Uganda confident of rebel deal, despite world court

By Tim Cocks

KAMPALA, May 8 (Reuters) - Uganda said on Tuesday it was confident international arrest warrants for the leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels would not derail the signing of a peace deal being thrashed out at talks in south Sudan.

LRA leader Joseph Kony and four of his deputies are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their role in a two-decade civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and uprooted nearly 2 million more.

Negotiations began in Juba, southern Sudan, in July to seek an end to the fighting. Delegates agreed a temporary truce in August, and last week signed a second part of a multi-stage deal agreeing to solve the humanitarian crisis caused by the war.

Talks turn to the more controversial topic of accountability on Friday. Kony, who is charged with massacring civilians, rape and abducting children as recruits, has vowed never to agree a peace deal until the world court arrest warrants are scrapped.

But the deputy head of the government's negotiating team, Oryem Okello, said the guerrillas had been advised that making peace first was the best way for them to avoid prison.

"I believe it is possible (to) have an agreement without the lifting of the ICC indictment," he told reporters in Kampala.

"They are aware they committed offences ... The government is offering to deal with justice using our national laws."

The ICC says Uganda, and other states in the region, have a legal obligation to arrest and handover the wanted men. Most of the rebels are in south Sudan, east of the Nile, or with their leaders in remote northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Okello said an amnesty offer issued to the fugitive rebels last year by President Yoweri Museveni could still stand, but not as a precondition of any deal.

"They are starting to realise that President Museveni is their best ally," he said. "He has given them a way out."


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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