The president of the Central African Republic confirmed Thursday that he has been in contact with the warlord Joseph Kony to negotiate the Ugandan rebel leader’s surrender, AFP reports.
“It’s true, Joseph Kony wants to come out of the bush. We are negotiating with him,” President Michel Djotodia said during a meeting with top political leaders in the capital Bangui. “He asked for food supplies and the government took care of that.”
The comments come one day after an African Union envoy claimed Djotodia had been in talks with Kony, who’s reported to be seriously ill, about a possible surrender. But on Thursday, the U.S. State Department acknowledged American officials “have little reason to believe” the report. Instead, U.S. authorities said it believed a smaller unit of the Lord’s Resistance Army was in contact with the Central African Republic.
The feared warlord of the LRA, which has terrorized villages in the region with rampant pillaging, rape and massacres, has been wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2005 for crimes against humanity.
More than 5,000 troops are hunting Kony and his men — who human rights groups say have kidnapped thousands of children, forcing them to become soldiers or sex slaves — in the jungles between the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
The Central African Republic is currently grappling with a massive humanitarian crisis and continuing political upheaval after rebels took power earlier this year.