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Uganda Rebel Again Says Ready to Sign Final Peace Deal

The peace negotiating team of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels is expected to meet rebel leader Joseph Kony today (Thursday) ahead of the expected signing of the final peace deal with President Yoweri Museveni's government this weekend. The agreement would end over two decades of rebel insurgency in northern Uganda. But some security experts are expressing skepticism that the elusive rebel leader would sign the deal. After all he had refused to do so in the past citing logistical problems. The international community has warned Kony of possible military if the rebel leader fails again to sign the final peace deal before the end of November. David Matsanga is the chief peace negotiator for the LRA rebels. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the rebel leader has promised to sign the peace deal this weekend.

"As we speak today, Thursday, we are moving to go to Ri-Kwangba and in the afternoon we shall be there. We shall be meeting first the delegation together with the religious leaders, the paramount chiefs and then on Friday we would talk about the agreement. After we have talked about everything we will brief general Joseph Kony about the final peace agreement. Then we will take it from there, make a decision and then we wait for President Joachim Chissano and Dr. Riek Marcher to come on the 29th of this month," Matsanga pointed out.

He said it was important for the world to be patient with the rebels ahead of signing the final peace deal.

"I would like to tell the world that peace comes from very far. Peace takes a long journey. I have been patient myself, I have been accused of character assassination and I have been insulted, but I have kept on going for peace until I reach this peaceful resolution of the conflict. We are determined and general Joseph Kony has told me that the LRA is determined and is ready to look at the agreement and sitting down with us. He is determined to make sure that he finishes this conflict peacefully," he said.

Matsanga said the LRA wants to assure those affected by the insurgency that Kony would sign the final peace deal.

"We as LRA are encouraging Ugandans to go back to their homes and be ready for this peace," Matsanga noted.

He said the rebels are displeased with what they described as a nonsensical outburst by Uganda's foreign minister.

"I want to tell the world that the outburst of the Honorable Sam Kutesa, the minister of foreign affairs is regrettable. He is one of those military guys in this government who wants to fight the people of the north all the time. He has been doing that since 1986 and we know his intentions. He and another click of three or four five generals want to have a final fight with general Joseph Kony. We are aware that they have been benefiting out of the misery of the people of northern Uganda. We know they have been supplying food to the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps. We have evidence and we have real serious evidence," he said.

Matsanga said the rebels are committed to finally ending the insurgency in northern Uganda, which is blamed for the loss of lives and property.

"Let me tell you that we don't operate like those who don't know what a foreign policy is, but they are ministers of foreign affairs. We are committed to the peace deal," Matsanga said.

He blamed President Museveni's government for the often-stalled peace negotiations, a charge Kampala has denied.

"It is the Uganda government that created obstacles by going to the ICC (International Criminal Court) to put warrants on general Joseph Kony and others. It is the ICC that has caused the obstacles," he said.

Matsanga said LRA rebels would refuse to hand over their weapons until Kampala urges the ICC to drop the international indictment of Kony and other top LRA commanders who are alleged to have committed various crimes against humanity.

"Let me tell the world, signing this agreement does not mean disarming. We shall sign this agreement as it is, but we shall not disarm one gun until the Uganda government goes to the United Nations Security Council to remove the warrants and brings me a clean sheet of paper to say that they have removed the warrants so that the LRA can assemble and disarm in the assembly area. But the LRA will assemble with their guns and President Museveni has accepted on that," Matsanga pointed out.