''LRA won''t sign incriminating peace deal''
Sunday, 9th September, 2007 By Dennis Ojwee
THE LRA second-in-command, Vincent Otti, has said the rebels will not sign a peace agreement which will earn them a jail term in Uganda or the Hague.
“On behalf of the LRA, I want to state that I will not sign any peace agreement in Juba which sends me to prison. I can only sign an agreement that brings peace, not one that leads me to the International Criminal Court (ICC),” Otti vowed.
Otti, who deputises the LRA leader Joseph Kony, made the statement on the weekly Te-Yat (a home dialogue) programme broadcast by the Gulu-based community radio, Mega FM on Saturday. Otti called the station via the satellite link.
Kony, Otti and other top rebel commanders and their fighters are in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).
Under the terms of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CHA) signed in Juba last August, the rebels are obliged to assemble at Ri-kwangba, South Sudan as the peace talks go on in Juba.
However, despite promises of security and provision of services by the mediation team, the rebels have been reluctant to assemble at the designated areas.
Otti said the rebels had invited 500 people, mostly from the North, for a consultative meeting in Ri-kwangba. He, however, lamented that consulting “a few” people (500) was bad for the future of the peace talks.
“About 800 or 1,000 people should be flown to Ri-kwangba by the Government.”
He said it was safer for the commanders to meet the people in Ri-kwangba than in the North or in Juba, which he claimed were the Government’s preferred areas for the consultations.
The Government and the mediation team, chaired by South Sudan vice-president, Dr. Riek Machar, had in the past flown LRA commanders’ relatives and opinion leaders from Teso, Lango and Acholi for confidence building meetings to Ri-kwangba and Garamba.
When asked whether the rebels had Acholi at heart, Otti responded: “We were the first to lay down our guns. We asked our commanders to relax but we lost some.”
He named Raska Lukwiya, Abonga Papa and Lapaicho as some of the commanders killed when the rebels unilaterally declared a truce.
Otti hailed the Gulu resident district commissioner, Col. Walter Ochora, for facilitating his participation in the radio programme and urged the Acholi to remain steadfast for peace.
“Let us take these talks slowly by slowly, one time, we may attain everlasting peace,” Otti asserted.
Otti, Kony, Charles Okot-Odhiambo, Raska Lukwiya (killed by UDPF) and Dominic Ongwen were in December 2005 indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The UPDF northern region public relations officer, Lt. Chris Magezi, said the UPDF and the Government remain committed to the peace talks.
“The talks have reached a point of ‘no return’,” Magezi observed.