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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March 2008, 15:56 GMT
Ugandan rebels 'will sign deal'
Joseph Kony
Mr Kony remains in DR Congo because of the ICC warrant
Uganda Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel leader Joseph Kony is prepared to sign a peace deal, a northern Ugandan politician and peace negotiator says.

Norbert Mao's comments to the BBC come as rebels failed to get international indictments against LRA leaders lifted.

This key rebel demand has threatened to derail the proposed deal to end the 22-year rebellion in northern Uganda.

But Mr Mao said the warrants should be withdrawn once the rebels are tried in Ugandan courts - as agreed in the pact.

Mr Kony is one of two other LRA leaders who remain alive wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges.

If anything happens to Kony [during the signing ceremony] that will be the end of the entire peace process in which everybody has invested so much hope
Norbert Mao
Gulu district chairman

The arrest warrants were issued at the request of the Ugandan government before peace negotiations began with rebels.

The rebellion has left thousands of people dead and nearly two million displaced.

The rebels have been notorious for abducting children to be used as fighters, porters and sex slaves.

'Calculated risk'

Mr Mao, chairman of Gulu district in the north of the country, said Mr Kony's messengers communicated with him on Sunday.

Victim of Lord's Resistance Army
Almost two million people have fled their homes

"They told me he has confirmed that he will come in person," Mr Mao told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

The signing ceremony is expected to take place on 28 March in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan where the peace negotiations have been mediated for the past 18 months by south Sudan's deputy leader Riak Machar.

"He says he wants his security to be in the hands of Dr Riak Machar and after signing he will go back to the bush to reorganise his troops," Mr Mao said.

"The agreement gives him about one month to organise his troops for demobilisation and disarmament."

Mr Mao said he believed that Mr Kony was taking a "calculated risk".

High alert

Earlier this week, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo refused to meet LRA representatives and said the indictments remained in place.

map

But the Gulu district chairman said he believed Kony understood he would not be handed over to the ICC.

"Also his troops will still be in the bush and presumably on high alert so if anything happens to him that will be the end of the entire peace process in which everybody has invested so much hope."

Over the last few weeks the rebels and government have signed a few documents in the lead up to the expected comprehensive peace agreement.

One of the accords deals with justice and accountability, and it was agreed a special division of the Uganda High Court will be set up to try those accused of serious crimes.

Mr Mao said that it had also been agreed by Uganda's president and other mediators that the UN Security Council would be approached to suspend the LRA arrest warrants.

"That suspension for one year will give the opportunity for the government to implement the alternative justice mechanism which will then make the ICC case just collapse on its own," he said.



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