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"Give Peace a Real Chance: Rethinking U.S. Policy Toward Northern Uganda" | October 2007

"Give Peace a Real Chance: Rethinking U.S. Policy Toward Northern Uganda" | October 2007

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Published by: Resolve on Aug 11, 2010
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Giving Peace a Real Chance:
Rethinking U.S. Policy Toward Northern Uganda
I. Introduction
After more than twenty-one years of war, peace may finally be on the horizon for the people of northern Uganda. The ongoing Juba negotiations, which started inAugust of 2006 between the Government of Uganda and rebel Lord’s ResistanceArmy (LRA), continue to provide real hope for a permanent end to the war. Thenegotiations have brought relative calm for the first time in years, allowing manynorthern Ugandans to leave displacement camps and begin returning to their homes.
“A resumption of military actionis the greatest threat to thishistoric opportunity for peace.” _________________________ 
If given a sufficient chance to succeed, the Juba peace talks offer the most viableopportunity to end decades of insecurity and to lay the groundwork for addressing the root causes of the war. However, to consolidate gains that havebeen made and ensure lasting peace is realized, international leaders –particularly in the U.S. government – must remain committed to the process andtake advantage of existing improvements in the security situation to expedite thereturn of displaced people.
Give Peace a Real Chance
– Resolve Uganda, October 2007
A resumption of military action is the greatest threat to this historic opportunity for peace. Growing impatience with the duration of the negotiations has ledUgandan and U.S. leaders to discuss the possibility of imposing a deadline onthe talks, after which military operations against the LRA would presumablyoccur. However, such action would not be likely to succeed, and would havecatastrophic humanitarian consequences for the region.Resolve Uganda’s research brief, “Giving Peace a Real Chance: Rethinking U.S.Policy toward Northern Uganda,” explores how U.S. officials can best takeadvantage of the opportunities provided by the Juba process to advancesustainable peace. Doing so will require that the U.S. employ a four-part strategyinvolving sustained investment in the negotiations, facilitation of the IDP returnprocess, attention to root social and political issues contributing to instability, andengagement of deteriorating situations in South Sudan and eastern Congo.
II. Methodology
Resolve Uganda’s policy briefs are the result of field research and secondary-source analysis. This brief is informed by interviews in northern Uganda with civilsociety actors, diplomats, government officials, journalists, and war survivors.Resolve Uganda’s ongoing interviews with policymakers, government officials,and non-governmental advocates in New York and Washington, D.C. alsoprovide information. In addition, daily monitoring and assessment of mediacoverage on northern Uganda offers insights into trends and patterns emergingin the region. Finally, this brief relies heavily on the perspectives of localorganizations in Uganda, namely Refugee Law Project and Human Rights Focus.This approach is rooted in the belief that local, independent researchers are bestequipped to understand the priorities and perspectives of war-affectedcommunities.
III. The Current Situation
The ongoing Juba peace negotiations between the Ugandan government and theLord’s Resistance Army (LRA) provide real hope for a permanent end to the war in northern Uganda. For the two decades before the Juba process began, allattempts to end the conflict failed, leaving war-affected communities to suffer thedevastating consequences of widespread displacement, abduction, and death.Not limited to northern Uganda, the violence has also destabilized neighboringareas of southern Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet today,a sustainable resolution to Africa’s longest running war is within reach.
Give Peace a Real Chance
– Resolve Uganda, October 2007
Though the progress has been slow, the Juba negotiations have led to dramaticimprovements in the conditions on the ground. The Cessation of HostilitiesAgreement brokered through the negotiations in August of 2006 brought relativecalm for the first time in years. Since that agreement was signed, there havebeen virtually no attacks or abductions in northern Uganda. The phenomenon of child “night commuting” has largely ended, and freedom of movement has beenexpanded, allowing many northern Ugandans to access their land.
Still, the vast majority of northerners have not moved back to their originalhomes. Over 1.3 million people remain displaced in camps or newly developedtransition sites,
where they lack access to basic health, water, and educationservices. Reports suggest that displaced people are eager to leave the squalor of camps, but many will wait for a final agreement from Juba before doing so.
Anyconflagration of violence could lead to an immediate deterioration of allimprovements made.A final peace agreement is unlikely to be reached until at least the spring of 2008. The Juba process is currently in the middle of discussions around the thirdof five agenda items, addressing issues of accountability and reconciliation.
Aspart of this agenda item, the LRA and Government of Uganda have beenmandated to hold “consultations” to allow the input of affected communities andlocal civil society into the process. The government has concluded eleven suchconsultations in the war-affected region and Kampala. The LRA’s consultativemeetings have been delayed because of funding issues, but are expected to takeplace in November.Official negotiations are then predicted to resume in late November or December.When the parties return to the negotiating table, they will first have to finalize theimplementation annex to their agreement on agenda item three.
This agreementwill detail the specific mechanisms to be established for dealing with past crimes.
For more background to the Juba peace talks, see Uganda Conflict Action Network (26 April 2007),“Seizing the Second Chance: Peace on the Horizon for Northern Uganda?” and Uganda Conflict Action Network (July 2006), “2006 Peace Talks in Juba: A Historic Opportunity.”
In September 2007 the Inter Agency Standing Committee in Uganda estimated that 29% of IDPs (526,300 people) had returned to their homes of origin, with 49% (901,000 people) remaining in mother camps and22% (409,000 people) in “decongestion” or “satellite” sites. Most full returns have been limited to theLango and Teso sub-regions, where displacement has not existed for as long as it has in the Acholi sub-region.
Refugee Law Project (June 2007), “Rapid Assessment of Population Movement in Gulu and Pader,”Kampala: Faculty of Law, Makerere University.
The five agenda items for the Juba peace process are as agreed upon by both parties are: (1) cessation of hostilities, (2) comprehensive solutions to the war, (3) accountability and reconciliation, (4) disarmament,demobilization and reintegration (DDR), and (5) final ceasefire.
International Crisis Group (14 September 2007), “Northern Uganda Peace Process: The Need to MaintainMomentum,” Kampala/Nairobi/Brussels: Africa Briefing No. 46.

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