Sunday, May 11, 2008

What next with Kony?

Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, was slated to meet peace negotiators this weekend in Ri-Kwangba, a remote location in the steaming jungles along the border of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The objective, for those who are following this bizarre and horrific saga, of course, is to resuscitate the dying hopes for a peace settlement that will permanently end the 21-year war that Kony led in northern Uganda.

Kony was supposed to sign the peace deal at this same jungle spot on April 10 in front of some 200 people who had traveled there to witness it, applaud, hug and pat each other on the back.

Only Kony didn't show.

As it turns out, he probably didn't even know about it because he hadn't been talking to his own peace team, who instead had been faking it as as they collected hundreds of dollars a day in per diem donated by the naive largess of the international community.

The former leader of the rebel peace team, David Matsanga, a former apologist for Africa's favorite dictator, Robert Mugabe, quickly grabbed the first plane out of Juba with some $20,000 in his pockets and is in Zambia. Adios.

While most of the rest of the world has given up on Kony, chief mediator, Dr Riek Machar, VP of South Sudan, has not.

This Saturday he and Dr. James Obita, the LRA's third chief negotiator, were to brief Kony "issues" he wants "clarified," which is how Uganda plans to handle Kony's trial -- if it could be called that.

In fact, what Kony wants to know is how Uganda plans to protect him from arrest and a trial in front of the International Criminal Court here in The Hague on more than 30 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

For the uninitiated, Kony's so-called war in northern Uganda has killed some 100,000 people, mostly due to war-related causes, and has displaced about 2 million people, most of whom still refuse to believe the war is over and go back home. Kony managed all of this by abducting tens of thousands of people, mostly young boys and girls, and turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves.

But peace deal or not, it seem unlikely that the ICC will let Kony off the hook by agreeing to a local trial in Uganda. First of all, such a court hasn't been created and Uganda has no laws against crimes against humanity.

This glaring omission of reality hasn't stopped a lot of talk about it, however.

Ironically, among those to meet with Kony are Justice James Ogoola, the Director of Public Prosecutions in Uganda, and some traditional and local leaders from the insurgency-hit regions, civil society groups and donors.

Now Ogoola is a smart, no-nonsense kind of guy. I saw him in action a couple of years ago when he ran an investigation into the theft of $200 million given to Uganda that was supposed to go treatment and preventions of AIDS.

Most of the money went to the buying of expensive cars, to non-existent non-profit groups, or just disappeared. Official corruption is endemic.

Which raises the obvious question. How can any legitimate trial in Uganda even be considered?

I've met Obita and he's a smart and honorable man, and why he's involved is a mystery. And why would Ogoola want to get involved in this mess?

Yet, hope for resolution continues.

As Obita said last week: “It is from the meeting with Dr Machar that Kony will propose the date he plans to sign the peace deal.”

He's got to be kidding. Kony has turned the peace talks into his new business while he rebuilds his army in the DRC. Get a grip.

This ordeal will only end with Kony's capture.

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