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LRA’s Kony to sign peace deal in bush - South Sudan

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March 28, 2008 (JUBA) — Uganda’s fugitive rebel chief Joseph Kony will sign a final peace deal with the government on the South Sudan-Congo border two days before an official ceremony, South Sudanese officials said on Friday.

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LRA Joseph Kony is shaking hand with southern Sudan’s vice president Riek Machar. (Reuters).

South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar has been chairing long-running negotiations between the two sides in Juba.

Kony, leader of the shadowy Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), has never attended the talks in person, fearing arrest and extradition to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"There will be two signatures ... Kony in his headquarters in Ri-Kwangba on April 3 and the Ugandan president will come to sign here in Juba on April 5," South Sudan’s Information Minister Gabriel Changson Chang told Reuters.

Ri-Kwangba lies on the remote frontier between South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. Kony’s refusal to leave camps in Congo will frustrate Ugandan government negotiators, who say they expect him to emerge from hiding to sign.

"The parties agreed that the signing of the Final Peace Agreement be April 5 in Juba, Southern Sudan," Kampala said in a statement late on Thursday. "The Government of Uganda expects Kony to come to Juba and sign the final Peace Agreement."

No outsiders have seen elusive rebel commander in months.

Rebel representatives in Juba say they will leave for Ri-Kwangba with the document on Tuesday. The deal calls for LRA fighters to disarm within a month after it is signed.

Kony and two of his top deputies are wanted for multiple war crimes by ICC prosecutors in The Hague. During a two-decade insurgency, their fighters became notorious for mutilating their victims and abducting thousands of children.

Fearing prosecution, the rebels have repeatedly insisted any final peace deal be contingent on the ICC scrapping its arrest warrants first, while the government says it will only ask for that after an agreement has been signed.

The war has been one of Africa’s longest conflicts, killing tens of thousands of people and uprooting 2 million more.

(Reuters)

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