Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army rebels (LRA) Thursday demanded a suspension of arrest warrants on its top leadership by the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in the Hague, Netherlands. The rebels say the indictments are the main obstacle preventing them from signing a permanent peace deal with the Kampala government. But Uganda’s government maintains the rebels should first sign a peace deal before it considers asking the ICC to drop the charges.
David Matsanga is the technical advisor on ICC matters for the rebels. From the Kenyan capital, Nairobi he tells the Voice of America that the indictments are impediments to peace in Uganda.
“The request was made in Ri-Kwangbe when we met President Chissano (former Mozambican president). The obstacle to peace looks like it is the warrant that has been issued by the ICC,” Matsanga said.
He reiterated the rebels’ commitment to peace.
“We have shown a lot of confidence, we have signed the cessation of hostilities agreement, which is holding, and we have extended it, and it is going to be there permanently. We are not going to be involved ourselves in any activity at all in Uganda or elsewhere. We are determined to have a peaceful process and all that we are asking is that the government of Uganda should begin arranging itself to what remains the question of ICC because they (government) were the same people who sent all these demands to the ICC,” he said.
Matsanga said the rebels have people they can count on to push for the indictments against rebel leadership to be lifted.
“There are many guarantors and right now the peace process have got a guarantor. The United Nations envoy is one of the guarantors, and the other nations that have come in, as observers are guarantors of the peace process. We are not working against anything. We are working within the framework of the United Nations envoy which has been set up and which we are determined to use to pursue up to the letter,” he pointed out.
Matsanga says although the government has taken steps to heal people in the conflict areas, it needs to back the rebels’ demand of lifting the indictments against LRA leaders.
“The government has already brought in another traditional method of healing the wounds and the conflicts, but for us the ICC warrants does not help at all to heal the conflict in northern Uganda. It only increases the likelihood of more conflicts being made. So what we are asking is that the government should consider the best way that these warrants should be dropped so that the leadership of the LRA would come out and openly give confidence and support to the peace process that is taking place in Juba,” Matsanga noted.
He said the rebels are taking the advice of the former Mozambican president seriously.
“President Chissano has made it categorically clear that we make progress in the peace talks, and we must have something in hand to take to the Security Council for (indictments) to be suspended or revoked. We are very happy about the work of President Chissano, who has enlightened us on the question of ICC, and we are pursuing a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” he said.