A Ugandan government official has reportedly said his government would launch a fresh military campaign, with U.S. support, against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels unless their leader Joseph Kony agrees to return to peace talks. International Affairs Minister Henry Okello Oryem reportedly said Ugandan officials met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer and both sides decided to give Kony the last chance to talk peace or face military action.
This came as the International Criminal Court (ICC) reiterated its demand for Kony and other top LRA leaders to be arrested and tried for war crimes. Kony refused to sign a final peace agreement last month out of fear for his personal safety thereby effectively ending nearly two years of the Juba peace process.
David Matsanga is the immediate former chief peace negotiator for the LRA. He told VOA that a military option would fail because northern Ugandans do not want any more war.
“The peace process in Juba, as you are aware, for the second time Commander Joseph Kony did not turn out. But I just want to give you a glimmer of hope that the process will be done. As far as I know from the contacts that we have had, General Joseph Kony still wants peace to return to norther Uganda,” he said.
The Ugandan government’s new ultimatum of a fresh military campaign against the LRA unless Kony signs the final agreement comes as the ICC reiterated its desire to arrest Kony and other top LRA leaders for war crimes. It also followed the arrest of Democratic Republic of Congo former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba in the Hague.
Matsanga said the ICC warrants are to blame for the failure to reach a peaceful settlement of the more than 22-year conflict in northern Uganda.
“Let me tell you one thing and then the international community. The investigation in northern Uganda as far as the ICC is concerned were biased against the LRA. There were two sides that were fighting. In Congo we arrest both sides. Why are we in Uganda not arresting both sides?” Matsanga said.
He said the LRA and the Ugandan government have been able to agree in the Juba peace process that one way to bring to justice those who committed atrocities in the Ugandan war is to use is to use the Ugandan traditional justice system called Mato Put.
“In our agreement that we have signed, if the Ugandan law is there to protect against any question of impunity, then the people can go to Uganda. It is not only the justice that is in the Hague that can work for the people. No! Justice can work on the African continent. It can work from Congo, it can work from Kampala, it can work from Nairobi, it canwork from Lusaka, and it can work from South Africa. This is not the colonial time when you can carried people all the way to be banned from their places because of political nature. At the end of the day, there is a good agreement that explains the problem of the people of northern Uganda. Therefore we said there was the problem of ICC, and I said this problem will bring down the peace process,” he said.
In a new book, United Nations coordinator for humanitarian affairs Jan Egeland reportedly said he had been told by President Museveni of Uganda that only the military option would end the war in northern Uganda.
Matsanga said that the military option had failed before and would fail again because northern Ugandans do not want any more war.
“I have heard about the book. One problem with President Museveni is that he has all along, for 22 years, said a military option can finish this problem. That’s why he has failed and he might fail again. What I want to tell you and I want to tell the world is that a military option is not the solution for the people of northern Uganda. Museveni has talked it for 22 years, but he has not even manage Kony. He has failed. That’s why we went to Juba to discuss peace. So it is high time that he desisted from such statements of militarism,” matsanga said.