Wednesday, 30th July, 2008
By Fortunate Ahimbisibwe
JAMES Obita, the former leader of the LRA delegation to the Juba peace talks, has applied for amnesty with the Uganda Amnesty Commission.
Obita, who was sacked as head of delegation by LRA leader Joseph Kony last month, confirmed that his amnesty application had been accepted.
“I have been told go to the Amnesty Commission and receive a certificate. I am so happy to be back home as a citizen,” he told The New Vision on phone yesterday.
His decision, he explained, was to demonstrate goodwill on the part of LRA members who were still in Garamba.
“This is not betrayal to the LRA. I still support the LRA and I will encourage them to sign the peace agreement and others to seek amnesty.”
The move, he hoped, would convince others who were still in the bush. “My decision will re-assure the LRA that amnesty is real and anyone can benefit,” Obita said.
“Some of the combatants had been misled to think that they will be arrested or tortured once they get amnesty. But when I informed them that I had been granted amnesty, there was a lot of hope and excitement.”
Obita, a businessman and lecturer in industrial chemistry, was optimistic that a final peace agreement would be signed by Kony.
“In my belief, the Juba peace process has ended successfully and it is just a matter of signing the agreement,” he stated.
“The issues that are still pending will be resolved once the LRA has understood some aspects of the agreement. That is why I decided that, after 22 years, I should come back home and stop fighting.”
For over 10 years, Obita has been working for the external wing of the LRA, based in Nairobi and London.
He was the LRA spokesman in the mid-nineties and later became the secretary for external affairs and mobilisation.
In 1998, he fell out with Kony, who accused him of trying to make money out of the LRA cause.
He was brought back in December 2006, when he was appointed technical adviser to the LRA peace team.
Obita replaced David Matsanga as head of the LRA delegation on April 10, the day Kony failed to show up to sign the comprehensive peace agreement. However, Matsanga was reappointed on June 6.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the LRA leadership, scheduled to take place yesterday and today, flopped because Kony’s demands for food, water and medicines had not been met, according to a letter from Matsanga to the chief mediator, South Sudan vice-president Riek Machar.
“The LRA high command directed me to point out to the world that without food supplies to the assembly area, the meeting in Ri-Kwangba on July 30 and 31 will not take place,” the letter, dated July 25, read.
Matsanga further called upon the international donors to continue funding the Juba secretariat, warning that failure to do so would jeopardise the peace process.
“The Juba peace process is under siege and there is a danger of it collapsing due to the lack of funding from the donor community,” he wrote.
He called upon the US and EU countries, especially Norway, Britain and Denmark, to review their policy on the Juba peace process.
The donors stopped funding the process following Kony’s refusal to sign the agreement. There was also growing concern about the lack of transparency in the spending of the Juba peace initiative funds, estimated at $15m.
Food supplies by Caritas were stopped recently after it became clear that the fighters were not assembling in Ri-Kwangba, as was required.
Instead, the food was collected and carried to Kony’s hide-out in eastern Congo, with some reports saying it was being sold.
Matsanga’s letter echoes an earlier appeal for more funds by the mediator, Riek Machar, which was sent to the UN Security Council through special envoy Joaquim Chissano.
In a 12-page letter, dated June 16, Machar pleaded with the international community to provide appropriate funding for him and his secretariat to “ensure a stronger and more effective response in implementation”.