Home | News    Monday 26 June 2006

Hopes for peace in Uganda


By Tristan McConnell

June 26, 2006 (GULU, UGANDA) — "What do we want?" asks David Onen Acana, paramount chief of northern Uganda’s Acholi people. "Peace at any cost."

For two decades, war has raged here between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government. Under the leadership of Joseph Kony, the LRA has murdered and mutilated civilians accused of collaborating with the army and abducts children as a main source of new recruits.

LRA Joseph Kony is shaking hand with southern Sudan’s vice president Riek Machar. (Reuters).

This brutal conflict has traumatized and exhausted the people of northern Uganda. But local leaders are cautiously optimistic that the war could draw to an end because of a new peace initiative opened up by Riek Machar, vice- president of neighboring southern Sudan.

Over the past eight weeks, Mr. Machar has orchestrated a series of face-to-face meetings with Mr. Kony, which observers see as a sign of trust between the two men. As second in command of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Machar is also an ally of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

But the talks are threatened by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which issued warrants for the LRA leadership in October and wants Kony and his top commanders arrested for war crimes.

The ICC’s credibility rests on its ability to end impunity toward human rights abuses and war crimes. The transfer of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to The Hague last week was a victory. The failure to put Kony and his top commanders in the dock, however, would seriously undermine the fledgling court.

Betty Bigombe, a former Ugandan government minister who was profiled last fall by the Monitor as part of a three-part series on African peaceseekers (see story online at csmonitor.com/2005/0913/p01s04-woaf.html), has for years sought to negotiate an end to the conflict. Reached by phone in the US, Ms. Bigombe says Machar should be supported in his efforts to bring Kony to the negotiating table. "Any initiative to end the war must be supported by all efforts," she says, adding that the ICC remains a "complication."

An army’s new role as mediator
The SPLM’s role as peace mediator is new. Up until a few months ago its army was engaged in regular battles with the LRA. But SPLM leaders recognize the need to remove the LRA threat from their territory if they are to bring stability and development to their neglected region.

Last week, Machar’s overtures gained the support of US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, who argued that peace must come first, irrespective of ICC wishes. "If the government of Uganda can come to some agreement with the LRA, that has to be the priority, " she said on a visit to Uganda’s capital.

That view echoes those of leaders in northern Uganda. "Peace has a higher value than anything else," says Norbert Mao, a top local government official. "I believe in the [ICC]. It is a great thing. But the chief prosecutor’s mother is not in a displaced-persons camp.... We are grappling with, and living, a difficult reality."

Reality of life in northern Uganda
That reality, here in northern Uganda, includes the 1.8-million people living in squalid camps while thousands of children stream nightly into towns to avoid abduction by the LRA.

Others warn that the ICC should not undermine the opportunity for a negotiated peace. "This is the time for the ICC to keep quiet," argues Gulu Archbishop John Baptist Odama, who has been involved in previous failed attempts to negotiate peace with the LRA. "Something good is coming out, and threats to arrest Kony do no good, he says. "I’m not against the ICC but mark me well: If there is a peace process going on and you talk about arrests, I cannot understand you."

Archbishop Odama lays the blame for the failure of Bigombe’s recent peace efforts squarely at the feet of the ICC.

"At the same time [that we were talking peace], everyone was saying the ICC will arrest [LRA leaders], and that derailed the peace process," he says. Since then, Bigombe has struggled to rebuild trust and make meaningful contact with LRA leaders.

The ICC has reiterated its position that states are obliged to arrest Kony and his commanders and bring them to face justice in The Hague. Two weeks ago, the court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, dismissed the new peace initiative, saying it was just another example of Kony using negotiations to "buy time and regroup."

There is understandable skepticism given the failure of past negotiations, but those involved in previous talks say Machar has made remarkable progress in gaining Kony’s trust.

"We should be optimistic and give support to this initiative with Machar," says Chief Acana, "because he has gone two steps further than anyone else in actually meeting with Kony face to face." A videotape released last month showed Machar meeting with Kony. In it, Machar was seen handing Kony $20,000. "Spend this on food, not weapons," he advised. Kony was heard to protest that he is a human being, too, and wants peace.

President Museveni says he will give Kony until the end of July to lay down his weapons, and has not ruled out extending amnesty to Kony. At the same time, his government has yet to send a high-level delegation to southern Sudan to meet with the LRA negotiating team, saying it must first establish the genuineness of the LRA team before engaging in any talks.

(The Christian Science Monitor)

Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

My Memories of the late Imam al-Sadig al-Mahdi 2020-11-27 05:43:38 By Mahmoud A. Suleiman This article comes against the backdrop of the saddening news in the headlines of the News Media reporting the departure of the Ansar Sect leader Imam Al-Sadig Al-Mahdi (...)

Why is South Sudan quiet while Ethiopia is at war? 2020-11-25 20:57:13 By Dak Buoth ‘‘Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it (...)

SPLM/SPLA-IO: Alive in war, dead in peace 2020-11-24 20:32:42 By Deng Vanang Neutralized by an ineffective 2018 peace deal, with its head no longer the roaring beast of yesteryears, SPLM/SPLA-IO is now ensnared in the toughest dilemma to cross its shakiest (...)


Latest Press Releases

Sudan: Performing arts is not a crime, assaulting women and artists is! 2020-09-20 08:54:28 The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) Sudan is still struggling with militant Islamist ideology KHARTOUM: Central Khartoum Primary Court issued a verdict against five (...)

Civil Society Statement in Response to The Law of Various Amendments 2020-08-14 07:11:00 A Collaborative Civil Society Statement in Response to The Law of Various Amendments (Abolishing and Amending Provisions Restricting Freedom) – Exposing ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ Sudanese women (...)

Remarks by SRF leaders at the Friend of Sudan meeting on peace 2020-08-13 07:58:58 Chairman of the Friends of Sudan Conference, Your Excellency, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The Prime Minister of Sudan and the participating team from the (...)


Copyright © 2003-2020 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.