Uganda rebel leader talks peace

Joseph Kony, head of Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army, has called for peace talks and denied committing atrocities in his group's bitter conflict with the government.

    Thousands have died or been displaced by the conflict

    The move came as the Ugandan government said on Wednesday that it had sent a delegation to southern Sudan to prepare for possible peace talks with the LRA.

    In a rare interview broadcast by the BBC, Kony said he was not a terrorist but a freedom fighter who wanted peace in Uganda.

    "Peace talks are good for me," he said. "If [Ugandan leader Yoweri] Museveni can agree to talk with me it is only a very good thing, which I know will bring peace to the people of Uganda."

    Kony, a self-styled prophet who says he wants a government based on the Biblical ten commandments, also said r

    eports of atrocities committed by his followers in their 18-year uprising against the government were untrue.

    "It is just propaganda," he said. "Museveni went into the villages and cut off the ears of the people [and said] it was the work of the LRA.

     

    "I did not kill the civilians of Uganda. I kill the soldiers of  Museveni," he added.

     

    Atrocities denied

     

    Kony's LRA movement is notorious for abducting thousands of children, raping and massacring villagers and then torturing survivors by slicing off their lips and ears.

     

    Kony is wanted for war crimes

    The group has killed thousands, many of them children, and caused panic in much of northern Uganda and southern Sudan.

     

    Last year the International Criminal Court named Kony and other leaders of the cult-like rebel group in its first issued warrants.

     

    On Wednesday the UK, the former colonial power in Uganda, dismissed the LRA leader's comments.

     

    "Kony has an international criminal indictment. I take that seriously," David Triesman, the UK junior foreign minister said.

     

    "I believe... the evidence against him and the others who have been indicted means they should be captured, arrested and brought to trial in The Hague."

     

    Negotiations plea

     

    On Wednesday James Mugume, Uganda's foreign affairs permanent secretary, said that the Ugandan delegation were to sent to Sudan to see if the LRA were serious about peace talks.

     

    "We want to sort out issues to do with the format of the talks, the agenda, the composition of delegations and other procedural issues," he said.

     

    Previous attempts to forge peace talks have failed following mutual distrust between the government and rebels.

     

    However, Kony recently met southern Sudanese officials to discuss possible talks and was reportedly persuaded to meet enter into negotiations.

     

    Sudan has also appealed to the ICC to work out a formula to  ensure its arrest warrants do not scupper the latest peace efforts, which are being supported by several European Union states.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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