Peace Talks or Peace Jokes- Government of Uganda and Lord's Resistant Army Talks: A Gideon Analysis
Gideon examines the intents and positions of both sides of the table.
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First published: July 19, 2006
In a surprise move, Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA has promised to disarm his troops and bring and end to the rebellion as President Yoweri Museveni's government, which had for years vowed never to talk to the rebels, also toned down its language. The government this time says it whole-heartedly welcomes the talks that it 'believes' would resolve the problem that has plunged northern Uganda and Southern Sudan for a long time and has spilled over into the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"It is government's firm belief that this time round, a tangible solution will come out of these peace talks," reads the government statement on the peace talks. The government has in addition promised LRA leader Joseph Kony and his top commanders amnesty if the peace talks succeed. Reading the statements and commitments by both parties gives an indication that an angel of peace could once again live with the people of northern Uganda after more than two decades. The question that leaves some doubt is whether the two parties are sincere.
A closer look at the government and LRA position statements shows this lack of insincerity. Whereas the government accuses that the rebels of trying to buy time, the LRA doubts the sincerity of government given the previous agreements that the government failed to respect at the time when they (the NRM) were rebels.
"Your Excellency, the present government came to power with dirt record of insincerity shrouded in the failed Nairobi Peace Agreement. True to character, the NRM government has used the same method of insincerity to renege on so many agreements with so many other fighting forces including the LRA, when several times they have used peaceful initiatives to either kill the LRA leaders or lure them out of the bush as exemplified by the last Betty Bigombe peace initiative of 2004 when Brigadiers Banya, Kamdulu, Sam Kolo and scores of others were lured out of the bush," reads the LRA Peace delegation opening statement.
A critical look at the statements shows that the two parties are actually speaking different languages as far as a peaceful settlement is concerned. Whereas the LRA 'wants' government to meet their demands before they can abandon the rebellion, the government's position is to provide 'a soft landing' for the rebels.
The government might be reasoning that the rebels are already weakened and can take up anything that can save them from prosecution or killing by the government army. But the LRA does not want to be looked at as people who are at the mercy of government, and that is why it uses words like both sides (the rebels and government together).
For example, the LRA in its opening statement says, "Both sides should get to the root causes of the conflict and wars in Uganda generally..." Amid all these high expectation, President Yoweri Museveni's advisor on Media and Public Relations said on Saturday that what is going in Juba are "peace jokes" and not peace talks. Also, the government went into the talks with an LRA they say is defeated militarily. The government is also basing on the negative perception of abduction and brutal massacres by the rebels to project itself as an upper hand negotiator. Yet the LRA are still claiming to be strong and have vowed to continue with their 'struggle' if the ongoing talks do not yield results.
And given the fact that the government Amnesty to the rebels does not provide them immunity against arrest and prosecution by the International Court, the rebels may be determined to continue this path even if it means being killed on the battle line like former UNITA (of Angola) rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi.
That is what makes the peace deal being sought in Juba even more complicated. Surrendering as the government wants them (rebels) to do would be like jumping from the flying pan (bushfire from the UPDF and may be the SPLA) to the fire (the International Criminal Court and generally the world that has always wanted to know the men behind the cruel rebellion).
Kony and 4 of his top commanders have been indicted in the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity since 2002 following President Yoweri Museveni's complaint to the court. The President has, 'for the sake of peace' granted amnesty to even Kony and his top commanders under the Amnesty Act.
The problem is that whereas the Amnesty law allows rebels to be pardoned and granted immunity against prosecution upon denouncing the rebellion (like has been the case wit Kolo, Banya, Abedo, Kamdulu...), the Rome Statute, which established the International Court in Article III, takes away that immunity.
According to the Act, "States shall not take any legislative or other measures, which may be prejudicial to the international obligations they have assumed in regard to detection, arrest, extradition and persons guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity".
This is probably the reason why Kony and his top commanders have skipped peace talks for fear that they 'could be kidnapped'. These questions still loom. If tomorrow, the LRA gave up fighting, where will they go? Will they come to Uganda and live among Ugandans or stay in other countries? How possible is it, since these countries including Uganda have an obligation to arrest Kony and his cohorts to answer the charges?
Unless the answers to these questions are found, it will take more than peace talks to have the Lord's Resistance Army and particularly Kony and his top commanders to surrender and give the people of northern Uganda a chance to enjoy peace. It will probably be fire from the SPLA or the killing of the top LRA bosses that can guarantee peace or their arrest and production to the International Court. Apart from this, Ugandans can only hope against hope that the two sides in the unpopular conflict agree to some settlement to allow the people of northern Uganda live peacefully.
The opening statements of the two sides are given below:
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First published: July 19, 2006
Gideon Munaabi is a journalist and public relations practitioner with Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. He has been and continues writing widely for different publication locally and internationally. He is a founding member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and is currently the chairman of the organisation.