United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is urging all countries to do everything in their power to arrest and bring to justice the leader and top commanders of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) had issued arrest warrants for LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony and four other commanders for allegedly committing various crimes against innocent civilians in northern Uganda during more than 21 years of a rebel insurgency against President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
But the rebels, who are in peace talks with government, claim they would only sign a long-lasting peace agreement when the arrest warrants against their leaders are dropped. From the capital Kampala, Uganda’s chief government negotiator Ruhakana Rugunda tells reporter Peter Clottey that the government generally agrees with the UN secretary general.
“We appreciate the concern of the UN Secretary General’s interest to make this matter resolved finally and see that justice is done. This is exactly the same position that Uganda has. And in fact, Uganda is not only looking for justice being done, but as you know, we are negotiating a final peace agreement, which would bring both justice and also bring reconciliation, under which accountability would be in place. Therefore, it’s just a question of different modalities. But the final aim between Uganda and the UN secretary general to achieve piece in Uganda and to see justice and no impunity are identical. We have similar objectives,” Rugunda noted.
He denied the UN secretary general’s pronouncement would put the government in an awkward position with the rebels during the next round of peace talks in Juba.
“We don’t see a fundamental problem. We believe the objective of Uganda and of the UN secretary general is to see lasting peace coming back to northern Uganda. There may be differences in modalities, in methodologies of reaching this objective, but really our main objective is the same. The focus of Uganda is to negotiate, reach final peace agreement, ensure there is accountability, ensure there is justice, but also ensure there is reconciliation and also lasting peace in our country,” he said.
Rugunda reiterated the government’s commitment to achieving a long-lasting peace for others to return to northern Uganda.
“The emphasis is not only on peace, but also on reconciliation. It’s not only on justice, but also reconciliation. And of course, not condoning impunity,” Rugunda pointed out.
He said although the government is in peace negotiations with the rebels the top rebel leadership would be held accountable for crimes they allegedly committed during their insurgency.
“Really the methodology that the government has embarked upon as you very well know is to negotiate, reach a final peace agreement, ensure that the Lord’s Resistance Army leadership account, using the normal laws of Uganda and traditional methods of conflict resolution, to ensure there is no impunity and ensure that there is accountability -- reconciliation that would consolidate peace, bring everybody back from the bush, and reintegrate them into society. Our emphasis is on total peace, lasting peace, and reconciling the community. One should not look at Kony’s arrest as if it is the final point that one is targeting,” he said.