Finding Peace in Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic

December 16, 2008

How much time do you give peace negotiations that involve such slippery characters as Joseph Kony and Yoweri Museveni. Or Laurent Nkunda and Joseph Kabila. Or Somalia where the Shabab is not even involved. And don’t get me started on Darfur.
Well time has run out for the Ugandan peace process. After two years, numerous accords but no final deal, armies from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Sudan began a clean-up of the LRA’s jungle bases on Sunday.
It was only a matter of time. Last week, the International Crisis Group published a report that read like the last rites of the peace process…

On 29 November, Kony failed again to appear at the Ri-Kwangba assembly point to sign the Final Peace Agreement (FPA). Since April, armed actions attributed (not always accurately) to the LRA resumed in Sudan’s Western Equatoria state and the Bas Uélé district of the Congo (DRC). The LRA menace has moved out of Uganda, but the north does not yet have the certainty of sustainable peace.

Maybe even more alarmingly, the ICG raises the spectre of the LRA taking up its old role as a spoiler in southern Sudan…

It is available again as a proxy if Khartoum wants to disrupt the 2009 national elections, Southern Sudan’s 2011 referendum or restart war on the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s (SPLA) southern flank.

So how did we find ourselves in this position? Intelligence documents compiled by the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the DRC made it plain the LRA was cynically using the ceasefire to re-organise

“Simply put, Kony now has the ability to divide his forces into very simple groups and to reassemble them at will,” the report says. “When put together with his proven mastery of bush warfare, this gives him new potency within his area of operations.”

As I found out during my visit to Congo’s border with southern Sudan, LRA slaving parties were kidnapping children even as Kony talked peace and collected food, phones and cash from well-meaning charities and allies.
But what’s the alternative? Uganda’s miserable northern war has displaced millions and left thousands of children brutalised and damaged. A negotiated settlement seems the only way of ending it all. Surely Kony has to be given a chance to sign up to a deal. But at what point do his abuses constitute a breach of the ceasefire? And when do we give up on it.
Frankly, I have no idea any more. This war is too messy and Joseph Kony too elusive in too many ways to know the best way to handle him. It’s easy to say after the fact that we shouldn’t have given him so much wriggle room. But what else is there? Military solutions haven’t worked before. Will they work now?