Report / Africa 26 April 2007 3 minutes Northern Uganda: Seizing the Opportunity for Peace With peace negotiations due to restart in the southern Sudanese town of Juba on 26 April, the ten-month-old peace process between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government still has a chance of ending one of Africa’s longest, most brutal conflicts. Share Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin Whatsapp Save Print Download PDF Full Report (en) Also available in Français Français English Executive Summary With peace negotiations due to restart in the southern Sudanese town of Juba on 26 April, the ten-month-old peace process between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government still has a chance of ending one of Africa’s longest, most brutal conflicts. The present process is more structured and inclusive than previous efforts to end the twenty-year-old conflict, benefits from greater – if still inadequate – external involvement, and has made some significant gains, notably removing most LRA fighters from northern Uganda. And the implementation of the agreement to end Sudan’s north-south civil war has reduced both the LRA’s and the Ugandan army’s room for manoeuvre. But the favourable political constellation is likely to be fleeting, and to simply resume the process as previously constituted would be a recipe for failure. It is hamstrung by major weaknesses in representation, structure and substance. The LRA delegation, mainly diaspora Acholi detached from the conflict, lacks competency, credibility and cohesiveness. The agenda is being negotiated sequentially, so progress has been thwarted by failure to fully implement the cessation of hostilities agreement and fundamental disagreement over the issue of comprehensive solutions to the conflict. And the Juba negotiations are the wrong forum for tackling the underlying economic, political and social problems of northern Uganda, critical in ending the north-south divide in Uganda and breaking the cycle of conflict that has racked the country since 1986. The comprehensive peace process that is required should proceed along two tracks. One is Juba, which should concentrate on ending the military conflict and providing a general roadmap for handling the broader grievances that need to be addressed, including accountability for serious crimes. The second track is one to which the government and donors should commit at Juba but then pursue subsequently in a broader, more inclusive forum in Uganda. It will need to empower northern Ugandans, involving, among others, Acholi traditional leaders and civil society, including women and youth, to steer redevelopment, rehabilitation and reconciliation initiatives within their community. The rebels’ temporary withdrawal from the talks on 12 January provided an opening to reshape the mediation efforts, expand external engagement and create a stronger and better institutionalised process. As part of a compromise to bring the LRA back to the table, South Africa, Kenya, Congo, Tanzania and Mozambique agreed to join the talks as observers. The Government of Southern Sudan, whose initiative Juba has been and which has continued to lead it, must now ensure that an effective infrastructure is in place to handle the logistical and technical aspects. In the rigidly hierarchical LRA, Joseph Kony is the key to a peace deal, and efforts to engage him must be enhanced. A respected intermediary, most likely the new UN Special Envoy for LRA-affected areas and former Mozambique president, Joaquim Chissano, should deliver directly to him a security and livelihood package that can be the basis for further discussion. Negotiations should be restructured so that small working groups can pursue all issues in parallel. Both sides must be persuaded through the use of targeted leverage that peace is their only worthwhile option. The International Criminal Court investigation – although controversial – has increased pressure on the LRA and created an incentive for its indicted leaders to negotiate their safety. It should continue, at least until a just peace with robust accountability mechanisms is in place. The UN, through a new panel of experts, and host countries should investigate and impose penalties on those in the diaspora who undermine the peace process by giving the LRA financial and material support. Contingency planning on a regional security strategy for use against the LRA if Juba fails should begin now with an initiative for military and political cooperation between Uganda, the Government of Southern Sudan, Congo and the UN missions in Sudan (UNMIS) and Congo (MONUC). Donors, who finance 40 per cent of Uganda’s budget, must make clear to the government that they will not support unilateral military action against the LRA in Congo if talks collapse and that funding of northern Uganda’s redevelopment is conditional on the active participation of local leaders. Kampala/Nairobi/Brussels, 26 April 2007 Related Tags More for you Briefing / Africa Easing the Turmoil in the Eastern DR Congo and Great Lakes Also available in Also available in Français Podcast / Great Lakes A Perilous Free-for-all in the Eastern DR Congo?