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Last Updated: Monday, 9 October 2006, 01:11 GMT 02:11 UK
Uganda LRA want warrants dropped
By Jonah Fisher
BBC News, Juba

Vincent Otti, second-in-command of Lord's Resistance Army
Vincent Otti is one of four leaders facing an arrest warrant
Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels say they will not sign a peace deal with the government until arrest warrants for their leaders are dropped.

After 20 years of conflict, peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA are taking place in southern Sudan.

Four of the LRA's top commanders are wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for atrocities committed during the civil war.

The four want guarantees that they will not be arrested if a treaty is signed.

The talks between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government, in the city of Juba, are still some way from a conclusion.

War crimes

The second of five issues on the agenda is now being tackled - a political and economic solution to northern Uganda's problems.

The rebel and government positions are far apart but it is the fate of the LRA's leaders which is foremost in everyone's thoughts.

We want a guarantee that nobody is going to pounce, to jump on them immediately after we have signed a treaty, when they no longer have arms
Godfrey Aniap, LRA
Four of them, including their leader -- the self-proclaimed mystic Joseph Kony - are wanted by the International Criminal Court to stand trial for war crimes.

During nearly 20 years of guerrilla conflict, the LRA has brutalised the people of northern Uganda and southern Sudan, attacking civilians and abducting children.

The indictees have so far refused to attend the talks in Juba for fear of being arrested and now their spokesman, Godfrey Aniap, said any future deal rested on the charges being dropped.

"We want a guarantee," he said, "that nobody is going to pounce, to jump on them immediately after we have signed a treaty, when they no longer have arms.

"But we all want peace to return to northern Uganda and as a good gesture we need the ICC to say, well, if that be the case, then we drop this case."

The Ugandan government has offered an amnesty in return for the rebel leaders ending the war, but the LRA commanders are worried that, as was the case with former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, justice will catch up with them eventually.

In the field things are not going smoothly either. LRA fighters have left two designated assembly points, fearing attack by the Ugandan army.

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