Länderberichte

Juba Peace Talks Collapse

von Yusuf Kiranda

A Golden Opportunity for Peace is Slipping through our Hands

When peace talks between the Government of Uganda (GoU) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) started in July 2006, there was all optimism that a conflict that has brought unspeakable misery in northern Uganda over the last two decades would come to an end. This article attempts to make an analytical insight into the current stalemate in the peace process. The talks which were the only hope for peace in northern Uganda are collapsing. The author analyses what this means for northern Uganda.
Following a progressive start of peace talks in Juba, the concerns over the war in northern Uganda seemed to change from conflict management to post conflict reconstruction, reconciliation and healing of the affected communities. There was every reason for stakeholders to be positive that this time, both the GoU and the LRA were devoted and ready to reach a nonviolent conclusion of the 21-year old insurgency. This assurance was further strengthened by the fact that the peace talks mediated by the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) registered significant progress in the early stages; by its first anniversary, the peace process had accomplished three of the five agenda items, this was remarkable. Dedication towards the peace process had earlier been demonstrated when in a build up to the process, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni promised to get around the International Criminal Court indictments and grant amnesty to Kony if a peace deal was reached.

July 2008 will be the second anniversary of the Juba peace process, two years of peace negotiations will have been made; unfortunately, no peace deal has been reached. The GoU has already indicated opting for military action to end the LRA insurgence, the same approach that has failed to bring peace for the last 21 years. But what would one expect the Ugandan government to do when the LRA leader Joseph Kony has declined to sign the peace deal? The LRA which is reported to be regrouping in DR Congo and acquiring new weapons has already carried out attacks in Southern Sudan which has prompted the Chief Mediator, the GoSS to indicate pulling out of the talks. Despite the high levels of public outcry to both sides to commit to the peace process, there is indication that with an elusive LRA and a government already tending to military action, the hope of ending 21 years of conflict from Juba is slipping away. It means that once again, another attempt on peace is failing, and that hundreds of families in northern Uganda that had resettled in their homes will have to end up again in IDP Camps; it means that more Acholi Women and Children are going to be abducted, to be raped and to be murdered; it also means that the ray of peace that once shined on northern Uganda from Juba is disappearing to be replaced with the horror and terror of gunpowder, land mines and ambushes on civilians; which means that northern Uganda that had gotten on the road for reconstruction is faced with the potential of more destruction. It demands that the peace talks have to be saved if these undesired scenarios are not to happen.

Too close and yet so far?

At one point, the speed of progress in the Juba peace process was very exciting. The speed at which either delegation (from the GoU and the LRA) were agreeing on different agenda items indicated that a peace deal was very close. It was not envisaged that Kony would also like to use the peace deal as leverage in demanding that the arrest warrants by The Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC) on the LRA leader and four of his commanders for war crimes be dropped These have been presented by Joseph Kony as an excuse for not signing the peace agreement. And whereas the Ugandan President has on several occasions promised to protect Kony from the ICC on the basis that a peace deal is reached, this has been no satisfactory guarantee to influence the rebel leader into signing the peace agreement.

Kony will even cling more to his position given the instance, the Ugandan government does not have that authority to protect Kony from the ICC and The Hague based Court has strongly spoken against dropping the charges on the LRA leaders. The ICC insists on trail for Kony with or without a peace deal. Therefore Kony is not safe barely on the promises of protection by President Museveni. For that matter, in case Kony continues to demand that dropping the ICC indictment is a pre-requisite to signing the peace deal then we can believe that a peace agreement between the GoU and the LRA is far.

More appeals, less success

The Acholi people through their local, cultural and religious leaders have made painstaking appeals to all parties to save the talks in vain. The choice of the gun is upfront compared to the possibility of getting back to Juba. This is evidenced by the fact that military chiefs from Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been holding a series of meeting to route a military plan for dealing with the LRA that is similarly reported to be undertaking fresh recruitment.

But the people of Northern Uganda deserve peace. One should not let the Juba peace talks to collapse. One must listen to the voices of the Acholi people who have been denied peace, justice and human rights for twenty one years. If the leaders remembered that the gun has failed to solve the LRA problem for the last 21 years, they would struggle as much as the Acholi leaders to save the talks. If one once again reflected on the indescribable suffering in northern Uganda for the last 21 years and pondered about the fact that this could happen if there is no peace deal, then considerations could be made for calling on the ICC to employ article 53 of the Rome Statute which allows for deferral of prosecution in the “interest of the victims” or other “interests of justice”.

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