Government welcomes Kony’s “change of heart” but rules out more talks

The Ugandan government has hailed rebel leader Joseph Kony’s latest commitment to peace but ruled out a return to the negotiating table, saying the talks had been concluded.

“It is a welcome development,” Capt Chris Magezi, spokesman for the government delegation at two years of talks with Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Southern Sudan capital, Juba, said on 23 June.

“We only hope that he will put his pronouncement into practice. We note, however, that negotiations were concluded and there will not be a re-opening of the negotiations whatsoever,” he said, responding to an interview Kony gave over the weekend.

“Government hopes that his pronouncement is an indication that he will sign a final agreement. It is a good development that will be good for Kony himself, the abductees and the people in the region. When he responds, government will also respond by signing,” Magezi added.

In an interview with Radio France International, Kony said: "I want the talks to resume in Juba. I want to go back to the table again [because] I don't want to fight again and I believe talk can end everything.

"There is going to be peace though negotiations … I am the one who started the peace talks, so I am not going to refuse anything that will bring peace. I am going to struggle to make sure that this war is resolved," Kony added.

Peace talks stalled

In April 2008, Kony failed to show up at what had been expected to be the signing ceremony of Final Peace Agreement (FPA) to end the LRA’s rebellion, which began in northern Uganda in the late 1980s.

At the time, Kony explained he was unclear over how the issue of the International Criminal Court indictments for war crimes against him and three other LRA leaders would be resolved. Kony has insisted he will not agree to stand trial at the ICC and wants clarification about alternative judicial provisions to be established inside Uganda.


Photo: The Daily Monitor
Joseph Kony, head of the LRA, says he wants to return to the negotiating table

On 16 June, the chief mediator to the talks, Southern Sudan’s Vice-President Riek Machar, told reporters that formal negotiations between the LRA and the Ugandan government had ended.

In a report on the talks, Machar wrote that by late March 2008, “the parties had achieved consensus on all the Agenda Items. They signed or initialled eight substantive agreements which, altogether, constitute the Final Peace Agreement.”

Earlier in June, military chiefs from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan agreed - without setting a date - to attack Kony if he refused to sign the FPA.

Since then, many attacks and abductions in Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic have been blamed on the LRA. Also in June, suspected LRA rebels attacked Southern Sudanese forces in a border area, killing more than 20 people, including 14 soldiers.

Kony said during the interview he was ready to talk to Machar: "I am going to talk to him. He is our mediator," Kony said. "I am going to meet with him in Ri-Kwangba [on the Sudan-DRC border] to end everything."

The war in northern Uganda has displaced more than a million people from their homes and the calm created by the peace process has reassured some to return home from the squalid conditions of displaced people’s camps in the region.

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