LRA leader 'willing to end the war'

The first direct contact in 11 years between peace mediators and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel leader Joseph Kony could help end the 19-year rebellion in northern Uganda, a former mediator in Kampala said on Monday.

Former government chief mediator and current World Bank employee, Betty Bigombe, said by telephone from the war-torn region that she has been talking to the elusive rebel leader for several weeks.

“I have been in direct contact with Kony for more than two weeks now. He is telling me that he is willing to end the war through peaceful means. He has for the moment given no conditions at all.
We hope that this time around, peace will be realised,” said the former Cabinet minister.

Kony, a former lay preacher has been waging a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda from bases in Sudan, leaving tens of thousands dead or maimed.

Commenting on the recent contacts with the LRA leader, interior minister Ruhakana Rugunda, who heads the government delegation to the peace process, said on Monday that,“we have no problem with Bigombe talking to Kony. Our stand is that all options are open for the rebels to use. We want the war to end as soon as possible. We are waiting.”

In the first efforts to end the war through peace talks in 1994, the rebel leader met with Bigombe, then a Cabinet minister, at a bush location but both the government and the rebels later failed to agree on the terms. The war resumed within weeks.

The last attempt at peace was made late last year between the government and LRA representatives under Bigombe’s mediation but the rebels refused to sign a draft peace agreement and fighting between the two sides has been going on since then. - Sapa-DPA

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