Uganda rebels vowed on Saturday to sign a peace deal but warned they will not disarm until arrest warrants for alleged war crimes are "resolved".
Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) vowed on Saturday to sign a final peace deal but warned it will not disarm until International Criminal Court arrest warrants for alleged war crimes are “resolved”.
LRA spokesperson David Nyekorach-Matsanga said rebel chief Joseph Kony was willing to sign the much-delayed peace deal, speaking as military pressure mounts against the northern Ugandan insurgents.
“General Joseph Kony ... instructed me to inform the world and announce that the LRA will sign the FPA [final peace agreement],” Matsanga said in a statement issued in the south Sudanese capital, Juba, where peace talks have been held since 2006.
“But the LRA will not disarm or demobilise until the ICC warrants of arrest and some other issues within the agreement are resolved.”
These issues will be discussed by a joint committee of LRA and Ugandan government representatives, he said.
“This is exactly in line with the agreement that we negotiated,” he added.
The rebels are now believed to be based in jungle hideouts in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
They have also been accused of attacking villages in the Central African Republic (CAR).
However, Congolese troops last week were reported to be planning to crack down on the fugitives.
Uganda’s military have said it supports the move, which is also backed by troops from the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.
Matsanga, who said he spoke for more than two hours with the elusive rebel chief on Thursday, insisted Kony wanted peace and thanked those involved in the peace talks “for their patience while we put our house in order”.
“They should not attack General Kony, who has openly said he wants to sign an agreement and stop the suffering of Ugandans,” Matsanga said.
“The fighters of LRA also want to rebuild their lives that have been shattered by the war.”
The LRA is accused of having raped and mutilated civilians, forcibly enlisted child soldiers and of massacring thousands during what has been one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.
Kony failed to show up for the signing of a final accord with Kampala in April, saying he needed more information on the ICC charges against him and other LRA members, and on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of his fighters.
Renewed attempts to sign the deal have been repeatedly delayed, with clashes between the LRA and south Sudanese troops.
A planned meeting last week called by Kony was scrapped at the last minute when rebel telephones were turned off.
Matsanga said a meeting will be held in Juba on September 17 to bring together negotiators, LRA representatives and the UN representative, Joaquim Chisano, as well as cultural and religious leaders.
A date will then be fixed for a meeting with Kony in his jungle base.
The LRA supremo, a semiliterate former altar boy, took charge in 1988 of a regional rebellion among northern Uganda’s ethnic Acholi minority.
Twenty years of fighting have left tens of thousands dead and displaced two million people, mainly in northern Uganda.—AFP.