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Uganda Rebels Accept Responsibility for their Actions

Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army Rebels (LRA) Thursday agreed to take responsibility for atrocities committed against the people of Northern Uganda in more than two decades of an insurgency against President Yoweri Museveni’s government. This comes as peace talks focused on accountability and reconciliation, the third item on the agenda of ongoing negotiations in Juba, Sudan. The rebels agreed to take responsibility in a paper presented to the mediator and the government delegation to the talks. The rebels say they are waiting for the government’s response before deciding what to do next. Meanwhile, the Kampala government says it will go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to seek a review of indictments to top LRA leadership.

LRA technical advisor on ICC matters, David Matsanga tells VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey how the rebel group proposes to take responsibility for its actions.

“One, our first paper contains an analysis on how the ICC or the matters of the ICC could be handled. Two, it also suggests alternative methods that can be followed under article 17 of the Rome statute, which is very clear in the paper,” Matsanga said.

He said the ongoing peace talks would have to decide the punishment that should be meted out to the rebels, who are accused of commiting attrocities against the people of northern Uganda.

“It will depend on what the peace process will decide, and what Ugandans will decide. There is a general consensus in the Ugandan nation as a whole that the ICC is more of a retributive type of justice than a restorative juctice. We want the justice that will give us a long lasting and sustainable peace process. It’s peace that will come into our country so that our people don’t hear of any rebellion and war again,” he explained.

Matsanga said it’s unfortunate the LRA rebels have been singled out for punishment by the ICC.

“We have said totally in that paper exactly that one side has been indicted. We are saying we are able to account on our side. But what about the UPDF (Ugandan People’s Defense Force) that has failed to account for the role that it played in the northern Uganda conflict? The Ugandan People’s Defense Force has also been part and parcel of the atrocities that were committed in northern Uganda. So there is no way that one side can be taken and the other side is left,” he noted.

Matsanga said the ICC erred in the way it handled the indictments.

“We have agreed that it (ICC) must start from somehwere, but where does it start, and where does it leave some people? And then, it starts from somehwere, from the top, instead of starting from the bottom. If you are actually talking about the conflict, you must resolve the conflict once and for all,” he said.

Matsanga criticized the ICC for not being fair in its indictments against the rebels’ top leadership.

“Let me ask you and the listerners worldwide: Why is it in Bosnia, we took Bosnians and we took Serbs, and we took Albanians and we took Kosovo? And why have you chosen to take only one side in the Ugandan conflict?” Matsanga asked.

Matsanga said the LRA’s next move would depend largely on the response of the Museveni government.

“The ball is in the court of the government of the republic of Uganda on the issue of the ICC. It is upon them. They are the people who refereed this matter, and at the same time, they are the people who have actually suggested alternative mechanism of justice. So the ball is in the hands of the government of President Museveni to take this matter and show us a framework. How do we proceed from here,?” he asked.