Northern Uganda: The Road to Peace, with or without Kony

Posted in Africa | 16-Dec-08 | Source: International Crisis Group

Rebel supremo Joseph Kony, pictured in 2006, failed to turn up Saturday to sign an overdue peace agreement with Kampala aimed at ending Uganda's two-decade-long civil war in the north, an official said.

Nairobi/Kampala/Juba/Brussels, 10 December 2008: The Juba peace process is stagnant and likely to fail unless the Ugandan government and the international community redirect the negotiations.

Northern Uganda: The Road to Peace, with or without Kony the latest report from the International Crisis Group, concludes that completion of the peace process that started in June 2006 requires the government to genuinely address the marginalisation of Northern communities which cannot be satisfied with the vague promises in the Juba protocols. If the violence is to end, Joseph Kony, the reclusive leader of the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency, and his commanders must also both be put under increased pressure and given credible incentives to disarm. Additional talks under a new format are needed, as a military solution to the conflict is not a realistic option.

“The LRA is now entrenched over a large territory at the common border between Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic”, says Louise Khabure, Crisis Group Africa Program Analyst. “It is terrorising communities of Bas-Uélé and Western Equatoria, while joining in the illegal exploitation of gems, gold and ivory”.

A special envoy representing the UN and the African Union (AU) should be tasked with directly negotiating the disarmament of Kony and his followers and reintegration of LRA fighters. Special provisions are needed to take account of the Southern Sudanese, who may now be a majority in what is no longer a purely Ugandan movement and are unlikely to let Kony sign an agreement that does not take account of their interests.

Kony and his top commanders must also understand that the only way to avoid the prosecution by the International Criminal Court they fear is to submit to a national trial. To build-confidence, the Ugandan government should withdraw its troops from Southern Sudan and support the special envoy’s role.

As part of a credible disarmament strategy, the African Union should deploy peacekeepers in the LRA-affected areas, and donors should make funds available. If Kony still refuses to sign, those troops should contain his fighters in their isolated stronghold of the Garamba National Park (Congo), where they can no longer terrorise Northern Uganda or serve as a Khartoum proxy if the Sudan peace agreement falters.

“The UN and the AU have to sustain efforts simultaneously to end the LRA menace”, warns Africa Program Director François Grignon. “The longer the LRA is allowed to entrench itself at the common borders of Sudan, Congo and the Central African Republic, the more likely it will contribute to serious destabilisation of one or another in the near future”.