Memorandum submitted by the Department
for International Development
PROSPECTS FOR SUSTAINABLE PEACE IN NORTHERN
Brief history of the conflict
1. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), under
the leadership of Joseph Kony, has been active since late 1987,
operating until recently out of bases in southern Sudan. The LRA
emerged out of the remnants of Alice Lakwena's Holy Spirit Movement,
which attracted substantial popular support in Acholi parts of
northern Uganda in 1986 and 1987. Lakwena herself and a group
known as the Uganda Peoples Defence Army emerged following the
overthrow in 1986 of the regime of Tito Okello (an ethnic Acholi)
by President Museveni's National Resistance Army. At its peak
in 1998/1999 the LRA's strength was probably in the region of
6000. Following the loss of its permanent bases in southern Sudan,
and intense military pressure since 2002, it probably now numbers
not more than 3000 (including women and children), almost all
of whom are currently located in southern Sudan or north eastern
2. The LRA is often characterised as a cult
rather than a recognisable political movement. Joseph Kony is
seen by his senior commanders as a powerful spirit medium who
can foretell the future and control physical events from a distance.
This could in part explain the group's resilience as it enables
Kony and his commanders to exercise a degree of control over their
subordinates that goes beyond normal military command structures.
3. The LRA's adoption of increasingly appalling
methods, (including child abduction and brutalisation, and the
mutilation, rape and murder of civilians) quickly reduced any
support it might have expected to enjoy amongst the Acholi. Kony
has complained bitterly that some Acholi elders who he claims
"gave him their blessing" to wage war against Museveni
abandoned him. The relationship between the LRA and the population
has long been fraught with tensions and very practical dilemmas.
The LRA is predominantly, though not exclusively, made up of Acholi
people. Family and clan links with abducted combatants, and fears
for their safety, exist within the community. This, combined with
a lack of confidence in the government, means that while the vast
majority of people do not support the LRA, and indeed greatly
fear them, they may be reluctant to report LRA movements or presence
to the Ugandan People's Defence Force (national army). Abuses
of human rights by government troops and security agents during
the conflict have helped undermine confidence in the government,
especially in some rural communities. Although many observers
accept that military pressure against the LRA is essential, and
has played a part in bringing them to the negotiating table, they
also doubt whether it can in itself bring about a lasting resolution
to the conflict.
Mediation and the current peace process in Juba
4. In the 20 years the LRA insurgency has
affected northern Uganda there have been a number of attempts
to broker a peace deal. The current initiative is led by the Government
of South Sudan (GoSS) with a strong lead from Vice President Dr
Riek Machar, who is acting as mediator and hosting the talks in
Juba. Negotiations began in July 2006 after a period in which
Machar took time to develop direct contact with the LRA leaders
including Joseph Kony himself. The LRA delegation is comprised
of people largely drawn from Acholi living overseas. LRA leaders
are not present in Juba but they are consulted regularly and there
have been a number of meetings between the LRA leadership and
the Government of Uganda (GoU) delegation. The GoU delegation
is led by the Minister of Internal Affairs Dr Ruhakana Rugunda.
The UN and civil society are present as observers. The process
is largely financed through a fund established by the UN Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
5. The talks are proceeding through a structured
agenda which has five items. These are:
(i) Cessation of Hostilities;
(ii) Comprehensive solutions;
(iii) Reconciliation and Accountability;
(iv) Final Ceasefire Agreement; and
(v) Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration.
6. The first key landmark was the signing
of a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (Agenda Item 1) at the
end of August 2006. This has since been renewed three times and
currently runs to the end of June 2007. The LRA has currently
agreed to assemble in one location at Rwi Kwamba, west of the
River Nile in southern Sudan (very close to the DRC border). A
Cessation of Hostilities Monitoring Team has been established
which is currently comprised of representatives of the GoU, LRA,
GoSS, African Union, Denmark and Canada.
7. The Juba process has so far been characterised
by a series of highs and lows. The process stalled and nearly
collapsed between Christmas and the end of March when the LRA
delegation moved to Nairobi and demanded a change of venue and
mediator. Following the intervention of UN Special Envoy Joaquim
Chissano a deal was struck whereby it was agreed that the talks
would reconvene in Juba and would be strengthened by the presence
of observers from several African countries (Kenya, DRC, South
Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania). Agreements were also reached
on a number of other issues raised by the LRA delegation including
the payment of allowances and concerns about their personal security.
A major breakthrough was achieved when Joseph Kony and Minister
Rugunda met in the bush in early March at Chissano's instigation.
8. The talks in Juba recommenced on 26 March,
and on 2 May the parties reached agreement on Agenda Item 2, Comprehensive
Solutions. This covers issues associated with national politics
and governance, the security forces, the return and resettlement
of internally displaced persons, the economic and social development
of northern Uganda and transitional security arrangements. Most
of the articles of the agreement draw on existing policies and
the provisions of the Constitution. There is provision to return
to some issues later in the process. The talks have now moved
on to Agenda Item 3, Reconciliation and Accountability.
Many feel that this item is the one on which it will be most difficult
to reach agreement.
9. The peace process is very fragile but
it represents the most significant attempt in recent years to
end the conflict through dialogue. The Cessation of Hostilities
Agreement has been associated with a major improvement in security
in northern Uganda. Should the Juba process fail an alternative
approach might involve greater regional security co-operation
to tackle the LRA combined with a determined effort to encourage
middle-ranking commanders and foot soldiers to come out of the
bush. But these are much longer-term strategies and they would
almost certainly involve further fighting that would prolong both
the humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda and the problems faced
by abducted children. There would also be implications for the
people of southern Sudan and possibly the DRC.
B. JUSTICE AND
Traditional justice processes in northern Uganda
10. The Acholi people of northern Uganda
have a traditional process of reconciliation and conflict resolution
known as "Mato Oput". In the local Luo language this
literally means "to drink a bitter potion made from the leaves
of the Oput tree". The ceremony of "Mato Oput"
involves the person accepting responsibility for their actions
then asking for the forgiveness of the community. The ceremony
is conducted by a council of elders.
11. Mato Oput ceremonies have already played
an important part in helping to reintegrate some LRA combatants
who have returned from the bush. The process resonates with the
LRA's own strong belief in traditional systems. It undoubtedly
has an important part to play in fostering reconciliation and
enabling the reintegration of people back into their communities.
However the process also has its limitations. For example not
all of the victims of the conflict are Acholi and some may not
be willing to subscribe to a process that is not part of their
The Amnesty Act 2000
12. In January 2000 President Museveni signed
into law an Amnesty for those involved in armed rebellion after
1986. The law began its passage as an offer of limited amnesty
excluding certain offences deemed to be particularly severe. But
as a result of concerted lobbying by the Acholi community, led
by the Religious Leaders, and following a process of national
consultation, the scope of the Act was widened to create a comprehensive
amnesty managed by an Amnesty Commission. The Act provides a mechanism
for receiving, demobilising and resettling insurgents. Under its
provisions over 5000 former LRA members have already claimed amnesty.
While a number of these have been people who were only abducted
for a short period, middle and senior ranking LRA commanders have
also claimed Amnesty. Importantly Amnesty provides an exit strategy
for LRA combatants. The LRA leadership has recently requested
the presence of Amnesty Commission Chairman, Justice Peter Onega
at the Juba talks.
The International Criminal Court Warrants
13. The International Criminal Court (ICC)
commenced a formal investigation in northern Uganda in February
2004 following a referral by the Government of Uganda. On 13 October
2005 the ICC unsealed warrants for the arrest of five LRA Commanders
including Joseph Kony and his second-in-command Vincent Otti.
One of those indicted, Raska Lukwiya, is believed to have been
killed during fighting in August 2006.
14. The UK Government is a strong supporter
of the ICC, which is a key part of the international community's
efforts to combat impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity
and war crimes. The arrest warrants in northern Uganda were the
first to be issued, and ensuring the arrest and transfer of the
LRA indictees is a priority for the Court. There is also important
read-across to the Court's other investigations in DRC, CAR and
Darfur. In Darfur the Court has recently issued arrest warrants
for two individuals, including a Government of Sudan Minister.
15. The UK view is that justice is an essential
part of a sustainable peace. In the case of northern Uganda it
is imperative to tackle impunity, to deter others taking up arms
and terrorising civilians. We judge that the ICC arrest warrants
have contributed to bringing increased international attention
to the conflict, reduced logistical support for the LRA, exposed
its activities, and helped bring the LRA to the negotiating table.
Reconciliation and Accountability
16. The search for conflict resolution has
on occasions created some tension between the needs for peace
and for justice. As the parties discuss Agenda Item 3, Reconciliation
and Accountability, the ICC warrants will be an important
subject. The LRA leadership has said that they will not sign a
peace agreement unless the warrants are lifted. It is our understanding
that work is ongoing within the Juba mediation team to construct
a mechanism of reconciliation and accountability that would incorporate
elements of traditional justice, the existing Amnesty Act and
a national judicial process. This would involve the indictees
accepting responsibility for their actions and might provide grounds
for the GoU to request the ICC to re-examine the warrants on the
basis that a credible alternative form of justice is available.
17. However, it is likely to be a very difficult
task to deliver a process which is both acceptable to the indictees
and genuinely credible in the eyes of the ICC and the international
18. The ICC warrants are a question for
the ICC rather than a UK/Uganda issue. It is welcome that the
Ugandan government is maintaining a close dialogue with the Court.
In the final analysis it is important that a way forward is found
that is compatible with the Rome Statute of the ICC, national
laws and the wishes of those affected by the conflict.
C. THE ROLE
The Juba Talks process
19. Arguably one of the reasons that the
Juba process has made progress is that it is locally owned and
led and has a high degree of wider African engagement through
the involvement of UN Special Envoy Chissano and observers from
Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique and the DRC. The role
of the wider international community has been, and should remain
at this stage, to support the process financially and diplomatically.
20. Financial support to the talks is channeled
through a fund, known as the Juba Initiative Fund (JIF), managed
by UN OCHA. This pays for the hire of the venue, food and accommodation
for the participants, the operational costs of the Cessation of
Hostilities Monitoring Team and technical advice on specialist
issues. The JIF had an initial operational budget of US$ 4.2 million.
This has been fully funded by donors, with the UK making a contribution
of approximately US$ 480,000. A request for further support is
Work within the UN Security Council and EU Council
21. Work at the international level has
been important in helping to create space for the current process
and support to the efforts of individuals such as Special Envoy
Chissano. The UK worked hard to secure EU Council Conclusions
in November 2006 and UN Security Council Presidential statements
in November 2006 and March 2007. These welcomed the progress made
in the Juba talks and called on both sides to fully commit to
the mediation process.
22. Further work in multilateral settings
may be important to respond to emerging needs on the ground and,
in the event of talks failing, to consider what next steps the
international community should take.
Support to Peace Recovery and Development Efforts
23. The conflict has over the years led
to strong feelings of alienation and marginalisation in the affected
districts. It is important that the peace process is underpinned
by transition and recovery programmes that bring tangible benefits
to the population, particularly as they return to their homes.
24. The GoU is developing a Peace Recovery
and Development Programme (PRDP) which is intended to provide
a framework for co-ordinated action. The government currently
estimates that the PRDP`s costs will be about $180 million per
year over three years. The programme requires careful prioritisation.
Donors in Uganda are now engaged in discussions on its detailed
content. Already, as the security situation in the North has improved,
people in some areas have started to return to their home areas
and existing programmes are responding to changing needs. For
example DFID funding to water activities is being used to both
maintain water supplies to those in camps but also to rehabilitate
water points in areas where people are returning to their homes.
The international community is also responding to efforts to re-establish
justice, law and order in the return areas, with programmes in
support of the Police and Judiciary already under way.
25. During what is likely to be a period
of uncertainty it is important that the international community
ensures that its support is flexible enough to meet both continuing
humanitarian needs and to support recovery where this is possible.
The government's engagement is essential to address issues of
sustainability and to demonstrate that it is firmly committed
to the challenge of tackling the problems of the North.
Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration
26. Sustainable peace will require the successful
return and reintegration of LRA combatants. The Amnesty Commission
has developed contingency arrangements to help deal with an upsurge
in caseload. The numbers of people involved will be relatively
small (up to 3,000) and final arrangements will be determined
by what emerges from the peace process (Agenda Item 5). Nonetheless
donors in Kampala, including DFID, are already involved in discussions
with the Amnesty Commission about resource requirements.
27. The GoU has identified the need to demobilise
some of the auxiliary forces that were recruited to help fight
the LRA. Discussions about donor support for this process are
also under way.