The Ugandan rebel Lord?s Resistance Army (LRA) says it is planning to send emissaries to the International Criminal Court in the Hague (ICC) to explain its position on the court?s arrest warrant against its leaders. LRA second-in-command Vincent Otti says the rebels are not responsible for abductions and various other atrocities blamed on them. He also accused President Yoweri Museveni and the Ugandan army for breaching the current peace talks in Juba, Sudan. Otti said the LRA doesn?t understand why the ICC is punishing its leaders while at the same time Ugandan army commanders have been let off the hook.
He tells the Voice of America that the LRA believes the Ugandan government spearheaded the indictment of the LRA leadership.
?What I want to assure the world of is that the Museveni government indicted the LRA leadership and some of its top commanders. We were indicted without being questioned. We were not even investigated. That is why we decided to at least first of all send some of our delegates to go and find it properly from the Hague and from the court prosecutor to explain to them or we would like the prosecutor to send his staff to come here and hear from us whether we have really committed crimes,? he said.
Otti rejected suggestions by the Ugandan government of crimes committed by his rebel group members.
?We know for sure that we have never done anything wrong which can make us indicted in the Hague or in what has been happening in Uganda. That is between the LRA and the UPDF (Uganda People?s Defense Force). And why have we been indicted, leaving the commanders of the UPDF? This is what we would like to find out,? he said.
Otti said the LRA should not be the scapegoat for those who suffered as a result of its fight with the Ugandan army.
?For sure you know what really happens between wars. You are firing from here and they are also firing from there and in between are civilians. Who knows this bullet comes from the LRA or that of the Army, who knows he asked.
Otti blamed President Museveni for the atrocities committed against civilians in the northern part of the country.
?Museveni is the one who went in the villages, burning houses of the civilians and collecting the civilians to the camps. He is the one who bombed the civilian population and gave the people twenty-four hours to leave the villages and go to the camps. It was not the LRA that did it,? Otti noted.
He said the LRA rebels are fighting for the rights of the deprived in northern Uganda.
?We are fighting for our rights, we are fighting for salvation for our people and the northerners who are really enslaved in Uganda. I mean slavery action in Uganda and this is what we have been fighting for. Do you think we would bring such bad things to civilians? No, we are fighting to protect the civilians. But Museveni is the one who is using a fifty-year plan against the northerners,? he said.
Otti said the LRA would like the stalled peace talks to resume, after which they would send a delegation to the International Criminals Court in the Hague.
?First of all, we would like to resume peace talks again as they?ve now collapsed in Juba, and the peace talks are going to be transferred from Juba to somewhere. After that, then at least one or two of our delegates can go to the Hague,? he said.