UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Central African Republic has been in contact with warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army fighters to urge them to surrender, but Kony's whereabouts are still unknown, the United Nations and the African Union said on Wednesday.
Kony, who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, waged a brutal guerrilla war against Ugandan government in the north of the country for nearly two decades, before fleeing with his fighters into the jungles of central Africa around 2005.
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.
"The current military pressure has kept the LRA, including its leader Joseph Kony, on the run," the AU's special envoy on the LRA, Francisco Madeira, told the U.N. Security Council.
"This heightened pressure forced the LRA to try his time-tested tricks of buying time by duping the CAR authorities into "negotiations" to purportedly allow Kony and his LRA to "surrender" and re-settle in Nzako, CAR," he said.
Instead, Madeira said, according to the Regional Task Force Kony has used the negotiations as a window of opportunity to relocate many of his fighters to north-eastern CAR.
Madeira and the head of the U.N. Regional Office for Central Africa, Abou Moussa, who also briefed the council, said that Michel Djotodia, interim president of the virtually lawless Central African Republican, told them he had contacted Kony.
"His people have been in contact with him (Kony), and they wanted to encourage him to surrender," Madeira told reporters after the briefing. "Many reports indicate that he is suffering from some serious illness, uncharacterized illness."
Djotodia became interim CAR president after northern Seleka rebels seized the capital, Bangui, in March and ousted President Francois Bozize. Since then the landlocked, nation of 4.6 million people has slipped into chaos.
Kony and his commanders are accused of abducting thousands of children throughout the region to use as fighters in a rebel army that earned a reputation for chopping off limbs as a form of discipline.
"Military operations have degraded the LRA and limited it to pursuing survival tactics. However, recent attacks in South Sudan attributed to the LRA are a reminder that the group remains a serious and unpredictable threat to communities throughout the sub-region," Moussa told the Security Council.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Christopher Wilson)