Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army rebels (LRA) and the government signed a peace agreement over the weekend in the Southern Sudanese capital, Juba. The agreement, which was the third agenda item, focused on accountability and reconciliation. The rebels have proposed an alternative justice mechanism to address their alleged atrocities against the people of Northern Uganda. The LRA has also asked the Ugandan government to seek the removal withdraw of the International Criminals Court’s (ICC) indictments against the LRA’S top leadership. But the government says it will only consider withdrawing the indictments after the rebels have signed the comprehensive peace agreement.
Vincent Otti is the second in command of the LRA rebels. He tells VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey the rebels would be meeting their supporters in Diaspora to look at the way forward.
“This agenda number three is really the heart of the agenda. We have signed the principle half we would like to contact our people from home and from the Diaspora so that they can come here for the big meeting. We will talk with them; we will consult them so that we go for the protocol,” Otti noted.
He said the onus lies on the Ugandan government to seek to withdraw the ICC-issued arrest warrants against the rebel leaders.
“The blame is on the government because the government has now seen our commitment, or now even the entire world can see our commitment, our truth about the peace in Uganda, our truth about our war because we are not fighting the war people are thinking we are terrorist, we are not terrorists,” he said.
Otti reiterated the rebels’ demand for the ICC arrest warrants to be revoked.
”Two days ago we negotiated with the government on the table and they have accepted that our movement is a legitimate movement; we are not terrorists. Now, if so, then the government should go to The Hague and lift the indictment away so that we should go for alternative justice from home,” Otti pointed out.
He said the ICC has been biased towards the LRA rebels.
“I blame The Hague (International Criminals Court) organization because how can you listen from one side and automatically, you release a warrant arrest without listening to the other part? We would like the investigation to take place both from us (rebels) and the government,” he said.
Otti said the conflict between the rebels and the government should be left for Ugandans to solve.
“As I said, we Ugandans accept to finish our problems by ourselves. It is better that they themselves (ICC) should withdraw themselves away, we sit down in Uganda as the same citizens, then we discuss and solve our problems,” Otti said.
He said he believes the government would seek the withdrawal of the ICC arrest warrants against the top rebel leadership.
“Yes, as we have signed the agreement and I think they would do so because it means that we both sides have agreed upon that they would lift the indictments,” he said.
Otti said since Ugandans forgave President Yoweri Museveni when he overthrew a democratically elected government, the rebels should also be pardoned.
“War is war! Even Museveni himself fought the same war. He even fought in Uganda, and the northerners have also forgiven him because he fought the legitimate government, which was elected and he overthrew them. Those who fought Museveni also have forgiven Museveni. The same way should happen if he (President Museveni) knows very well that dialogue can bring peace,” he said.