Uganda’s government says the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) not to drop indictment charges against the leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels will not affect the ongoing peace talks in Southern Sudan between the rebels and the government.
The rebels said they would not sign a final peace agreement unless the indictments are dropped. But in a statement Tuesday, the ICC said the LRA should pursue any challenge to the charges through the ICC’s court system.
Ruhakana Rugunda is Uganda’s minister of internal affairs and chief government negotiator at the peace talks in Southern Sudan. He says the Ugandan government plans to ask the U.N. Security Council to defer the ICC indictments for one year so as to enable LRA rebels to relocate to Uganda and submit themselves to the legal system there. Rugunda told VOA the government is not surprised by the ICC decision.
“Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the ICC, has reiterated a very well known position of the ICC. The government of Uganda is not surprised that the indictments are not going to be lifted. All he has done is to reiterate the position of the ICC,” he said.
Rugunda said the International Criminal Court (ICC) decision not to drop the indictments against the leadership of the LRA rebels will not affect the ongoing peace talks in Southern Sudan.
“Not at all because we have decided in the Juba peace talks that as the assembling is done of the Lords Resistance Army, the government of Uganda will put in place the necessary legal framework to try the accused people in the leadership of the Lords Resistance Army. And the government of Uganda will also approach the United Nations Security Council with the view to requesting the U.N. Security Council to defer the indictments of ICC for a period of 12 months. And this will give ample time and space for LRA leaders to complete assembling and to be able to move to Uganda to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of Ugandan legal system so that they are tried,” he said
The LRA rebels have threatened that they would not sign a final peace agreement unless the ICC indictments are dropped. But Ruganda said the Juba peace talks are proceeding on schedule.
“During the middle of the negotiations, in the last session they walked out twice. But after walking out they came back and apologized for having walked out. But we concluded the session very well, and we agree we will meet again in the middle of this month to fix the actual date for signing the final peace agreement, which is expected to be before the 28th of this month,” Rugunda said.
He said the Juba peace process is on course and in its final stages.
“We have successfully negotiated the issues in all the agenda items. We have concluded the negotiations; we have signed the respective agreements. What is remaining now is fix the date for signing the final peace agreement and finalizing the implementation schedule of the agreements that we have already signed. So the peace talks and peace process is basically on course and in its final stages,” he said.
After more than 20 years of civil war in northern Uganda, Rugunda said Uganda, like every other country, is weary of weary of war.
“We in Uganda would want to see any conflict at all, and that’s why government is doing everything possible to ensure that we conclude these peace talks and ensure that there is lasting and sustainable peace in northern Uganda,” Rugunda said.