Uganda elders try to save talks with rebel leader

Elders from northern Uganda tried to meet fugitive rebel leader Joseph Kony on Friday to salvage long-running peace talks after he delayed signing a deal to end one of Africa’s longest wars.

The draft agreement between Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the government appeared to be near collapse after the elusive guerrilla asked mediators to clarify parts of the text on Thursday and then broke with his chief negotiator.

Religious and cultural leaders who went to explain the document failed to find Kony on Thursday at an agreed spot near Ri-Kwangba on the remote and thickly wooded Sudan-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border. Early on Friday, they ventured back into the bush to try again.

“The developments of yesterday and today are a challenge to the peace process; nevertheless, the peace process continues,” said the Ugandan government’s top negotiator, Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

Asked whether he thought Kony would sign on Friday, Rugunda said: “We need to know more ... there is no clear answer.”

Kony’s 22-year rebellion killed tens of thousands of people, uprooted two million more in northern Uganda and destabilised neighbouring parts of southern Sudan and the eastern DRC.

Kony, who is wanted for multiple war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, did not appear at Thursday’s planned signing ceremony in Ri-Kwangba.

South Sudan’s Vice-President Riek Machar, who has chaired talks between the two sides since mid-2006, said the LRA leader was unsure how the government planned to use its courts and traditional reconciliation rituals to counter the ICC warrants.

ICC prosecutors accuse the LRA boss and two deputies of crimes including rape, murder and the abduction of thousands of children to serve as fighters, porters and sex slaves.

Even if Kony does sign a final peace deal, the rebels have vowed never to disarm until the indictments are scrapped.—Reuters

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