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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Ugandan rebel denies war crimes
Joseph Kony

The leader of Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army, has insisted he is not guilty of war crimes.

Joseph Kony is wanted by a UN court, but told the BBC his group was not responsible for killings, maimings and abductions in northern Uganda.

Mr Kony was speaking from DR Congo in what he described as his first meeting with a journalist in almost 20 years.

Thousands have died in the conflict between rebels and the government, and some two million forced to flee.

Most of them live in camps, often in appalling conditions, in attempts to escape attacks by the LRA.

Mr Kony, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague on war crimes charges, described himself as a freedom fighter and called for peace talks.

He said stories of LRA rebels cutting off people's ears or lips were Ugandan government propaganda. He also denied his group kidnapped children.

"This is not true. I cannot cut the ear of my brother, I cannot kill the eye of my brother. I cannot kill my brother, that is not true," he said.

Humanitarian crisis

But earlier this year, UN humanitarian affairs chief Jan Egeland decribed the LRA's activities as "terrorism of the worst kind anywhere in the world" and the conflict as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Ugandan night commuter (photo: Jake Price)

Former BBC correspondent in Uganda, Will Ross, says Joseph Kony may describe himself as a freedom fighter but the LRA has had no clear political agenda and freedom is the last thing that he has brought as his rebels have caused widespread suffering and fear.

The rebels, claiming to be guided by the Bible's Ten Commandments, have caused insecurity in northern Uganda and southern Sudan.

The LRA has kidnapped many thousands of children over the years. It turns the boys into fighters or porters and uses many of the girls as sex slaves.

Peace

The interview with the BBC's Newsnight programme comes as the south Sudanese vice-president, Riek Machar, attempts to broker a new peace initiative.

Freelance broadcaster Sam Farmer met reresentatives of Mr Kony in Nairobi and they flew into southern Sudan.

From there they flew with Mr Machar to Maradi, near the Congolese border, before travelling into the Congolese jungle where they met Mr Kony.

Previous attempts to negotiate an end to the war have failed, with both the Ugandan government and the rebels being accused of lacking commitment to peace talks.

The Ugandan government says it is willing to discuss peace, but will not talk to those indicted by the international court.

However, President Yoweri Museveni has said that Mr Kony had until the end of July to end the war and said his safety would be guaranteed.




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