From The New Vision, Uganda Wed 31 Dec. 2008 by Henry Mukasa and Barbara Among:
Rebel chief Kony pleads for ceasefire
UNDER pressure, the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, has appealed to President Yoweri Museveni to declare a ceasefire in the on-going military offensive against his fighters.
The Lord’s Resistance Army envoy, Dr. David Nyekorach Matsanga, said yesterday that he had talked to Kony, who asked him to appeal for a ceasefire.
“Kony called me and told me he wants to talk peace. I am calling upon President Museveni to call for a ceasefire. We should re-open the negotiations,” Matsanga implored.
He said when a ceasefire is declared, a neutral venue and chief mediator would be found. He said Kony had rejected chief mediator Dr Riek Machar and wanted the UN envoy to the LRA affected areas, Joaquim Chissano, to take over. He said with SPLA participating in the hunt for the rebels, the impartiality of Machar, the South Sudan vice-president, was doubted.
The LRA is facing a joint offensive by the UPDF, SPLA of South Sudan and the Congolese army.
It was launched on December 14 after Kony failed to sign the final peace agreement that was negotiated with the Government between July 2006 and April 2008 in Juba, South Sudan.
The joint force is pursuing the rebels in the densely-forested Garamba National Park in Congo.
The UPDF has, however, rejected the call for a ceasefire. The operation spokesperson, Capt. Chris Magezi, said yesterday that the peace talks were concluded but Kony refused to sign the deal.
“If Kony says he is ready to sign, that arrangement can be made but only if he is going to assemble at Ri-kwangba,” Magezi said.
Addressing the nation on December 22, President Museveni also said the only safe way for Kony was to assemble at Ri-Kwangba and sign the peace agreement.
“The operation will see the end of Kony, either peacefully by him walking to Ri-Kwangba or by being violently killed or captured,” Museveni said.
“As an old fighter, I would not want to be in Kony’s position. The combined arms operations about to begin will decimate him,” he warned.
Since the offensive, Kony has killed hundreds of people. Aid agencies say the death toll is over 400.
The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, on Tuesday condemned the atrocities committed by the LRA in the DRC and Sudan. He demanded that the rebels respect the international humanitarian law.
Ban’s special representative, Leila Zerrougui, on Tuesday met with Congo’s national security council to discuss the government’s needs.
“She informed them of UN’s willingness to support them,” MONUC said in a statement.
The LRA rebellion has raged for 20 years, killing thousands and displacing millions in Uganda, Sudan and Congo.
The rebels are notorious for atrocities which include massacres, abductions, mutilation, looting, rape, conscription of boys and forcing girls into sex slavery.
International arrest warrants were issued for LRA top commanders Kony, Dominic Ongwen and Okot Odhiambo.
Meanwhile, the UPDF has named the soldier who was accidentally killed in Congo as Pte. Sam Ochen. He was accidentally shot by a UN soldier.
The body was flown home on Sunday. But the army was yet to inform the family of the dead soldier.
The death brings to two the number of Ugandan soldiers killed since the operation against the LRA started on December 14. Lt. Bosco Opio, 33, died in a plane crash during a routine flight at Isiro airbase in Congo last Wednesday.
The UN said yesterday that an inquiry would be carried out into the accident.
“This was an accident and our relationship with MONUC will not be affected,” said Capt. Chris Magezi, the spokesperson of the joint offensive codenamed Operation Lightning Thunder.
Note, Sudan Tribune article from Khartoum - Machar’s wife escapes assassination attempt in South Sudan
The wife of a senior South Sudan official escaped unharmed after an unidentified gunman pulled a gun at her but did not fire, a newspaper reported December 30, 2008. The London based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily said that state minister of energy Angelina Mang was in the Unity state when the incident took place. The newspaper said that the assassin was taken into custody before he could fire any shots at the Sudanese official.
Photo: GOSS Energy Minister Angelina Mang