Swaying around existing initiatives: Uganda and LRA


Conflict in Uganda started as early as late 1980s that sprung from internal conflicts that involve the ousting of President Milton Obote. However the Uganda’s successor, Idi Amin whose coup was initially welcomed by a widespread of enthusiasm begins to fall short as Amin dissolved and altered the constitution which grated him absolute power and eliminating all opposition. Amin reign did not last long as Amins government has devastated the country and its developing economy leaving him to be overthrown and forced to flee in exile by Tanzanian back rebellion that included Yoweri Museveni, Amins Successor. In the late 1980s, Obote regained power under the UPC in a general election, which was contested by many and considered to be fraudulent. Obote installed an increasingly repressive regime, which led to Uganda having one of the worst human-rights records in the world.

In an effort to control the opposition led by current president Yoweri National Resistance Army guerrilla group, much of the north of the country was laid to waste and an estimated 100,000 people were killed. Despite these oppressive moves, by 1985 Obote was deposed again and overthrown by his army commanders in another military coup. In the chaos that occurred after, Museveni was able to seize control of the country. Museveni proclaimed a government of national unity and declared himself President.

Since then Uganda has been involved in a civil war in the north against the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA is led by Joseph Kony, who wishes to, allegedly, establish a state based on the biblical Ten Commandments. Kony is accused of carrying out widespread abduction of children to serve as soldiers or sex slaves. It is estimated that the LRA have abducted around 30,000 children and that the civil war has led to the displacement of 1.6 million people from Northern Uganda and the death, mutilation and kidnapping of more than 100,000 people.

Peace process?

Two previous sets of peace talks (1993-4 and 2004-5) between the Government of Uganda and the LRA plunged precisely because no solutions to these obstacles were found. The last negotiation towards peace talk was in July 2006. Evidently we can certainly point out several reason as to why the peace talk prove to be hard.

First, there is a high tendency by the existing government to keep the country at war. For example, if most of the groups from the north/Gulu/Alcholi are fully pacified then this would mount to a serious of opposition, thus it was seen to be better to keep rebel/fighters to be disconnected and devastated politically.

Second, the Alcholi population remains to be a top question in conducting a peace process. Over the years the explicit violence between the Ugandan government and the LRA has affected the most to the Alcholi (child soldiers, women as sex slaves and etc). Concession towards the Alcholi will be difficult. Furthermore, the legal document that administer the discussion of the peace process it lacks the inclusivity of affected individuals and in this case is the Acholi population who are affected most by such conflict (i.e. IDPs?).

Lastly, DDR may perhaps serves as an ideal entry and integration point for mainstreaming humanitarian, recovery-to-development and related security and peacebuilding efforts. However such efforts seem to be bleak for the case of Uganda as conflicts are now spilled over between neighboring states. Conducting DDR process in an active conflict and force operation is considered to be hard especially for the case of Uganda. For example, the conflict is seen to be between the  “south and “north’ (LRA) however the continuing conflict spilled over between borders and draw support from regional neighbor creating further proxy wars between internal Uganda and between States.

Going around the Peace Process

As stated above, the government has high interest in keeping the country at war. Thus, unless there is an active support from the general public Vis a Vis the Acholi, the Ugandan government is unlikely be able to defeat nor cripple the LRA. Against that backdrop perhaps one theoretical approach is that international organizations, NGOs as well as other external entities can help to mediate further the peace process that includes building confidence between the government and local populations. For example, capacity building particularly concentrating the developments of local capacities and increase dialogues between communities leaders can be explore further.

The indictment of the LRA by the request of the Uganda government. For all we know the LRA has committed tremendous human rights violations. Following such investigation the ICC has given an arrest warrant towards the LRA commanders (including Koni). However, the ICC in this process was seen to be a complement towards national justice process that clearly do not exist. Given that thought international organization can/should further build stronger legal hoop holes based on an attempt for a possible prosecution towards Joseph Kony and its related army commanders.

For all we know, government as a sovereign entity has the duty to protect its citizen and based on international humanitarian law such government is required to take all feasible precautions. Obviously since Uganda is at was civilian protection is unrealistic. However, what the government should and ought to do is provide greater protection to civilians (IDPs) through a better focused military operation that includes coordination between existing military and humanitarian agency. Coupled with such initiatives, external entities such as the UNHCR should increase their number of personnel on camp site to monitor the widespread of ongoing abuses committed by conflicting parties.

Lastly, the international community have a greater role in terms of both financial and political support. For example, if the UN is unwilling to help tone down the crisis by deploying peacekeeping operations in the region then it should delegate its “authority” to existing regional organization such as the African Union. Since 2012 with authorization from the UNSC the African Union has established a regional task force that hunt down the LRA, however further examination in its success remains tested as donors and other regional actors plays a significant role in the success of such initiatives.

Danurdoro Parnohadiningrat

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