Reports from Uganda say the leader of the rebel Lord?s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony, has arrived at one of the agreed assembly points in Sudan. Observers say Kony?s arrival will give the peace talks a significant boost and the opportunity to end twenty years of conflict. A week ago, his deputy arrived at the camp after the Ugandan government offered amnesty if the rebels disarmed and demobilized. Rebel leaders were initially reluctant to show themselves for fear of arrest under warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
If the government and the LRA are able to reach a comprehensive deal, it would be a major breakthrough in working to end the violence in the region, which is comprised of northern Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rebels from all three nations operated across the borders with impunity for decades until a peace accord halted Congo's civil war in 2003 and southern Sudanese rebels joined Sudan's government in 2005.
Ruhakana Rugunda is Uganda?s minister of internal affairs and leader of the government?s peace negotiating team. He spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the rebel leader?s emergence.
?Yes I have received firm information, we are waiting for a formal confirmation from the mediator vice president Riek Machar. But if that has happened, then it is very welcome news and in any case after the cessation of hostilities agreement, it is true that Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and other Lord?s resistance army members were expected to have gathered by Tuesday the 19th, latest. So, if they have already gathered, that?s very welcome,? he said.
He explained the implication of Kony?s arrival at the assembly camp. ?Well, it would definitely mean that, Joseph Kony and the leaders of the Lord?s Resistance Army, take the peace process currently mediated by the government of southern Sudan, seriously and it would push the process forward. So it is a very significant development,? he noted.
?We are due to resume discussions this coming week, and we are continuing with the agenda items that we are discussing. The fact that Joseph Kony has come to Dekamba, one of the assembly areas will definitely encourage and promote the spirit of which in an agreement soon. So that the people of Uganda and especially in the northern part of the country can live in peace, and the conflict can come to an end and we can now focus on reconstruction and development of the conflict affected areas,? Rugunda continued.
He said the government has a reconstruction plan in place if the peace talks conclude successfully. ?Well it?s true that the government of Uganda has prepared a comprehensive program for the reconstruction and development of the conflict affected areas in northern Uganda. And it?s also true that the Juba talks are progressing on quite well. So the reporting of Joseph Kony would be a new impetus and an additional injection in the whole peace process,? he said.
Rugunda talks about the amnesty granted to Kony and the LRA leadership by the Ugandan government and how it affects the ICC warrant.
?The amnesty granted by the government of Uganda to the LRA leaders, definitely stands, at the same time Ugandan government is engaging as has done before the ICC and we are convinced that a mutual acceptable outcome would be found. So that we have a win, win situation in this equation. So that we can have peace in northern Uganda have justice and also can have justice without condoning impunity,? he said.
The LRA was formed from the remnants of a northern Uganda rebellion that began in 1986 after Museveni, a southerner, overthrew a brutal military force.Let us know what you think of this report and other stories on our website. Send your views to AFRICA@VOANEWS.COM, and include your phone number. Or, call us here in Washington, DC at (202) 205-9942. After you hear the VOA identification, press 30 to leave a message. We want to hear what you have to say!