Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony, is said to be in contact with the president of the Central African Republic to discuss his surrender. His LRA rebel group has terrorised the region for decades.
The name Joseph Kony has been a byword for terror in central Africa for almost three decades. He is one of the world's most wanted men and has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Speaking in the capital Bangui on Thursday (21.11.2013) Central African Republic president Michael Djotodia confirmed that talks with Kony over a possible surrender were underway. With his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Kony fought a brutal war against the Ugandan government in the north of the country for some 20 years before fleeing into the jungles of central Africa. The group, which claims to be fighting to impose the Bible's Ten Commandments, is accused of recruiting more than 66,000 children as soldiers and sex slaves.
One of the lucky ones
In Uganda, news about Kony's possible surrender is being followed with great interest. Barbara Among is a newspaper journalist in Kampala. The news brings back vivid memories for her. "It was the night of October 9 1996 when the Lord's Resistance Army rebels attacked our school, St Mary's College Aboke. At the time I was in Form 1 and they abducted students from Form 1, 2 and 3," Among told DW. She said a total of 195 students were abducted – she was one of the lucky ones who managed to escape but several of her close friends were forced to become the 'wives' of LRA commanders.
The spokesman for Uganda's military, Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda, thinks it unlikely that the reported contact with Kony will lead to his surrender. Ankunda said that Uganda supports in principle any initiative by the Central African Republic to engage in talks with Kony, but noted that this is the third time there have been reports of such efforts. In a telephone interview with DW, Ankunda said the Ugandan army would not attack Kony and his soldiers if they assembled at one location.
People in northern Uganda are largely skeptical about the reports that Kony is about to surrender. "I think it's a joke, we've heard it before," one woman told DW.
'Reconciliation is possible'
The Vicar General of Acholi dicocese in northern Uganda, Monsignor Mathew Odongo, is the former secretary of the Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ARLPI) who had previously attempted to persuade Kony to surrender. In an interview with DW's Africalink program, he said the news that this may now be imminent was "what people had been longing for, that the wars should stop and Kony should stop his rebel activities."
Odongo spoke of past efforts to persuade Kony to end his rebellion. "Our regional approach and our appeal to Kony was to sit down and then talk with the government," he said, adding "by the way, we had already made big progress in Juba, almost to the point of signing an agreement." Those talks, held in 2007, collapsed because Kony failed to sign the final peace draft for fear of being arrested.
Asked whether the people of Acholiland were ready for reconciliation, Monsignor Odongo said if Kony were to apologise for what he and his followers had done, and ask for forgiveness, then a traditional form of reconciliation, involving the whole community, could begin.
On Thursday (21.11 2013) the question mark looming over the possibility of Kony's surrender became larger, when a statement was issued by the US State Department, saying US officials have little reason to believe that Kony is part of the LRA group currently in contact with CAR officials.
"Many times in the past, Joseph Kony and his senior commanders have used - and we believe will continue to use - any and every pretext to rest, regroup, and rearm, ultimately returning to kidnapping, killing, displacing and otherwise abusing civilian populations," the State Department said.
US military advisers work with the African Union Regional Task Force and local communities to encourage and facilitate defections from the LRA.