Uganda suspends hunt for war-crimes suspect Kony
Uganda has suspended its hunt for war-crimes suspect Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, delivering a major setback to capturing a notorious warlord accused in the abductions of tens of thousands of children over the past three decades.
Los Angeles Times
JOHANNESBURG — Uganda’s military has suspended its hunt for the notorious warlord Joseph Kony after rebels toppled the president of the Central African Republic, where Kony is believed to be hiding with his Lord’s Resistance Army.
Ugandan military spokesman Felix Kulayigye told journalists Wednesday that the ouster of President Francois Bozize by the Seleka rebel alliance had forced a halt to the Kony hunt.
“The Seleka rebels have not been cooperating with us since they took over power. We have been forced to suspend operations until further notice,” Kulayigye said.
Kony, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, is believed to be hiding in the eastern Central African Republic with several hundred of his fighters. He is notorious as a particularly brutal militia leader who staged a rebellion in northern Uganda in the 1990s.
About 100 U.S. Special Forces troops are involved in the search for Kony, supporting about 3,000 African troops, mainly Ugandans. The U.S. forces also suspended their search, Reuters reported.
One of the Seleka leaders, Michael Djotodia, suspended the constitution and declared himself president last week after rebel militias swooped into the capital, forcing Bozize to flee. Bozize has since blamed neighboring Chad for assisting the well-armed rebel militias.
The African Union acted swiftly to isolate the Central African Republic after the coup, imposing sanctions on the rebel leaders. The coup was condemned by the United Nations, and the United States has refused to recognize Djotodia or his government.
Djotodia, who has won backing from the country’s military commanders, reacted to the international rebukes by ordering foreign troops to leave, according to Kulayigye. He said Ugandan forces would remain in their bases in the east of the country, awaiting further orders. U.S. forces are also based in the east.
Regional leaders and South African President Jacob Zuma met in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, on Wednesday to discuss possible actions over the crisis.
Djotodia has ruled out early elections, planning to see out Bozize’s term, which ends in 2016. The African Union’s commissioner for peace and security, Ramtane Lamamra, called Wednesday for Djotodia to organize elections within a year, Reuters reported.
The landlocked Central African Republic is rich in resources but has been badly governed, with a succession of military coups and rebellions since independence from France in 1960. It is one of the poorest countries in its volatile region and has proved to be the perfect hiding place for Kony and his militia.
Last year, a U.S. group called Invisible Children launched a video highlighting Kony’s atrocities. It quickly went viral after several celebrities tweeted about it.
On Wednesday, Invisible Children along with a Washington-based human-rights group, the Enough Project, and another advocacy group, The Resolve, issued a joint statement urging the American and Ugandan governments not to give up the hunt for Kony.
Ben Keesey, of Invisible Children, said a premature withdrawal would be disastrous.
“It gives Kony a new lease on life, enabling him to regain power by initiating new rounds of abductions in communities that will be left totally unprotected and vulnerable to (Lord’s Resistance Army) attacks,” he said.
The Obama administration Wednesday offered up to $5 million in rewards for information leading to the capture of Kony, two of his top aides and a Rwandan rebel leader suspected of crimes against humanity.
The bounties are being offered by the State Department under a provision in the War Crimes Rewards Program authored by Secretary of State John Kerry when he was a senator and signed into law by President Obama in January. That provision expanded the scope of the program that had previously allowed for rewards to be offered for war- crimes suspects wanted only by international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
It now covers those wanted by the International Criminal Court and other international tribunals, such as those envisioned for the Democratic Republic of Congo and potentially Syria.