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Uganda’s Rebel Leader Sets Conditions for Local Courts

Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels say it is an error for victims of the rebel insurgency to suggest local courts to try only members of the LRA for alleged war crimes. This follows the Ugandan government’s “extensive” consultations with people in the northern part of the country who said they have suffered during the over twenty years of LRA insurgency. The rebels said they might accept local courts as an alternative to the Hague-based International Criminal Court. However, the rebels say they are angered by what they say is the government's Refusal to put its own soldiers accused of atrocities on trial. Meanwhile, major opposition political parties in Uganda are expected to soon be part of a consultative meeting with the rebels in Rikwangba.

Vincent Otti is the second in command of the LRA rebels. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the rebels would only agree to be tried locally if Ugandan government soldiers accused of atrocities are also tried in the same courts.

“From my side, I do see that what the victims are saying, they do not know who has done this one. If any of that is LRA who has done this one, it is okay because during war you do not know who has done this and that. The victims should be even sometimes the LRA or sometimes the government of Uganda that is the UPDF. If both of us are to face the same trial then that is okay,” Otti pointed out.

He said the LRA would also need to consult its people to ascertain their next step forward.

“That is why we need a consultation. Uganda government is consulting people from Uganda and that is why the result has come out. From our side also we need our people here, all the Ugandans to come here, the Uganda people in Uganda and in the Diaspora so that we come, and we sit down for the same issue. If we were to be tried in Uganda… even myself if they say Vincent has done this I will accept, that is why we need to consult people here in Rikwangba,” he said.

Otti wondered why some people are criticizing the rebels for demanding to have 500 people to be part of its consultation process, which forms part of the third agenda, item, which is accountability and reconciliation.

“500 people are very few because, for instance, the Uganda government consults people in Gulu District alone more than 250, but they are going all throughout Uganda. But with us we call at least 20 people from all the districts of Uganda. That is why we try at least to conclude by saying that if possible 500. We need even if possible they could even come up to 2000,” Otti noted.

He said he is grateful to the donor community, especially the mediator of the peace talks, who is also the Vice President of Southern Sudan, Riek Machar for his able leadership in the ongoing peace negotiations between the rebels and the government.

“That one I thank the vice president of Southern Sudan very much for his support about this money. It is the vice president of Southern Sudan, the Uganda government and delegates of the LRA, which they have agreed for this consultation meeting. The Uganda government wrote their budget and the LRA also wrote their budget. Now, if they are saying the money is too much I would like to say the money should be given back to them. But we need if possible 500 people to come to our consultations because we are not after money. The money is not for our individual pocket use,” he said.

Otti said peace seems to be retuning to the northern parts of Uganda, thanks to the ongoing peace talks.

“The donors have given to the government of Uganda billions of dollars, but the war did not end. But today, as a result of our peace talks now there is peace in northern Uganda, why should they not support us fully? And giving three million (Dollars) is enough because what we want is just to bring a lasting peace in our country,” Otti noted.