17 April 2008

Uganda: Kony Appoints Obita As New Negotiator

Juba — After failing to sign the final peace deal and sacking his chief negotiator, rebel leader Joseph Kony has now appointed James Obita as his lead negotiator.

Kony sent a message to the chief mediator of the Juba peace talks, Dr Riek Machar yesterday morning after five days of waiting at the Sudan-DR Congo border.

"He said the delegation will be headed by Dr James Obita, deputy to Dr Matsanga, who resigned," Dr Machar said in a press conference in Juba town yesterday. "The rest of the delegation will not change."

Dr Machar had just arrived from Nabanga where he was awaiting communication from Kony following the April 10 failed agreement.

"He said he is still committed to the peace process (and) given that the cessation of hostilities agreement has expired, he said he will still respect it," Dr Machar said.

In effect Kony said he will not start war even if the Uganda government did. But what observers found disturbing was that the mediator had not directly talked to Kony for months and the communication breakdown had continued up to Tuesday.

Dr Machar announced that Kony knew the programme of the days ahead and said between April 26 and 30, the rebel leader would be meeting his delegation and northern Uganda leaders at Ri-Kwangba.

Over 40 leaders from northern Uganda were stopped from leaving Juba yesterday to deliver the latest message from Kony. The rebels leader's failure to sign the final peace deal cost donors Shs170 million on day of signing on top of over $12 million (Shs20billion) spent on the two-year peace process.

On April 10, Kony refused to sign the final peace agreement to end his 21-year war in northern Uganda, claiming he had not understood justice and reconciliation issues.

The new leader of the LRA delegation is not new to the organisation.

He, for years, worked as LRA foreign secretary based in Nairobi and London.

But the Kony and Obita relationship turned sour in 1998 when Kony accused him of making money from a peace process. Then Kony had ordered for Obita's execution in Jabilen but forgave him at the eleventh hour.

Obita is the third to lead the LRA delegation following the sacking of Martin Ojul earlier in January and David Matsanga last week.

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