By James Gatdet Dak
September 11, 2008 (JUBA) – The Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), Riek Machar Teny, who is also the Chief Mediator of the Uganda peace talks, dismissed international media allegations that a joint UN and DR Congo forces had undertaken military operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
- Riek Machar
Machar told the press at Juba International Airport as he was arriving from Khartoum on Wednesday, where he co-chaired NCP-SPLM joint meetings on peace implementation, that the international media reports were not true.
He said the allegations were orchestrated by peace spoilers to cause panic in the LRA camp.
He assured that he would discuss the matter with the UN Special Envoy to LRA affected areas, Joachim Chissano and the Congolese government to correct the allegations.
Machar further explained that his last week’s scheduled meeting with the LRA chairman, Joseph Kony could not take place because of heavy rains that prevented his helicopter to fly to the jungles of Sudan-DR Congo border.
The meeting which was to include UN Special Envoy with his team, Uganda government’s senior officials and the LRA chief negotiators was believed to would have led to the signing of the ever ready final peace agreement between the two parties.
Machar said his mediation team was working to reschedule the meeting soon.
Kony failed the mediators in two attempts in April and May this year after trying to persuade him to come out and sign the peace agreement, citing the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments and arrest warrants hanging over his head as an obstacle to peace in northern Uganda.
The rebel leader is allegedly responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity that include killings, maiming, abducting and raping of his movement’s victims, some of them young children.
Kony demanded for clarification of the protocol on accountability and reconciliation signed by his peace delegation before he could ink the Final Peace Agreement. It is not clear whether or not the demand has been resolved.
Machar acknowledged that the biggest fear of Kony is the ICC arrest warrants which caused the delay to sign the agreement.
He however explained that the stakeholders in the peace process would, after the signing of the Final Peace Agreement by Kony, request the UN Security Council to suspend the ICC case at least for twelve months to give time for implementation of accountability and reconciliation protocol inside Uganda.
The protocol stipulates that the rebel leader would be tried in a Special Division of the High Court, which would be supplemented by tribal traditional justice mechanisms of Acholi, etc. inside Uganda.
Machar re-iterated the Government of Southern Sudan’s commitment on security and trade interests to help peacefully end the notorious 21 years of war in northern Uganda, which he said would promote stability, trade and development in both northern Uganda and Southern Sudan.
The 21-year brutal conflict in Northern Uganda is blamed for the displacement of nearly 2 million people and the death of tens of thousands more in the region.
The LRA peace negotiators say they are fighting against marginalization in the North and North-eastern part of the country.
Analysts describe the Juba peace process as the best chance to end the LRA war that has crossed international borders and proven to pose a security threat regionally.