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LRA's Murky Negotiators

Former rebel negotiator accuses LRA peace talks’ delegation of being shambolic and driven by self-interest.
By Emma Mutaizibwa
The former chief negotiator for the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, claims that chaos, tribal jealousy, greed and the rebels’ advisers sabotaged last week’s attempts to sign a peace deal to end more than 20 years of war in Uganda.

A ten-page dossier prepared by ex-LRA negotiator David Nyekorach Matsanga, which has been obtained by IWPR, opens a window on the murky world of the LRA peace delegation.

It asserts that bad advice, tribal hatred, and lust for money played a significant role in LRA chief Joseph Kony’s failure to sign a peace deal with Kampala in a remote jungle location last week.

Matsanga – who said he resigned as chief negotiator, rather than being dismissed by Kony as has been reported – discussed details of his dossier in an exclusive interview with IWPR from the Zambian capital of Lusaka.

The LRA have been conducting peace negotiations with the Ugandan authorities on and off since July 2006. Kony failed to turn up for the signing of the Final Peace Agreement, FPA, which was due to take place in Ri-Kwangba, in Sudan, on April 10.

According to the former negotiator, LRA advisers had persuaded Kony to snub to the peace deal.

Matsanga said that two men named Alex and Bill – both members of the Acholi tribe based in London – urged Kony to rearm, apparently to resume his 20-year war against the government of Uganda. Kony is an Acholi, the dominant ethnic group of northern Uganda.

“I noticed a military angle being floated by Alex who lives [in] London and Bill [both Acholi],” Matsanga told IWPR.

The men “approached Kony and suggested many things that included rearming Kony”.

Although Matsanga did not describe the source of the arms, he said, “I will disclose [that] to the relevant authorities in the conflict.”

Matsanga said the Acholi advisers were the LRA’s “arm-chair commanders”. He said he learned of their conversations while in the LRA camp not far from Ri-Kwangba.

He said he got wind of the military proposals by intercepting emails and text messages, he said.

In addition, Matsanga claimed to have “recorded and kept all telephone calls with Kony to prove to the world one day, in case they are needed in court” that what he claims is true.

Matsanga was critical of the LRA and its political arm, the Lord’s Resistance Movement, calling it a “tribal cocoon” that falsely “uses the discourse of democracy …justice and equality to describe their cause for fighting”.

Matsanga, who is a Ugandan but not an Acholi, said that while he made efforts to bring a degree of rationality to the negotiating table, he was considered an outsider and ignored.

“I want to state here that even the most educated men and women [among the LRA negotiating team] retreat into a tribal cocoon instead of advancing intellectual positions when the need arises,” he said.

Kony’s failure to show up at the signing ceremony last week frustrated most of the 200 people who had traveled to the jungle location 420 kilometres from the South Sudan capital of Juba.

But that did not prevent Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni flying to Juba on April 14, where he met his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir.

Following the meeting, Museveni said the LRA continued to kidnap villagers from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic – a practice which the rebels have used for 20 years to bolster their fighting force.

Although Museveni said Uganda and the South Sudan army would work to protect the people, he did not specify what, if any, military moves were being contemplated against Kony.

“We have the means to work together…to solve some of these problems,” said Museveni.

Matsanga went on to describe how there had been struggles within the LRA delegation over money.

One member of the team, he said, approached a foreign embassy that has supported the peace talks to demand 400,000 dollars. The money was said to have been requested as a means of inducing Kony to sign the peace deal.

Matsanga, however, said this request prompted him to leave the delegation.

“When one member of my delegation approached one of the embassies in Kampala asking them to make cash payment of 400,000 dollars before Kony signs the FPA [Final Peace Agreement] I was left with no option but to resign to avoid being involved in such blackmail tactics and traps,” explained Matsanga.

Matsanga said that at least one member of the delegation who toured Uganda last November and December as part of a reconciliation mission, “inflated hotel bills and conned many people who participated in the LRA consultation”. Some members may have pocketed vast amounts of money from the tour, he claimed.

Matsanga said that at a later date, Kony was advised to ask for one million dollars as a condition for puttin his signature to the peace deal. According to reports, Kony delayed signing the FPA because he wanted guarantees for his safety and financial security.

Matsanga also told IWPR that he was repulsed by “Kony’s lust for blood”, which had resulted in the apparent killing of Otti and Okot Odhiambo, the commander who was named to replace Otti.

According to other sources inside the LRA, Odhiambo was executed because he opposed signing the peace agreement.

“Odhiambo did not want the peace deal to be signed,” said a source who did not want to be named.

With Otti and Odhiambo now apparently dead, Kony and commander of the LRA’s Sinia Brigade Dominic Ongwen are the only two remaining commanders indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in 2005. A fifth rebel wanted by the ICC – Raska Lukwiya – was killed by the Ugandan army in August 2006 in South Sudan.

Matsanga, meanwhile, said he now plans to pursue more fruitful work.

“I have a consultancy in Nairobi and London, which can pay for my way out of this world,” he said. “As you all know, I carry money that is lawfully mine, which [consists of] allowances paid by UN and the government of South Sudan to the delegation.”

As leader of the delegation, he said, he received 220 dollars per day, which may have upset some in the delegation because he was not Acholi, he said.

Emma Mutaizibwa is an IWPR contributor based in Kampala.

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