Bangui - The Central African president insisted Friday he
was negotiating with Joseph Kony after Washington rubbished claims the wanted
Ugandan militia boss was personally involved in any talks.
Michel Djotodia is in contact with Kony, one of the world's
most elusive war criminals, over the fate of the children and women enslaved by
his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), presidency spokesperson Guy-Simplice Kodegue
Kony has been wanted since 2005 by the International
Criminal Court for a raft of crimes against humanity - including rape, murder,
sexual enslavement and child enlistment - that have earned him a reputation as
one of the most brutal rebel leaders in recent history.
The 50-year-old's health is believed to have deteriorated
after years on the run in some of Africa's most hostile regions but it was not
immediately clear if the purported talks were part of a broader surrender deal.
"There are stateless children, women, elderly
people" with Kony and his men, Kodegue said.
The LRA started a quarter century ago as a northern Ugandan
insurgency battling Yoweri Museveni's regime.
But it has since become a multinational mercenary and extortionist
gang sowing terror in a vast area straddling the Central African Republic,
Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and South Sudan.
The group is known for abducting civilians after looting
their villages and killing off any resistance, using them as porters and sex
Internet rights campaign
"All this has led the Central African authorities,
first among them the president, to consider a phase of negotiations,"
Djotodia, whose country has been sliding into chaos since he
seized power in a March coup, is himself under increasing pressure from the
international community, including the United States.
He announced at a political meeting in Bangui on Thursday
that he was personally in contact with the elusive Kony, whom he said
"wants to come out of the bush".
But the United States, which has spearheaded the hunt since
an internet rights campaign went viral last year and thrust Kony into the
international spotlight, quickly moved to cast doubt over Djotodia's assertion.
US officials told AFP that while the embattled Central
African leader may have been in talks with some LRA-affiliated fighters trying
to cut a deal, there was no reason to believe Kony was directly involved in any