops. "I am sending my people to talk to Kony because I have no partners [on arresting him]," he said. He said his latest gesture to the rebels blamed for a number of atrocities was "to assist the SPLA [southern Sudan People's Liberation Army] government. We don't want to put burdens on the young government of southern Sudan," he said.

Archbishop John Baptist Odama, of the Gulu Roman Catholic diocese, at the centre of Kony's 20-year-old conflict, described Museveni's announcement as "positive because it encourages peace negotiations to go on". Odama added: "We know that people suffered in the war, but this should be decided in other fora. People with grievances will come out and express them to the relevant authorities after we have achieved peace. We hope the ICC does not interfere with the peace process going on in the Sudan because we want the people of northern Uganda to see peace."

However, the president of the Uganda Law Society, Deo Nkuzingoma, said the announcement presented a tricky legal situation, although the most important issue now was to achieve total peace in northern Uganda. "If talks can achieve peace in the whole country so that northern Uganda could be part of the development process, then let it be," Nkuzingoma said. "Indicting Kony will not bring peace and the way I understand what the president has done is to bring him on board so that talks can progress."

Gulu district chairman and lawyer Norbert Mao said the Ugandan government should be prepared to make its case before the United Nations Security Council – the only forum that could change the course of the ICC. "I am confused because it was Museveni who brought the ICC and it is he who brought an amendment to exclude Kony and the indicted commanders from the amnesty law. The government must be consistent and this does not show consistence," he added.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and some two million displaced in northern Uganda since the LRA took over leadership of a regional rebellion in 1988 in a bid to oust Museveni, sparking what the UN and other humanitarian groups have described as the world's most brutal and forgotten conflict. In a rare media interview released last week, Kony denied he was a terrorist and renewed his call for peace talks with Museveni's government. "I'm a freedom fighter who is fighting for freedom in Uganda. I am not a terrorist," Kony told The Times of London newspaper.

The LRA purports to be fighting to replace Museveni's government with one based on the 10 Commandments, but has become better known for atrocities, particularly kidnapping an estimated 25,000 children, mostly girls to be sex slaves and boys as fighters.

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


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