KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony will never sign a peace agreement so international efforts should focus instead on arresting him, the International Criminal Court prosecutor said.
The Hague-based ICC has indicted Kony and other leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) for war crimes in a brutal, two-decade rebellion that began in north Uganda but has spilled into south Sudan, east Congo and Central African Republic.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said late on Monday that past mediation efforts in 2007 and 2004 had failed and served only to allow Kony to recruit and re-arm.
"This is a fantasy, Kony will never make peace," he said in the interview with Reuters and BBC. "When he is weak, he goes for peace negotiation. Then he gets money, he gets food, he buys weapons and he attacks again. How many times will he cheat?"
Kony, a self-styled prophet, has said he will surrender only if the ICC warrants are withdrawn.
Following a Ugandan-led assault on LRA camps in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) late last year, the rebels have carried out numerous reprisal attacks on civilians, killing more than 1,000 and capturing thousands more.
"The retaliation shows that Kony has to be arrested," Moreno-Ocampo said. "They tried the Juba talks (in 2007), they offered him everything and he refused."
Last year's multinational offensive, which was launched with logistical and intelligence support from the United States, failed because it attempted to destroy Kony's army, and had not addressed the root of the problem, he said.
"If you just kill more soldiers ... Kony will abduct more children," Moreno-Ocampo said, adding that the rebel group will likely collapse if Kony is arrested.
Congo's army has "no control", he said, but improving regional cooperation could help finally capture him.
"It's not about attacking the group as such, it's arresting Kony himself (that matters), and I think no one has ever tried," he said. "The international community has to be stronger and more precise in how they conduct operations."
Uganda was the first country to refer a case to the ICC when it secured indictments for Kony and four other LRA lieutenants.
However, critics say the warrants are the main hurdle to ending the insurgency, which killed tens of thousands and forced over two million people in northern Uganda to flee their homes.
Kony has said he wants to rule Uganda according to the 10 Commandments. However, according to Moreno-Ocampo, his raison d'etre is just to kidnap children for sex slaves and soldiers.
"Kony is a criminal, who likes to commit crimes ... He's been doing it for 22 years, he will keep doing it for the rest of his life," he said.