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Will US sanctions shoot down Kony?

By Rosebell Kagumire

The US government last week put sanctions on the Lords Resistance Army rebel leader Joseph Kony as Uganda sees no end to the two decade conflict. Although there has been no fighting in northern Uganda in the past three years, the population in the north is fearful that war could break out again since Kony has refused to sign a peace agreement with the government.  Several attempts by the Ugandan army to kill Kony have failed.

A brief statement issued by the United States Treasury Department states that Kony had been put on its list of especially designated global terrorists, a label that carries financial and other penalties.

Although its not known whether Kony and his top commanders own properties, the sanctions could affect any efforts left to solve the conflict.

LRA chief negotiator Dr. David Nyekorach Matsanga said the sanctions are not applicable to Kony because he doesn’t own any property.

“Kony has no property and he doesn’t intend to do so in the near future. These sanctions show that Americans are ignorant of the progress towards securing a final peace deal,” said Matsanga. “The US has observers at the Juba talks and I don’t understand why they want to divert our attention from achieving peace with such sanctions.”

Kony has set September 5 to meet chief mediator Riek Machar and UN special envoy to northern Uganda Joachim Chissano and the LRA delegation to sign a final agreement.

“These sanctions should have waited. The Uganda government has agreed to help remove LRA from the list of global terrorist once a peace deal is signed, so that doesn’t worry us in any way.”

However Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda’s chief negotiator at the talks said US sanctions on Kony are another positive step to ensure the conflict is ended peacefully.

“We finished the talks and all we are waiting for is Kony’s signature and disarmament. These sanctions increase the urgency on Kony’s part to sign the deal.”

After the September 11 attacks, the United States declared the LRA a terrorist group and Joseph Kony a terrorist. In April, US Ambassador Steven Browning said the US could remove Kony from the list if he abandoned rebellion and signed the peace deal.Â

Rugunda said US sanctions show that, “the only way Kony can acquit himself from terrorism is submit himself to Uganda’s special war crimes court that has been formed.”

The new sanctions might add to the already complex process to have International Criminal Court warrants for Kony and his commanders dropped.  Kony refused to sign the agreement because he wanted concrete assurance that he wouldn’t be dragged to the Hague.

The minister denied that these sanctions could make the government’s job difficult in trying to bring the UN Security Council to drop ICC warrants in case Joseph Kony agrees to the final peace deal.

The US sanctions came amidst reports that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is moving to take military action against LRA which has bases in the northeast of the country.

Media reports quoted DRC’s commander of the northeastern province of Orientale, General Kifua saying the military action was backed by Uganda and Sudan, and they were all ready to attack.

Over the past few months, army chiefs from Uganda, DRC and Sudan have held several meetings aimed at drawing a military plan to deal with Kony, if he has refused to end the conflict peacefully. Matsanga says Kony has agreed to sign a final peace deal but he will not disarm immediately.

“Kony and his fighters will not surrender their arms after the final agreement is signed – probably September 5 because they want assurance on certain parts of the agreement,” said Matsanga.

After refusing to sign a final peace deal with government in April, it remains to be seen whether conditions like the new sanctions will force Kony to surrender.

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