The United States has expressed pessimism over reports that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel leader Joseph Kony is negotiating his surrender in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The government of Central African Republic (CAR) on Wednesday said it was in talks with Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony with the aim of his surrender.
However, a US State Department official told international media that some rebels had been in contact but Kony was not among them.
CAR officials insist that Kony, who is wanted for alleged war crimes, has been in talks with their government.
The US has offered up to $5m (Shs12bn) for leads resulting in his arrest.
Kony founded the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda more than 20 years ago, and his fighters are notorious for abducting children to serve as sex slaves and child soldiers.
The US official also noted that Kony had previously used “any and every pretext to rest, regroup, and rearm, ultimately returning to kidnapping, killing, displacing and otherwise abusing civilian populations”.
The LRA was forced out of Uganda in 2005 and since then has wreaked havoc in CAR, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kony was on the verge of signing a peace deal in 2008 but insisted that the International Criminal Court (ICC) first drop its arrest warrant, which it refused to do.
On Wednesday, a CAR government spokesman told international media that Kony was in the country but wanted his security to be guaranteed before giving himself up.
According to AFP news agency, CAR leader Michel Djotodia, said: “Joseph Kony wants to come out of the bush. We are negotiating with him.”
A US State Department official said Washington was aware that CAR authorities had “been in contact for several months with a small LRA group in CAR that has expressed interest in surrendering”.
But later on Thursday, a spokesman for Mr Djotodia told the BBC’s Newshour radio programme that the president had had a phone conversation with Kony, who was in the remote Central African town of Nzoka “with nearly 7,000 people, with his whole group, women and children”.
A 5,000-strong African Union Regional Task Force, supported by about 100 U.S. Special Forces, has been hunting Kony and his fighters. Most of them are thought to be hiding in jungles straddling the borders of Central African Republic, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Additional Reporting By Agencies