The Central African Republic’s president has said he is in contact with Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony, one of the world’s most wanted war criminals, to negotiate his surrender.
Michel Djotodia told political leaders in the capital Bangui that Kony, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity, was ready to end the rebellion, according to the AFP news agency.
“It’s true, Joseph Kony wants to come out of the bush. We are negotiating with him,” Djotodia said.
“He asked for food supplies and the government took care of that,” said Djotodia, whose country has been sliding into lawlessness since he seized power in a coup earlier this year.
Djotodia’s comments confirmed claims by a UN envoy on Wednesday that he was in talks with Kony, who was indicted along with several of his senior commanders in 2005 by the ICC.
But US officials voiced skepticism, saying the reports were not “credible”.
A senior US official told the AFP that while Djotodia is thought to be in talks with a small group of fighters from Kony’s Lord Resistance Army, “we’ve no reason to believe that Joseph Kony is part of these negotiations”.
Kony and his LRA fought the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for nearly two decades but in recent years defeated remnants of the group have operated mostly in neighbouring countries such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which share a border with the CAR.
LRA fighters have raped and massacred villagers in the region, evading arrest in one of the most impenetrable regions of Africa straddling the borders of the three countries.
‘Thought to be ill’
The LRA envoys of the UN and African Union said on Wednesday there were indications that Kony might be seeking to come out of the bush because he is thought to be seriously ill.
In 2011, US Special Forces started providing training and logistical support to Ugandan soldiers hunting Kony but the rebel leader has remained elusive.
The US has also offered bounties of up to $5m each for fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and some of his top aides in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group.
The US State Department says Kony, along with aides Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, had been cited under the department’s newly expanded War Crimes Rewards Programme.
Under the programme, the State Department offers rewards for information leading to the arrest, transfer, or conviction of such fugitives.
Uganda has in the past worked with regional armies to track down Kony but its combat operations have ended in failure, with LRA fighters launching reprisal attacks against civilians in places where the rebel leader is believed to be hiding.