Aug 14, 2006 (NAIROBI) — Rebels who have fought a brutal 19-year insurgency in northern Uganda remain committed to peace talks despite reports that Ugandan soldiers killed a commander over the weekend, a top rebel negotiator said Monday.
- Joseph Kony
Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, field commanders are trying to confirm Ugandan military reports that they killed Raska Lukwiya Saturday in an unspecified part of northern Uganda, said Martin Ojul, the head of the rebels’ negotiating team in the southern Sudan capital, Juba.
"We remain committed to negotiating a solution to the war," Ojul told the Associated Press by telephone from Juba. "Whatever happens, it will not derail peace talks."
Ojul said that the group will make a more comprehensive statement on reports of Lukwiya’s killing later Monday.
The Hague-based International Criminal Court has indicted Lukwiya, together with LRA leader Joseph Kony and three other commanders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In the Netherlands Monday, the court said in a statement it would, if requested, help the Ugandan government confirm the body is that of Lukwiya.
"Lukwiya functioned as army commander in early 2004, a period during which the LRA was perpetrating its most deadly attacks upon the civilian population of northern Uganda," said Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the court’s chief prosecutor.
Lukwiya has been charged with enslavement, a crime against humanity, as well as cruel treatment of civilians, attacking civilians and pillaging - all war crimes, the statement said.
Talks between the two foes began in Juba in July but disagreements over whether to declare a ceasefire first and then negotiate a comprehensive agreement have led to delays and temporary walkouts by both sides.
Lukwiya was shot over the weekend after rebels killed a government soldier and a motorcyclist, Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga said Sunday. He was among the "small groups of LRA rebels still harassing people in northern Uganda," Kiyonga told journalists.
The LRA is made up of the remnants of a rebellion that began after President Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986. The group is known for abducting thousands of children and forcing them to become fighters, servants or sex slaves. Thousands of civilians have died in the conflict and more than 1 million have fled their homes.
During last month’s negotiations, rebel representatives have said that their group’s aim is to draw attention to the government’s neglect of northern and eastern Uganda, even though previously they had no clear political agenda.
In the past, Kony has called for Uganda to be governed according to the Bible’s 10 Commandments.
The LRA doesn’t hold any Ugandan territory.