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Uganda's LRA Rebels Welcome President Museveni's ICC Comments

Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels say their reclusive leader Joseph Kony would come out of the bush at the end of March to sign a final peace agreement but only if International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments against the LRA’s top commanders are lifted. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Tuesday that the LRA rebels would not have to face the ICC. In stead he said those rebels who committed atrocities during the country’s decades-long civil war will be tried under a traditional justice system known as Mato Oput.

David Matsanga is chief negotiator and technical advisor to the LRA on ICC matters. From The Hague, he told VOA that President Museveni’s comments are a good development for the peace process if they are true.

“We have not had an official confirmation, but if the story has come on the wires, that’s it. But for us in The Hague we have pushed it and we have shown that the Ugandan government has already signed a document with us and that the document is very clear. It says that they will not hand over Kony (Joseph) to the ICC. Kony will go under Mato Oput and other alternative means of justice. We are not looking for short-term solutions for our country. We want long-lasting peace,” he said.

Chief Ugandan government negotiator Ruhakana Rugunda has said that a final peace agreement between LRA rebels and the government would be signed by March 28 this month.

Matsanga hoped President Museveni’s comments would pave the way for signing the final peace deal with the government.

“If that is the situation that the government can put it in practical terms and assures us in black and white and say they have actually no longer acknowledge the ICC as a warranting body, that it can issue warrants against Kony and others, then that is a very good development for us. I’ve not read the papers. I’m in The Hague where the computers are very complicated. And if that is the information that has come from President Museveni’s mouth, then that is very, very good news for the peace process. And we shall go back and talk with General Joseph Kony. If we are satisfied that the warrants will never hinder General Joseph Kony from coming to participate in nation building, that is very good. But if the warrants still stand, I want to tell you we shall not sign the peace agreement,” he said.

Matsanga said the reclusive Joseph Kony would likely come out of the bush to sign the final peace agreement but only if President Museveni puts into writing that Joseph Kony and his lieutenants would not face the ICC.

“Yes, if the warrants are officially removed, Joseph Kony together with me and others will come to sign. There is no problem if the warrants are removed. And I repeat if the warrants are removed because the warrants are redundant. They serve no purpose. We have signed an agreement that said you cannot touch the generals again. The people in Uganda do not want warrants. Warrants are an impediment to peace. If Museveni can put this in writing, black and white, write the chief mediator, Dr. Riek Machar (South Sudan vice president) that the warrants are not a problem any more and that he asked the ICC to withdraw the warrants, Kony will sign the agreement,” Matsanga said.

He said the 22 year-old civil war in northern Uganda was worth fighting.

“The war in Northern Uganda first of all would not have been there. The root causes must be addressed, marginalization of the people of northern Uganda, the stealing of their cattle, the beating of the people of northern Uganda which forced Kony to go to the bush. Those are the root causes that we are addressing in Juba. President Museveni must address these problems – the imbalances, the inequalities, the security policies against people from the north and the northeast is what made this war to be there,” he said.

Matsanga said both LRA rebels and Ugandan government forces committed atrocities during the war. He said the ICC is biased for bringing indictments against only LRA commanders and not the Ugandan military.