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UN envoy: Kony willing to sign Uganda peace deal
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15:27, August 17, 2008

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The elusive rebel leader of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) has said he is willing to sign a final peace deal with the Ugandan government after the peace talks deadlocked four months ago, a UN envoy has disclosed here.

Joseph Kony, Uganda's top rebel indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), snubbed the signing of a final peace deal in April after the conclusion of 20 month negotiations in Juba, southern Sudan.

"Kony has said he is ready to sign the peace deal. He telephoned us and I have been talking to him," said Joachim Chissano, the UN secretary general's special envoy for war-ravaged northern Uganda and former president of Mozambique.

"I am happy that Kony has committed himself to signing the deal. He has been very clear in communication and we are waiting for the day," he added while addressing internally displaced people in Laminawino village in Gulu district on Saturday.

The rebel leader was reportedly ill-advised by some LRA members and withdrew from the much anticipated signing at Ri-Kwangba on the remote border of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"There was some problem in the LRA camp causing delay for the rebel leader to sign the agreement," Chissano said without elaborating.

The ICC issued arrest warrants in 2005 for rebel leader Joseph Kony and four of his commanders, three of whom have since been reported dead, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in northern Uganda.

The Ugandan government has promised the rebel group a mixture of local justice and traditional reconciliation to replace the trial at The Hague-based court.

However, the rebel group, whose leader Kony is hiding in the jungle on the border between Uganda and DRC, insisted it would not sign the peace deal before the withdrawal of the ICC indictments.

The Ugandan government will be engaged in a long legal and diplomatic battle with the ICC in its pursuit of asking the court to drop charges against the country's rebel leadership once they sign a peace deal, according to law experts.

Chissano, who is on a two day visit to the war ravage region, said that Kony had asked for a meeting at Ri-Kwangba with him and other leaders before setting the date of the signing.

"We are making arrangements and in one week or two weeks, I am meeting Kony at Ri-Kwangba," he said.

The southern Sudan brokered peace talks are seen the best chance to bring lasting peace to a bigger region including northern Uganda, parts of southern Sudan and DRC, which were destabilized by the LRA's two decade long insurgency.

The LRA's insurgency has uprooted over 2 million people in northern Uganda alone while up to 60,000 children were abducted and forced into combat and sexual exploitation by the rebel group.


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