Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels have rejected the choice of counsels for the mediator of the talks WITH the government. Mediator Rieke Marchar chose the two legal consultants to advice him on the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants against the top leadership of the LRA. But the rebels claim Owiny Dollo and Jacob Oulanyah are sympathizers of President Yoweri Museveni’s government. Sources say the two have met LRA leader Joseph Kony and his deputy Vincent Otti on three occasions to enlighten them on the ICC arrest warrants against them for war crimes. Their position has however been that the government has no powers to ask the (ICC) to drop the charges, contrary to what the LRA negotiators tell Kony and Otti.
Major Felix Kulayigye is the spokesman for the Uganda’s ministry for Defense. From the capital, Kampala, he told VOA that he regrets the rebel’s rejection of the mediator’s choice of counsels.
“To begin with, we find that rejecting rather unfortunate because the mediator reserves the right to choose whom to advise him on what matters. These particular individuals are experts in their own statutes. And their own statutes that established the International Criminal Court, which indicted the top LRA commanders, and I would imagine that the mediator had wanted to have people that are knowledgeable in their own statutes during negotiations, particularly on how it would affect the peace process,” he said.
Kulayigye denied the two counsels would be involved in a conflict of interest.
“I don’t think that is correct because; one, Honorable Jacob Oulanyah was a member of parliament and he was the chairman of the legal and parliamentary affairs committee. He subscribed to one of the opposition parties in this country. Two, Honorable Owiny Dollo has been out of government for a very long time and indeed he’s been in private practice here in Kampala,” Kulayigye noted.
He said the two are best suited to act as legal consultants to mediator Rieke Marchar.
“These two are Acholi’s by tribe, the very tribe that most of the LRA, 99 percent are. So, who would be better placed to be interested in these matters than such individuals?” he said.
Kulayigye dismissed as childish calls for the government to back the rebels’ demand to have the arrest warrants against its top leadership suspended or revoked.
“I’m afraid that is being simplistic. Government as of now is not the determining factor on the question of the ICC. The arrest warrants were issued after the chief prosecutor has convinced the top chamber that there was a case to answer. Now, it is not government at this juncture to turn around and demand for the suspension of the warrants as the rebels are trying to put it,” Kulayigye pointed out.
He said there are conditions that must be considered before the arrest warrants against the rebel leadership could be suspended or revoked.
“For government to engage the ICC or for government to engage the Security Council with the view to ask it to seek the suspension of the arrest warrants, it must have a package in return. It must show that impunity would be addressed, that justice and accountability would be addressed. In the absence of those, it would be an attempt in futility to think that the International Criminal Court or the Security Council would listen to government about suspending the arrest warrants,” he noted.
Kulayigye said the government is protesting the movement of the rebels because it is flouting the agreement signed between the government and the rebels.
“The protest is about movement to the east, the LRA requested that their troops should be allowed from THE east in Southern Sudan to the west so that they could gain the command of LRA in Ri-Kwangbe, which IS in the extreme southwest. So when we see movement of the LRA to the east, it certainly causes a lot of questions,” he said