September 2, 2006

Uganda’s Museveni pledges to keep Kony from ICC

By Daniel Wallis

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
pledged to intervene to prevent notorious guerrilla leader
Joseph Kony from facing international war crimes charges if his
group agreed to end one of Africa's longest insurgencies.

Under a truce agreed a week ago, Lord's Resistance Army
(LRA) fighters and their leader Kony have three weeks to move
to two camps in southern Sudan while talks continue.

But Kony and his top deputies are wanted on war crimes
charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague,
which named them in its first warrants last October.

The Ugandan government has offered them amnesty if talks to
end their two-decade insurgency succeed.

"One thing we are offering for sure is no prosecution for
Kony," Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni told reporters in a
televised debate on Saturday. "That should be a big relief for
him, because Kony should be hanged for what he has done."

Nearly 2 million people have been uprooted in northern
Uganda by fighting between government troops and LRA rebels
notorious for massacring civilians, mutilating survivors and
kidnapping thousands of children as fighters and "wives."

A landmark truce was brokered last weekend by the regional
government of neighboring southern Sudan, and talks are due to
resume in its capital Juba on Monday.

If a final deal is agreed, Museveni said he would intervene
with the ICC on Kony's behalf.

"We are ready to deal with his issues," Museveni said. "We
shall inform the ICC ... that we have found an alternative
solution to this problem and we would like them to leave this."

This week, Britain said the latest peace moves in northern
Uganda held great promise, but that resolving the ICC
indictments was a "real problem."

"The warrants are there," a minister told BBC radio. "This
is an issue for the whole of the international community."

Museveni said Western support for the ICC indictments was
correct -- to a point. "Until (Kony) agrees, it is right for
countries like Britain to keep up the pressure," he said.

Museveni said he believed Kony only wanted to negotiate a
safe exit from his jungle base in eastern Democratic Republic
of Congo, and that a September 12 deadline set by Kampala for a
final deal to be signed could be extended.

"We shall discuss that with the government of south Sudan
when it gets near," Museveni told reporters.