View Full Version : Why peace talks in Uganda keep hitting a stone wall

20 May 08,, 17:41

Why peace talks in Uganda keep hitting a stone wall

Publication Date: 5/19/2008

THE FAILURE TO SIGN A peace agreement between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) should have been expected, even after almost two years of protracted negotiations.

When it was finally agreed that the peace deal would be signed ending the 22-year LRA insurgency, members of both the government and LRA peace delegations, journalists as well as hundreds of observers waited patiently at the venue.

But alas! The elusive LRA leader Joseph Kony never showed up.

However, Kony’s failure to turn up should not have come as a surprise.

Throughout the talks, he misled the world into believing that he was finally ready to quit the bush and embrace peace.

But from last year when a deal seemed imminent, he developed a mistrust for key leaders trying to broker peace, including the chief mediator, South Sudan’s Vice-President Riek Machar, as well as the UN Special Envoy to northern Uganda, Joaquim Chissano.

BY REFUSING TO MEET THE TWO leaders, Kony squandered an opportunity to lay on the table his security concerns.

His isolation also meant that there were serious disconnects between the LRA in the bush and its Diaspora delegation in Juba.

That Kony was not committed to peace is also demonstrated by his decision to move his base to the Central African Republic, and the numerous raids and abductions his forces conducted in southern Sudan during the negotiations.

What shocked the world most, however, was his decision to execute his second-in-command, Vincent Otti, who was seen as the face of the peace talks.

With Otti’s death, it was evident that the fate of the peace talks would hang in the balance.

While rumours that Kony had also murdered Otti’s successor, Okot Odiambo, have since proven false, the LRA leader is fearing for his security and has disarmed and put a number of his commanders under house arrest.

The internal divisions within the LRA camp also undermined the talks.

Both the LRA delegation in Juba and the main command in the bush are plagued by significant infighting, engendered by suspicion and corruption.

Within the LRA camp in the bush, a division between Kony and Otti loyalists persisted throughout the last round of negotiations, and even today.

It did not help matters that the mediators had no direct channel to Kony, relying instead on third parties and a Diaspora delegation that did not understand the demands of the LRA in the bush.

Without a direct channel to Kony, the mediators were left at the mercy of second and third hand accounts of Kony’s position — accounts that did not reflect his true position.

Still, LRA supporters in the Diaspora who are bitterly opposed to the peace process will do everything they can to ensure there is no deal.

Though few in number, these individuals remain bitter about the Museveni regime that has marginalised the north over the past two decades, and would like to see the war continue.

Under the circumstances, they are likely to support the formation of another rebel group in the unlikely event that Kony agrees to sign a deal that does not satisfy their demands.

Even so, the people of northern Uganda must have the peace they have been yearning for.

It is probably time the international community wielded its stick. Kony and his forces cannot be allowed to terrorise the region forever.

Over the last 22 months or so, the LRA has incurred no costs, nor seen any meaningful pressure developed by the international community for repeated delays and significant violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement.

WITHOUT ANY REPERCUSSIONS, the LRA — and Kony specifically — felt little incentive to show commitment to the peace talks.

It is for this reason that his forces are now spread out in three countries — Southern Sudan, DRC and the Central African Republic.

For the LRA to continue spreading its wings thus far, it must be enjoying the support of some countries, especially in terms of military supplies.

The UN Security Council should now move to impose sanctions on those countries still supporting the LRA, especially the Khartoum Government.

It is also time to use regional military force to smoke out Kony, for the dangers his militia pose to the region are too grave to be ignored.

Mr Ochieng’ contributes on regional politics for ‘The EastAfrican’.

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I wonder if the Africa hands on this forum would like to comment and educate us.