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November 21, 2013

US aware of LRA talks, doesn't think Kony involved

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The United States is aware that authorities in the Central African Republic are in contact with a unit of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army but American officials "have little reason to believe" Kony is part of the group, the State Department said Thursday.

The African Union envoy in charge of pursuing the LRA told journalists at the U.N. Wednesday that Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia told him that he and his people have been in contact with Kony, an accused war criminal and one of the most hunted men in the world, and "they want to encourage him to surrender."

Ambassador Francisco Madeira also said reports indicate that Kony is seriously ill.

The State Department said Thursday that U.S. authorities are aware that CAR officials have been in contact "for several months" with a small LRA group in the Central African Republic "that has expressed interest in surrendering." The U.S. said it's clear the LRA is facing significant pressure from African military forces hunting for LRA fighters and Kony, but that it doesn't believe Kony is part of the group talking about surrender.

"However, many times in the past, Joseph Kony and his senior commanders have used — and we believe will continue to use — any and every pre-text to rest, regroup, and rearm, ultimately returning to kidnapping, killing, displacing and otherwise abusing civilian populations," the State Department said.

The spokesman for Uganda's military also said Thursday that he's pessimistic that the reported contact with Kony or his fighters will bear fruit. Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said Uganda supports in principle any initiative by the Central African Republic to engage in talks with Kony, but he noted that it's the third time there have been reports of such efforts.

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