Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), failed to come out of hiding to sign a peace deal at a planned ceremony in southern Sudan. His chief negotiator later resigned, putting a possible peace deal in jeopardy.
RI-KWANGBA, Sudan, April 10 (Reuters) The top negotiator for Uganda's fugitive rebel leader Joseph Kony said he had quit on Thursday
after a delay signing a final peace deal, but sources involved in the talks said he had been fired.
"I said earlier that if Kony does not appear to sign this peace agreement, I will not associate myself with him anymore," David
Nyekorach-Matsanga told Reuters on the remote Sudan-Congo border. "Today, I did not see Kony and he did not appear to sign the peace
Sources involved in the talks said Kony had apparently refused to meet the negotiator after asking mediators to clarify parts of the document
he had negotiated on his behalf.
Kony, who is wanted for multiple war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), did not show his face at a planned signing ceremony
at the frontier hamlet of Ri-Kwangba on Thursday, and appeared to have left the area again when elders went to meet him.
South Sudan's Vice President Riek Machar said the LRA leader was unsure how the Ugandan government planned to use its courts and
traditional reconciliation rituals to counter the ICC arrest warrants.
Kampala's chief negotiator had earlier said Kony's request was "absolutely legitimate" and that his team was happy to be patient.
Matsanga was closely guarded by south Sudanese soldiers after he returned to camp alone while his team stayed with the rebels in the bush.
The sources said the negotiator, a member of the Ugandan diaspora who was once an LRA spokesman in London, would leave in the morning.
Kony's 22-year rebellion killed tens of thousands of people, uprooted 2 million more in northern Uganda and destabilised neighbouring parts
of southern Sudan and eastern Congo.
ICC prosecutors in The Hague accuse the LRA commander and two top deputies of offences 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.
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni is due to sign the agreement at a separate ceremony on April 15 in Juba.
His government has said it will only call for the ICC warrants to be lifted after a final deal is reached. It was not clear whether that meant the
rebels have to disarm first too.
The ICC has said its warrants for Kony and the two other commanders -- Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen -- remain active. But the U.N.
Security Council could ask the court to put them on hold if members see a real chance for peace.
In a bid to convince the ICC the matter can be handled internally, Kampala and the rebels have agreed to set up a special division of
Uganda's High Court to deal with war crimes.
The government also plans to employ the north's ancient "Mato oput" ritual, in which parties confess their crimes publicly and ask for
ICC supporters say that only a judicial process delivering stiff jail terms for grave crimes is an acceptable alternative.
But the court does not want to be seen as the last barrier to peace if talks look like ending one of the continent's most brutal and intractable
Date created : 2008-04-11