Cablegate: Northern Uganda: Helping Kony Understand Justice

DE RUEHKM #0587/01 1191341
R 281341Z APR 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


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1. (SBU) Summary: The Ugandan Government, Lord's Resistance
Army (LRA) delegation members, lawyers, and judicial
officials will meet in Kampala from May 6-8 to discuss the
legal options for LRA leader Joseph Kony. The LRA delegation
says it wants to understand the national legal framework for
a trial if Kony signed the agreement. Armed with the same
information, the LRA delegation, GOU officials, and northern
traditional and religious leaders would travel to Rikwangba
to meet Kony on May 10. Information from ConGen Juba
indicates that Government of Southern Sudan mediator, Riek
Machar, may have other plans for a meeting with Kony. GOU
negotiators will reach out to Machar to clarify his
intentions. Uganda's Principal Judge, James Ogoola, who may
also travel to Rikwangba. Ogoola outlined for poloffs the
plans for a court to try Kony, and the serious problems
facing the reestablishment of the judiciary. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) LRA delegation members James Obita and Santa Okot
reiterated their views on the upcoming meeting with the GOU
and Kony about the justice and accountability options in the
agreement (Ref A). Obita said that Kony requested the
meeting to discuss the accountability options in the peace
agreement. The attendees would be Kony, the current LRA
team, GOU negotiators, lawyers, judges, and northern
traditional and religious leaders. Obita said the Government
of Southern Sudan mediator Riek Machar had not returned any
of his calls, and has yet to answer his request for airtime
to enable the LRA delegation to maintain contact with Kony.
Obita wanted to avoid a large gathering such as the April 10
signing ceremony which scared off the LRA leader, who
allegedly believed it was a trap where he would be
assassinated or arrested (Ref B). Obita was concerned Machar
might hijack the meeting.

3. (SBU) (Note: Per Ref C, Machar's reference to the refusal
of the U.S. Embassy in Kampala to provide a pay off of USD
400,000 stems from allegations made by former LRA delegation
leader David Matsanga. On March 31, LRA delegation member
Santo Okot approached USAID with a proposal for USD 400,000
that would pay for the transport of northern officials to
Rikwangba for the April 10 signing ceremony. Mission
personnel advised Okot that there were no funds for her
proposal. Matsanga subsequently told P/E Chief on April 12,
after he was sacked, that Okot had sought the funds to pay
Kony to sign the Final Peace Agreement. Matsanga claimed
that Kony had demanded between USD 400,000 and 1 million to
sign and that the Acholi members of the delegation were
seeking the money from donors. We suspect that Matsanga's
accusations could be another attempt to cover for his lack of
contact with Kony and search for other scapegoats for Kony's
failure to show up on April 10. End Note.)

4. (SBU) Okot said that the LRA delegation could not alone
explain the legal framework for Kony. She said the LRA
leader was asking questions about the types of charges that
could be brought and what were the sentences. The LRA
requested the meeting with the Government to better
understand where the preparations stood on the Special
Division of the High Court and amending Ugandan laws to
satisfy the International Criminal Court (ICC). She
reiterated that the meeting with Kony would cover the legal
and traditional accountability mechanisms in the agreement.
The meeting would not be a signing ceremony, according to
Okot, and she reminded P/E Chief that Kony feared being

5. (SBU) Government negotiators also share the LRA
delegates' views on the purpose of the meetings in May.
Minister for International Relations Henry Okello Oryem told
P/E Chief on April 28 that the GOU felt it was important for
Kony to have an opportunity to have his questions answered by
experts. The initial meeting between the LRA delegation, GOU
negotiators, legal experts, and judges would prepare both
delegations for the meeting so they would hear the same
information. GOU officials, such as lead negotiator Ruhakana
Rugunda, Oryem, GOU lawyers, and judges, would accompany the
LRA and northern traditional and religious leaders to
Rikwangba on May 10. After receiving Ref C, in which Machar
stated that he wanted international observers to accompany
him to Rikwangba on May 10, P/E Chief confirmed with Rugunda
and Oryem that the meeting was to be exclusive to the LRA,

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GOU, and northern leaders. Oryem said that he or Rugunda
would contact Machar, who Oryem said may be trying to turn
the meeting into another signing ceremony, which was not what
Kony wanted.

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6. (SBU) On April 26, P/E Chief met with Principal Judge
James Ogoola, who would be responsible for setting up the
High Court's Special Division. Ogoola stated that he did not
believe that Kony would sign the Final Peace Agreement. He
said that preparations for the creation of a Special Division
have remained in the planning stages because the GOU saw no
signs that Kony would submit himself to a legal trial.
Nonetheless, Ogoola would be among the High Court judges who
would meet with the LRA delegation and Government negotiators
and lawyers from May 6-8 to discuss Kony's legal options and
the mechanics of a trial. LRA delegation members want Ogoola
to accompany them to Rikwangba.

7. (SBU) Kony's trial would be slowed by the lack of a
comprehensive law under which to try him, according to
Ogoola. Uganda does not have war crimes as a chargeable
offense and would need to create new laws, but these could
not be made retroactive. The best way forward would be for
Uganda to ratify the Rome Statute and then argue that the new
laws would domesticate it. This required close cooperation
between the Ministry of Justice and Parliament. Otherwise,
Kony could be tried for murder, rape, and kidnapping under
existing laws, but Ogoola questioned whether that would
satisfy the ICC.

8. (SBU) Court resources to hold a trial that meets
international standards will be another problem, according to
Ogoola. Ugandan judges were competent to oversee the cases,
but the judicial institutions would require an infusion of
resources. A trial for Kony and the two other ICC indictees
could last ten years each. He based his assessment on the
standards set at the Arusha trials for Rwanda. Uganda would
probably try the three ICC indictees simultaneously,
according to Ogoola. He suggested that if a bench of three
judges would hear Kony's trial, then that would require five
judges in terms of manpower to ensure illnesses and other
commitments did not interfere with the trials. In addition,
he expected that some of the judges would rotate to know what
was going on in the other trials. Ogoola said that a court
building to try Kony should be built in northern Uganda.
High profile cases, such as opposition leader Kizza
Besigye's, attracted large, sometimes violent crowds, and
brought Kampala to a standstill every time he appeared at
court. Ogoola speculated that crowd control and security
would be a huge problem due to the nature of the case.

9. (SBU) A fair trial for the LRA leaders would require a
department to support the defense lawyers and prosecution,
according to Ogoola. He said it would take years for the GOU
to collect information and build its case. The sheer number
of victims and witnesses would easily overwhelm the trial
process. Ogoola expressed concern that some victims would
not get justice. Others would need witness protection. None
of these problems were insurmountable, according to Ogoola,
but would require a significant infusion of resources.

9. (SBU) Even if Kony did not sign the agreement, Ogoola
speculated that there could be hundreds of cases brought to
the legal system in northern Uganda by families affected by
LRA activities. He also said that rehabilitating the justice
system posed a serious challenge to the Government's plans
for development, economic recovery, and reconciliation in the
north. The courts had stopped functioning during the
conflict, but the police continued rresting people. The
prisons and jails were holding three-to-four times their
capacity, which has led to serious allegations of human
rights abuses. Ogoola said his two-week circuit riding stint
in northern Ugandan courts resulted in the freeing of 150 to
200 people from prison per district. Five other judges also
went to the north on circuit rides to decongest the court
backlogs and prisons, with about 200 people let out of prison
by each judge. (Note: Most of the people in prison are
charged and awaiting trial, not yet sentenced. End Note.)
Nonetheless, he said that additional sessions would be needed
throughout 2008 to relieve the enormous backlog and help get
the court system ready to absorb new cases that could come
with the end to the conflict.

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10. (SBU) The LRA and Government negotiating teams expect
the meetings on accountability options for Kony to be limited
to those who can explain the legal and traditional justice
systems. We understand that Riek Machar had wanted a
separate meeting with the elusive LRA leader, but may be
hoping that he can see Kony when he meets his team on May 10.
Machar's request to ConGen Juba to have international
observers present could become problematic given the nature
of the proposed meeting. We will follow up with Rugunda and
Oryem after they reach out to Machar.

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