UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UGANDA: Top rebel negotiator surrenders to government
KAMPALA, 17 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - The principal negotiator for the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in protracted talks with the Ugandan government, Sam Kolo, gave himself up on Wednesday, an army spokesman said.
"He has surrendered and our commanders evacuated him," Maj Shaban Bantariza, the spokesman for the Ugandan army, told IRIN.
According to Bantariza, Kolo's surrender came as a result of a disagreement with the head of the LRA, Joseph Kony, who subsequently issued an order for his execution.
"He had no choice because Kony had ordered for his execution for defying orders to get out of northern Uganda and return to Sudan," Bantariza said on Thursday.
The LRA's chief spokesman since 1999, Kolo, a Brigadier in the rebel ranks, became the highest-ranking LRA rebel commander to give himself up to the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF). At least three other LRA commanders have surrendered or been captured by government forces over the year.
Kolo had been a member of the LRA for several years, waging war in northern Uganda in a bid to overthrow the government of Yoweri Museveni, ostensibly to replace it with a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments.
Hesitant to talk about the implications of Kolo's surrender for the ongoing talks, Betty Bigombe, the chief mediator, told IRIN: "The final objective is to end the war - it will take us time to know how this will affect the peace process, but of course it is a setback."
Bigombe said she had received a phone call from Vincent Otti, Kony's deputy, telling her that he would replace Kolo as the LRA's chief negotiator.
The head of the government team to the peace talks, who is also the Ugandan internal affairs minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, told IRIN that he was confident Kolo's surrender would not affect the peace process.
"Kolo's surrender will not affect the fact that the door for negotiations for peace will still be open," Rugunda said.
Religious leaders from northern Uganda, who have been at the forefront of the peace talks, said they were concerned about the fate of the negotiations following Kolo's surrender.
"His surrender leaves a situation of uncertainty as to what will be the future of the peace process," John Baptist Odama, Catholic Archbishop of Northern Uganda, told IRIN on Wednesday.
The government and the LRA have fought a 19-year-old war, but since last December, have been involved in intense negotiations to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The LRA, notorious for their brutality, have abducted as many as 20,000 children to serve as soldiers or sex slaves of the commanders. The northern conflict has seen tens of thousands killed and an estimated 1.6 million people displaced from their homes.
On Tuesday, the Ugandan defence minister, Amama Mbabazi, said the LRA, which once had thousands of fighters in its ranks, had been reduced to a meagre force of 300 to 400 fighters and predicted "certain victory" for the UPDF.
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