By James Gatdet Dak
September 16, 2008 (JUBA) — The chief negotiator for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), David Nyekorach Matsanga said the rebel leader, Joseph Kony, has agreed to sign the Final Peace Agreement between his movement and the Ugandan government despite the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants hanging over his head.
- LRA negotiator David Nyekorach Matsanga (ST)
In a statement to the press on Tuesday shortly after his arrival with his team from Kenya, Matsanga, however explained that the LRA forces “will not be disarmed until the Ugandan government goes to the UN Security Council to remove the arrest warrants” after the signing of the Final Peace Agreement.
Matsanga said his movement had now dropped its previous demand or precondition which called for removal of ICC arrest warrants first before Joseph Kony could sign the Final Peace Agreement.
The rebel leader and his other four colleagues, two dead, are allegedly responsible for committed war crimes and crimes against humanity that include killing, maiming, abducting and raping of the movement’s victims, some young children.
He said Kony had told him in a telephone conversation that he would this time sign the agreement, but
warned not to implement the protocol of Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration (DDR) of the agreement before the ICC arrest warrants were removed.
“General Joseph Kony has assured that he would sign the Final Peace Agreement …, but he will not disarm a single gun or a single bullet until the Ugandan government goes to the United Nations Security Council to remove the arrest warrants,” Matsanga stated.
Members of Uganda parliament, religious and cultural leaders from northern Uganda also arrived in Juba on Tuesday to take part in the arrangements towards the signing of the agreement and to witness it per request by the LRA’s chairman.
Matsanga further explained that these leaders would meet with the Chief Mediator of the Uganda peace talks, Government of Southern Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar in Juba before they travel to Sudan-DR Congo border to meet with Kony.
The Chairperson of the Juba-based Uganda Peace Talks Secretariat, James Reat Gony, confirmed that the meeting would take place on Wednesday.
The re-instated LRA chief negotiator also disclosed that the LRA leadership had already nominated a person to lead the rebel’s component of the would-be formed implementing body, called the Joint Liaison Group (JLG).
According to the agreement, JLG, with membership from both parties, would be established after the signing of the Final Peace Agreement by President Yoweri Museveni of the Republic of Uganda and General Joseph Kony of LRA, and would be responsible for the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement.
Matsanga said the move to early nominate the LRA nominee for JLG was necessitated by the fact that the Ugandan government had unilaterally started to implement some parts of the Final Peace Agreement before it was signed.
Matsanga warned against any implementation of items in the agreement that would affect the LRA without its involvement and before the signing of the agreement.
He however consented that the LRA would not mind if the Uganda government implemented development projects that did not necessarily need involvement of LRA.
“If you are implementing on digging a road between Balebek and Gulu, fine, go ahead, it is not our problem. But if you touch something that you will be housing the LRA, you will be educating the LRA children, this is where we tackle you, and this is where we shall disagree,” Matsanga explained.
Earlier in May, the Chief Mediator, Riek Machar, in a summarized statement outlining the status of the stalled Uganda peace process after Kony failed to sign twice, appealed to the Ugandan government to start implementing some important projects that would improve lives of the people in the war affected northern Uganda.
Kony failed the mediators in two attempts in April and May 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 and North-eastern Uganda.
He demanded for clarification of the protocol on accountability and reconciliation signed by his peace delegation before he could ink the Final Peace Agreement.
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.
The 21-year brutal conflict in Northern Uganda is blamed for the displacement of nearly 2 million people – now reportedly returning to their places of origin - 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.