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CAR Leader Says Kony Ready to Surrender

The president of the Central African Republic has been in contact with fugitive rebel leader Joseph Kony, and he says Kony wants to surrender.

A spokesman tells VOA that President Michel Djotodia has held a phone conversation with Kony, and that Kony said he is ready to put down his arms and come in from the bush.

The spokesman, Gason Mackouzangba, said Mr. Djotodia told political leaders about this development during a meeting Thursday in the capital, Bangui.

According to the spokesman, Mr. Djotodia said Kony is in the region of Nzako with about 7,000 fighters, and that the CAR government has been providing food and medicine to the fighters for the past few weeks.

Nzako is on the southern edge of the CAR, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The U.S. State Department did not comment directly on the reported conversation between Mr. Djotodia and Kony. However, spokeswoman Jan Psaki said Thursday U.S. authorities were aware that CAR officials had for several months been in contact with a small rebel unit that has voiced interest in surrendering. She said U.S. officials "have little reason to believe" Kony is a part of the group.

Kony has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Specific charges include murder, rape, sexual enslavement, cruel treatment of civilians and forced enlistment of children.

His Lord's Resistance Army waged a brutal guerrilla war against the Ugandan government for nearly 20 years before fleeing into central Africa around 2005.

A force of 5,000 African soldiers, led by Uganda and aided by U.S. special forces, has been hunting Kony and his fighters in the jungles of the CAR, Congo and South Sudan.

The effort to find them has been hindered by the chaos in the CAR, which has experienced months of violence and lawlessness since Mr. Djotodia came to power in March, after the Seleka rebel coalition overthrew President Francois Bozize.

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