LRA Wants Peace Talks Outside Africa; Says ICC Probe Uganda Too

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“It must be nullified,� Oloya said, of the ICC case. “It was a one-sided investigation,� he said. “You cannot have a case like that, when the real guys who committed the crimes are sitting in the government.�

[Africa News Update: Peace In Uganda?]

The Lord’s Resistance Army has sent fresh demands through the Juba Peace Talk’s mediator, Riek Machar, asking that the negotiations be moved to a new location, preferably outside Africa, a spokesman said.

LRA leader Joseph Kony was to sign a final agreement April 10, bringing an end to 22-years of warfare with Uganda's government; he did not show up at the signing ceremony. The LRA later circulated a press release saying it had "suspended" its participation in the talks.

Additionally, LRA now says it wants the International Criminal Court (ICC) to re-open its investigations on war crimes and crimes against humanity, to cover the period beginning from 1986, and to also include alleged crimes by Uganda government forces, the spokesman said.

Alex Oloya, a spokesman said the LRA wants Machar to conduct “an independent inquiry” into the reason why the current peace talks collapsed and why Kony did not sign the agreement at Ri-Kwangba, the Sudan-Congo border town as originally scheduled.

He said Machar knows “100 percent that the LRA did not cause” the talks to collapse as reported in local media. He said the LRA wants a new mediator.

Oloya, who says he is a spokesman and coordinator for the peace process, says the LRA wants the ICC to shelve its current case. LRA commander Joseph Kony and four other rebel officers --some of whom have since been killed-- were indicted in 2005 on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges.

The investigations that led to the indictments of the LRA leaders covers the period beginning in 2002.

“It must be nullified,” Oloya said, of the ICC case. “It was a one-sided investigation,” he said. “You cannot have a case like that; when the real guys who committed the crimes are sitting in the government.”

“We want fresh investigations to begin in 1986,” he added. “The only way forward is to investigate from when the time war crimes started in northern and eastern Uganda. There were no war crimes before 1986.” President Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army rebels seized power in 1986.

Oloya said the LRA has started negotiating with international lawyers with expertise in war crimes and that the lawyers would soon file papers asking that the ICC open a new case that would cover both the LRA and the Ugandan government forces.

Oloya said in addition to being the LRA’s spokesperson, he’s also involved in assembling a new team for peace negotiations with the Ugandan government.

Oloya, who did not provide information on his background said he has known Kony for many years and that he is in contact with the LRA leader, who is believed to be somewhere in the Central African Republic. He said a new peace negotiating team will be announced in six weeks. He says the team will be, “capable of negotiating and knowing what they are talking about.”

Oloya said the LRA has communicated its new conditions to Machar, the South Sudan’s Vice President who has been mediating the talks since the summer of 2006.

When asked how Kony felt about the suffering of civilians in Acholi region due to the 22-years of war, Oloya said the LRA under Kony wants to conclude a peace deal. “He is very passionate about Acholi,” Oloya said. “He has seen how the war has damaged the land and the people. He wants a long-term solution….He wants a big victory.”

Asked about media reports that Okot Odhiambo, Kony’s second in command had been killed on the LRA leaders orders after an argument, Oloya said he had spoken to commanders who assured him the reports were not true. Yet, last year, the LRA first denied that Vincent Otti, Kony’s then second in command, had been killed; later reports indicated he had been eliminated. Both Otti and Odhiambo had also been indicted.

Another indicted LRA leader, Raska Lukwiya, is believed to have been killed August 12, 2006 in a battle with the UPDF, Uganda’s army; Dominic Ongwen, the other indicted LRA commander was reportedly killed in combat on October 10, 2005.

The ICC later said genetic fingerprinting indicated the body recovered was not Ongwen’s, according to a report. It’s unknown what impact or unclear status of the whereabouts --or existence-- of the top commanders will have on the indictments.

Kony has previously said he wouldn’t sign a final peace treaty unless the ICC lifts the indictments. Critics say if the ICC

discontinued proceedings on the case, it could be accused of being a tool of Uganda government, which simply sought to apply pressure on the LRA, but had no intention of seeking prosecution of war crimes.

The ICC began investigating the LRA on war crimes and crimes against humanity allegations in 2004 after receiving a referral from President Yoweri Museveni (Ironically, the ICC is also investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity by Uganda’s army when it occupied eastern DR Congo; this matter was referred to the ICC by President Joseph Kabila. Separately, the International Court of Justice in 2005 found Uganda liable of war crimes and crimes against humanity in DR Congo and assessed liability at $10 billion  On June 8, 2006, The Wall Street Journal, in a front page article reported: "President Museveni of Uganda asked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to block the Congo investigation, according to one person familiar with the matter. Mr. Annan replied that he had no power to interfere with the court, this person said.")

Human rights groups have for years demanded that the ICC in addition to investigating the LRA also cover war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Uganda government in Acholi region.

In 2004, Human Rights Watch issued a press release “ICC: Investigate All Sides in Uganda,”

The press release in part read: “Human Rights Watch has documented many shocking abuses by the LRA in Uganda,” said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice program at Human Rights Watch. “But the ICC prosecutor cannot ignore the crimes that Ugandan government troops allegedly have committed.”

The rebels “committed widespread abuses against civilians in Uganda, including child abductions, summary executions, torture, rape and sexual assault, forced labor, and mutilation. Recently, LRA abductions have reached record levels, with an estimated 10,000 children abducted since mid-2002 and forced to fight, kill civilians, and abduct other children. Children who fail to comply with orders are murdered, often by other children who are forced to kill them.”

But the release also continued: “Human Rights Watch has also reported on abuses by Ugandan government troops, the Ugandan People's Defense Forces (UPDF). Violations committed by the UPDF include extrajudicial killings, rape and sexual assault, forcible displacement of over one million civilians, and the recruitment of children under the age of 15 into government militias.”

The release noted: “President Museveni's referral does not limit the prosecutor’s investigation only to crimes allegedly committed by the LRA….The prosecutor should operate independently and has the authority to look at all ICC crimes committed in Uganda.”


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