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Kony May Face ICC, Admits Top LRA Man

But says peace accord and local reconciliation process would first have to be achieved.
Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, may eventually face the International Criminal Court, ICC, but only after a peace deal is brokered and a traditional justice ceremony held, according to a senior member of the LRA delegation currently touring northern Uganda.

Yusef Adek, part of an LRA team consulting rebel victims on accountability and reconciliation aspects of a peace deal with the government, told IWPR in Gulu, northern Uganda, that a peace deal could be signed soon and that a mato oput ceremony would be performed after the LRA fighters have all returned home.

"After a peace agreement is signed, people will gather together in a traditional ceremony at an agreed upon locale,” explained Adek. “The clan elders will then bless the returnees, and reconcile them with the victims.”

The process, he said, would help end the war, because the Acholi, the dominant tribe of the north, believe that, “whoever disturbs the other thereafter will face many afflictions".

Reparations for the victims will have to come from the international community, he said, because the LRA has no money.

Compensation should be distributed as the returning fighters identify the families of their victims – and Acholi leaders should supervise the process, said Adek.

"Since the atrocities were so many [and] many families and areas were affected, only the identified families will be paid damages,” he said. “Other places where atrocities took place will be cleansed, one by one."

Although Adek and other LRA delegation members say traditional reconciliation is critical to securing peace, Adek does not rule out international justice.

If a peace pact is signed and Kony returns to northern Uganda, the rebel leader may then face international justice, like Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president and militia leader, he said.

"When Taylor was still in power, it was very hard to arrest him. But when he went into exile in Nigeria, he couldn't run away from the law anymore," continued Adek.

"Right now Kony still has weapons and the military might, and when he is disarmed, he might end up being apprehended easily like Charles Taylor and face international justice."

But for the present, with a peace deal still under discussion (talks are due to resume this month in Juba, South Sudan) and Kony’s army in the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, there’s little prospect of him being detained.

“Let us [first] convince him to sign the peace agreement,” said Adek, before taking the actions sought by the ICC.

Adek will be part of the delegation from northern Uganda that will meet with Kony in the coming weeks to discuss the results of the LRA team’s tour of the north.

So far, there appears to be widespread support among the 1.8 million displaced people in the north for blanket forgiveness of the LRA.

But many refugees and victims of LRA atrocities told IWPR that they professed to forgive the rebels because they feared reprisals if they publicly supported the ICC.

David Ocaya, a representative of the Latanya refugee camp north of Pader, said many in the camp were afraid to say what kind of punishment Kony should receive because if the LRA returns to war, they would be killed.

Ocaya said many in the camp doubt that Kony wants peace, due to his recently reported execution of his second-in-command, Vincent Otti. “We do not think Kony is sincere. He only wants to survive,” he said.

Ocaya said that if the peace talks fail, then many across the north will support Kony’s arrest and trial before the ICC.

In the Pabbo internal refugee camp north of Gulu, in what has been an LRA stronghold, camp leader Wilson Ajok said,

"When the peace talks began, our people had hopes that we would finally experience peace, but when news came that Otti was killed, our hopes were shattered…We always discuss with the [refugees] our doubts whether Kony will sign the peace deal.

"Kony is a very tough man…If he refuses to sign the peace agreement then the ICC is free to execute [the warrants].”

Jackson Oloya, leader of the Pamin-Lalwak camp about eight kilometres from the Pabbo camp, said people may have forgiven Kony, but that he still should face the ICC.

"Kony should be taken to court, because if left to go free, it will encourage others … [knowing] that they will also be excused," he said.

Oloya said his brother was killed by the LRA and that his nephew, who he has taken into his family, was blinded by a landmine. “That kind of thing cannot be easily forgiven,” he said.

Caroline Ayugi is an IWPR contributor and Peter Eichstaedt is IWPR’s Africa Editor.

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