Kampala Rejects Further Kony Talks

Officials say rebel leader must sign negotiated peace agreement, amid speculation about renewed talks.

Kampala Rejects Further Kony Talks

Officials say rebel leader must sign negotiated peace agreement, amid speculation about renewed talks.

The Ugandan government won’t restart peace talks with Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, rebels, Ugandan minister for international affairs, Henry Okello Oryem has told IWPR.

“There’s no resuming for us. The peace talks were concluded,” said Oryem. “If there’s any issue [for] those involved in trying to resume [the talks], [it] is to convince Kony to sign the negotiated agreement.”

Re-opening negotiations with Kony would be useless, he said.

“How do we open negotiations with a man [who repeatedly] refused to sign an agreement after years of negotiation?” Oryem asked. “There’s nothing to talk about now.”

Oryem’s remarks followed reports that the United Nations special envoy for the talks, Joaquim Chissano, has tried to resurrect the stalled peace negotiations between Kony and the government.

Chissano, the former Mozambique president, met Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, but he denied the renewal of peace talks was discussed, he said.

Speculation about a return to the negotiating table surfaced as the Ugandan army completed its withdrawal of troops after a three-month offensive against the LRA rebels in Garamba National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

While various aid organisations have called for new talks, two former delegates of the original LRA peace team, Obonyo Olweny and Otim Okullo, outlined reasons the talks failed in a recently-written paper, which claimed neither Museveni nor Kony wanted to end the conflict.

“Museveni is consumed by the obsession to defeat the Kony militarily and dictate the terms of a comprehensive settlement of the conflict,” the paper, dated February 20, read.

“Kony has a genuine deep mistrust of Museveni, fears the ICC, and lacks an understanding of the political benefits of peace talks.”

Peace talks between Uganda and the LRA began in July 2006 in Juba, South Sudan, and ended in late November when Kony failed to show for a peace deal signing for the third time last year. Uganda then attacked Kony’s camps in DRC.

Olweny and Okullo wrote that the Juba talks failed because the peace deal ignored the root causes of the war.

“The war in northern Uganda did not start with the LRA, and may not end with it, unless its root causes are exhaustively tackled and settled once and for all,” the two wrote.

They identified the root causes of the war as marginalisation and disempowerment of local people after Museveni took power in 1986, and the lack of equitable economic development, balanced resource allocation and unfair political representation that resulted.

Until money is provided for "economic recovery and reconstruction ..., replacement of lost livestock, and [resolving] issues of land rights and ownership" the long-standing grievances of the north will not be addressed, they wrote.

The two also criticised the United States and Britain for their support of the military operation against the LRA in Garamba National Park.

The US reportedly trained, helped plan and finance the unsuccessful December 14 attack on LRA bases in Garamba.

Among other accusations, Olweny and Okullo claim that the current self-proclaimed leader of the LRA delegation, David Matsanga, is a “pro-government agent”.

Matsaga denies the accusation.

“I have never worked for the government of Uganda and that’s why Kony trusts me and has kept me,” Matsanga told IWPR. “I am the only person who has spoken to Kony since he was attacked by Uganda in last year.”

Matsanga said the former negotiators were targeting him for tribal and political reasons.

“Kony trusts me, and [I] am not from his tribe. This makes many Acholis come after me,” he said. “I didn’t start the peace talks, but I was there till the end in November last year.”

Matsanga said he is trying to bring Kony to the peace table again and rejected the accusation that he is doing so to collect the payments for living expenses provided to negotiators.

“I have been in touch with governments of Uganda, DRC and Sudan and I will soon have a meeting with Chissano,” Matsanga said. “So what kind of commitment do these people want?”

He said he is pushing for another round of talks so that Kony might sign the peace agreement.

“We want a 90-day temporary ceasefire announced publicly as a first step towards this re-engagement by the primary parties – the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army,” Matsanga said.

A ceasefire would be followed by the rebels gathering at designated surrender areas in South Sudan.

“The assembly of the LRA commanders and combatants will begin three days after a standby African Peacekeeping Battalion has secured the assembly area buffer zone,” Matsanga said.

Renewed peace talks are finding support from some political leaders in northern Uganda.

Parliamentary opposition leader Morris Ogenga Latigo told IWPR that the government has no choice but to negotiate.

“When our troops went into Congo in December, I said they could only [disrupt the LRA], but not destroy Kony,” Latigo told IWPR.

“Government and LRA have no choice but to talk to bring peace, because none of the two seem to have the ability to dislodge the other.”

Latigo discounted fears that Kony might bring his rebel army back to Uganda.

“We don’t expect Kony to make that mistake of sending fighters back to Uganda because they will most likely defect,” Latigo said.

Rosebell Kagumire is an IWPR-trained reporter.
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