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Ugandan Rebel Leader Wants ICC Warrant Lifted Before Peace Deal


A spokesman for the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group says its leader will not sign a peace agreement with the government of Uganda, unless an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest is lifted. As Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi, Joseph Kony, is scheduled to meet with mediators for the peace talks on Sunday.

Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA, is set to meet on Sunday, with the U.N. special envoy for the conflict in Northern Uganda, former Mozambiquan president Joaquim Chissano, and mediator Riek Machar, vice president of the semi-autonomous southern Sudanese government. They are scheduled to meet along the border between southern Sudan, which is hosting the negotiations, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the rebels are currently based.

But at a news conference in Nairobi on Friday, a spokesman for the rebels, David Matsanga, said Kony would not sign the peace agreement that has been prepared by negotiators for the rebels and the Ugandan government, until arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court, or ICC, in The Hague are lifted.

"The ICC is a stumbling block to this peace process, and that's why we want the Ugandan government to tell us what they want to do with the ICC before we meet general Joseph Kony so that he can make a decision on what to do on the way forward," he said. "It's not yet time for signing the agreement because there are so many contentions items in the agreement that he wants to look at."

The ICC has issued arrest warrants for Kony and his top deputies on charges of war crimes including murder, forced recruitment of children, rape and mutilation.

According to Matsanga, Kony also wants to revisit the question of how to disarm and reintegrate rebels under an agreement.

But the Ugandan government has repeatedly said the negotiations are finished. Kony is welcome to sign the agreement that has already been prepared, they say, but its contents cannot be revisited. In April, Kony failed to turn up at a signing ceremony to lend his signature to the document.

Matsanga also denied reports that the LRA had attacked villages in eastern Congo in the past week.

"LRA have not attacked any parts of Congo in the last two to three months, as far as I know," he said. "They are concocting it in order to create confusion that we don't reach a peaceful solution on Sunday."

On Wednesday, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo announced that it was sending troops to respond to the attacks.

Matsanga said he believes Kony is committed to reaching an agreement. But the rebel leader's intentions are notoriously difficult to decipher. And it has often been unclear whether Kony, and those who speak on his behalf, are indeed on the same page.

The conflict in northern Uganda, which has spilled over into southern Sudan, eastern Congo and the Central African Republic in recent years, has displaced some two million people and killed thousands.

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