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Africa: June '07

Project lands exclusive interview with LRA commander Vincent Otti - a major scoop which is widely republished.
By Fred Bridgland
The project hit the headlines this month when Gulu correspondent Samuel Okiror Egadu conducted an interview by satellite phone with the Lord's Resistance Army, LRA, commander from the rebel group’s base in the wilds of the Democratic Republic of Congo.



This interview with Vincent Otti, second-in-command of the LRA, resulted in a major scoop and was widely picked up.



Otti told Egadu that he is ready to hand himself over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to answer charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes - but only if the court charges the Ugandan army with similar counts.



LRA members wanted by the ICC have in the past hinted that they would be prepared to be face justice under these conditions, but Otti's conversation with Egadu was the first time one had said so explicitly.



The satellite links promises more exclusive stories to come.



Our correspondents have also been strong in pointing out the ambivalent attitudes towards people in northern Uganda towards the ICC indictments and warrants of arrest for Kony and his men.



There is clearly a growing preference for the use of indigenous tribal systems of justice and reconciliation, which will be a theme of growing debate.



Reporters involved with the ICC Uganda project have been busy producing reports, greatly enthused by seeing their bylines appearing on the IWPR website.



Many of them are broadcast journalists, who have little experience of print, but they gradually learning how to develop and structure multi-layered stories.



With the increased momentum, various organisations have begun to pick up and use our reports from Uganda, including Reuters AlertNet, the Swiss-based International Relations and Security Network, the Norwegian Council for Africa and the New York-based charity Medilinks. The Monitor, a leading Ugandan newspaper, has quoted extracts from our reports.



This month, reporters at IWPR's Hague office also wrote several features relating to the work of the ICC, which is dealing with situations in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic on Congo, the Central African Republic and the Darfur region of Sudan.



One feature looked at concerns surrounding the fact that the Sudanese ICC war crimes indictee Ahmad Harun is also minister of state for humanitarian affairs, tasked with overseeing the Sudanese government's response to crises.



We also investigated criticisms of the ICC's handling of the situation in the Central African Republic, the court's newest investigation which is only a few months old. Some human rights groups have criticised the court for failing to investigate those most criminally responsible for crimes if they happen to be in the current government.



Pressure groups have also said that because the ICC relies on the cooperation of the authorities of the countries in which it operates, prosecutors can never incriminate those at the top of the chain of command.



Fred Bridgland is the editor of the ICC’s Uganda output and Katy Glassborow is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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