During a visit to South Sudan, Egeland met Joseph Kony, the mystical chief of the LRA (the Lord’s Resistance Army), the man held responsible for war crimes in northern Uganda where his guerrilla movement has operated since 1986.

The long elusive chief of the LRA, who claims to act in the name of the Bible’s Ten Commandments, came out of hiding last May. Since then negotiations were broached under the protection of South Sudanese Vice-President, Riek Machar with the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni.

Arriving unexpectedly at Ki-Kwangba in South Sudan, where the LRA is based, the meeting between Jan Egeland, Joseph Kony and his adjunct Vincent Otti, was a key moment for the future of northern Uganda and for the judicial future of the two men indicted on July 8, 2005 by the International Tribunal in The Hague.

The surrender deal

The rebels are demanding that the Tribunal lift the indictment - after having investigated on site at the request of the government in Kampala and compiled a solid dossier. They seek a lifting of the charges against them in exchange for a complete surrender. This might be accepted by President Museveni, in order to appease the Acholi tribe who are a majority in the north of the country and infiltrated by the LRA. The President, reelected in February, seeks above all a complete surrender.

Jan Egeland himself wants above all to unblock the humanitarian situation. Beyond the drama suffered by the population in the region, he also wants peace in northern Uganda in order to put a stop to the huge repatriation of Sudanese refugees. 155,000 Sudanese refugees live in camps in Kitgum, Gulu and Lira where the LRA remains active.

The Hague Tribunal, which last week launched its first hearing of a former Congolese militia chief, considers for the time being that the two (Ugandan) rebels are still under indictment.