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Uganda Offers Rebel Leader Kony Amnesty


International criminal authorities say the warrant for the arrest of Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony stands despite the offer of amnesty by President Yoweri Museveni. Kony, who has led almost two decades of bloody insurgency against the government as leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, is charged by the International Criminal Court with war crimes and human rights violations.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni's offer to of full amnesty is in direct defiance to warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the rebel leader's arrest on 33 charges of war crimes and human rights abuses.

The court said the outstanding warrant for Kony's arrest is still in force and it expects ICC member countries to cooperate in arresting him.

It was President Museveni who originally invited the Court to investigate Kony. Uganda is a member of the ICC.

But government spokesman Robert Kabushenga says the need for peace with Kony and his group is of the greatest importance for the Ugandan people.

"If he comes out of the bush with his group and abandons his acts of terrorism he will have full amnesty," said Kabushenga. "This is an offer that has been made and if he responds than the Ugandan government will be committed to upholding that amnesty. So the most overriding thing now is to try and get peace for our country."

The government and rebels are engaged in talks mediated by Sudan Vice President Salva Kiir in the southern Sudanese city of Juba.

The Ugandan People's Defense Force has stated its support for the government position. The military says Uganda's government was left with few alternatives but to negotiate, after the Lord's Resistance Army took refuge in the Garamba national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The government of Uganda decided to offer amnesty to Kony because of lack of partners in the region on the LRA problem. The LRA [Lord's Resistance Army] has been in Congo, the Congo government has not bothered to get rid of the LRA The U.N. that is in the Congo has not helped us on the problem," said Major Felix Kulayigye, the spokesman for the Ugandan Peoples Defense Force. "But should the LRA indeed meet the conditions, obviously we shall scale down operations."

Mr. Museveni's offer of full amnesty is the strongest indication yet of Ugandan's commitment to the talks.

Several peace deals between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government have failed in the past, with both sides accused of being uncommitted to peace.

If the current talks are successful they could see an end to 18 years of war in Northern Uganda in which the Lord's Resistance Army and Ugandan People's Defense Force have been accused of committing atrocities.

The conflict has seen tens of thousands of casualties, more than one million people displaced from their homes and 30,000 children abducted to fight as soldiers and serve as sex slaves.

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