In Uganda, an official of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has described the on-going consultations between a delegation of the rebel movement and the leaders of the people of Northern Uganda as so far successful. An LRA delegation is in the north to hold discussions with tribal, political and religious leaders in a government-backed effort to end the two-decade conflict. It has left thousands dead and maimed, and over 1.5 million people displaced. The rebels are accused of abducting over 25,000 children into sexual slavery, and as conscripts into their army.
Last year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni offered an amnesty to the LRA and later opened talks with the rebels. He said once a final peace deal is signed, the rebels would be tried under the Acholi tribal tribunal system. However, the International Criminal Court in the Hague issued warrants for five of the LRA’s leaders two years ago. It says it has jurisdiction to prosecute them for alleged war crimes.
Ayena Odongo, the legal adviser of the rebel group and a mediator at the Juba peace talks told VOA reporter Douglas Mpuga from the northern town of Gulu that the people of northern Uganda are very excited and forgiving. “So far the consultations are going on smoothly,” he said. “People are clear minded about what they want to know and what they want to tell us about the process of building the implementation protocol”.
He said Joseph Kony (the rebel leader) had apologized to those individuals from the north who went to meet him in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “He (Kony) said he had been party to the conflict because it takes two to tangle, so he apologized for his part. And today the leader of our delegation has apologized for the part played in the conflict by the LRA”, he added.
Ayena Odongo revealed that the LRA delegation had gotten a concession from the president of Uganda on the issue of the international criminal court (ICC) indictments of some of the leaders of LRA.
“We agreed on the issue of the ICC indictments,” he said. The LRA and the government agree that Uganda has the legal machinery to prosecute those indicted by the international criminal court. He says the LRA is pressing to have the case withdrawn from the ICC.
He said the Ugandan president had agreed to this arrangement in the interim period when the process of reconciliation and accountability is taking place and that an application could be made to suspend the ICC warrants.
Ayena Odongo declined to comment on the whereabouts of the deputy LRA commander Vincent Otti. “The leader of the delegation is better placed to answer that”, he said, and added, “ but from what I have heard Vincent Otti is alive. When I was in the (rebel) camp about two weeks ago there was no tension that would suggest that there was any serious problem that would cause a rift in the organization”.
On Saturday, the LRA delegation, which represents the rebel movement at the Juba peace talks, met President Museveni as part of their peace tour. The LRA consultation process with the general public, led by Mr. Ojul, is expected to last for six weeks and will cover the whole of northern Uganda.