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Uganda's LRA Rebel Leader Says He's Ready Again for Peace Talks

By James Butty Washington, D.C. 20 August 2008

Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel leader Joseph Kong is expected to meet this Sunday in the southern Sudanese town of Rikwamba with members of his peace negotiating team for consultation on the way forward in the LRA'S peace negotiations with the Ugandan government.

This comes after UN special envoy for Uganda and former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano said this week that LRA leader Joseph Kony was ready to sign a final peace agreement with the Ugandan government to end more than two decades of fighting in northern Uganda.

The LRA and Kampala were scheduled to sign the peace deal last April. But Kony did not show up and the talks were suspended.

David Matsanga is chief LRA peace negotiator. He confirmed to VOA that rebel leader Kony is ready to resume peace talks.

"It is very, very true that General Joseph Kony told the world on 12 of June that he was prepared as LRA to return to talks and to look for solution peacefully without any difficulties or wrangling. We know that there are problems within the agreement and we are going to look at all of these," he said.

The LRA and Kampala were scheduled to sign the peace deal last April. But Kong did not show up and the talks were suspended.

Matsanga said the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrants against Kony and some of his top commanders remain a stumbling block for the peace process.

"In think the ICC warrant is a very obnoxious situation in this agreement. The ICC warrant to me, as the leader of LRA delegation, are wrong, are redundant; they don't serve any purpose to any Ugandan population that is yarning for peace. If you go to Uganda today, on the streets of Kampala, on the streets of Bale, on the streets of Gulu, on the streets of Mbale, on the streets of Mbarara, people are saying we want peace more than warrants. Why should somebody come to discuss and the warrants are put on him?" Matsanga said.

He denied Kony would again not negotiate in good faith if the ICC warrants were not lifted.

"That's why we want to look at the agreement. Agreements can be looked after. Even the Second World War agreement is being looked after today. Agreements don't die in a day. Agreements can be reopened. That is why General Joseph Kony told the world on 12 June that we wanted to go back and look at the contentious issues. But in principle we in the Lord's Resistance Army have agreed to talk. Talks will continue until we sign the peaceful solution. But the warrants are a stumbling block. And these are the things that we are telling the international community to look at. What is the use for warrant when we have already signed for accountability in Uganda? There is no need of saying we want to charge Kony in ICC at the same time we want to charge Kong in Uganda court," he said.

Matsanga accused the international community of double standard.

"The Ugandan People's Army also committed atrocities. The world is only looking at General Joseph Kony, but there is genocide in Uganda. Museveni (president of Uganda) put people in camps and killed people them for 10, 22 years. If you arrest Kony, you must arrest Museveni. I as the leader of the negotiating team, I will not accept that double standard to happen on my client," Matsanga said.

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