The United States is demanding that the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels sign a final peace deal that would end more than two decades of a rebel insurgency in northern Uganda. The US government also accuses the rebels of committing various abuses against civilians, including abductions in recent attacks in three different African countries. This comes as President Yoweri Museveni's government recently threatened to resume military action after accusing the rebels of failing to live up to their promise of ending the military crisis in northern Uganda.
The United States, however, also pledged to provide support in implementing the agreement in areas of reconciliation, reintegration, and development in northern Uganda. LRA rebel chief negotiator David tells reporter Peter Clottey that the rebels need to time to sign a final peace deal.
"Yesterday, general Joseph Kony called me and gave me instructions, and he wanted me to tell the world that the LRA is prepared to discuss peace and to end this conflict in a peaceful manner. Joseph Kony is committed to the peace process. He told me yesterday to tell anybody who has gone to Uganda to use his name or to do things that he has not instructed to do not to do so, but wait until we sort out the matter with the chief mediator, Dr. Riek Marchar," Matsanga pointed out.
He said the rebel leader needs an explanation on certain aspects of the comprehensive peace agreement before finally appending his signature.
"General Joseph Kony needs clarification on two issues of the ICC (International Criminal Court), the ICC warrants, and how the court will interpret the ICC warrants in Uganda. That is the position. And he has asked very many people to explain, and that is why we have formed a new committee of five people from the dissolved former committee, which is here to prepare to make sure that we engage the chief mediator. We engage the Uganda government to tell them that the warrants are an obstacle to the peace process," he said.
Matsanga said the rebel leader would refuse to sign a final peace deal until the international arrest warrants against him and other rebel leaders are removed.
"General Joseph Kony cannot sign a peace agreement when he has warrants hanging on his head. He wants an explanation," Matsanga noted.
He said the rebel negotiating team tried to explain the situation of the warrants to the rebel commander.
"Yes, we have explained to him. As I speak now, you know very well at the time there was total confusion. But the LRA leadership is firmly behind my leadership to make sure that I negotiate properly to protect them (rebels). I have explained to Kony that this is an agreement that is a good agreement for the people of northern Uganda. But the obstacle that remains there is the ICC warrants," he said.
Matsanga said the Uganda government should take the initiative approach the UN Security Council to have the warrants removed ahead of the rebel leader's signing of a final peace agreement.
"We can use the United Nations Security Council resolution and chapter seven to go to the UN Security Council, which the government of Uganda should do as a referral state, to say the UN Security Council, please, the warrants are a threat. Can you remove them from us so that general Joseph Kony and others can come and sign and walk free and assemble and do things? But he has said he is not going to sign an agreement in Juba because he does not feel safe over there," Matsanga pointed out.