As the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) wreaks havoc while fleeing a joint-offensive launched by Uganda, DR Congo, and South Sudan, the one thing that’s clear is that the peace process is over between the leaders of the LRA and the government of Uganda. LRA fighters have looted and pillaged almost everything in their path, resorting to their traditional recruitment techniques of abducting children and mutilating victims to instill fear in future recruits. The rebels even reportedly hacked to death 45 people in a church in northeastern DRC on Christmas day. Recently released statistics from the UN just begin to reveal the devastating effects of the offensive– since October the LRA has killed over 537 people and kidnapped 408, many of whom are children.
Yet one must remember that outside of LRA leadership, many soldiers themselves were abducted as children and have lived trauma-filled lives of solitude and forced conscription. Furthermore, the conflicting ideologies and goals of LRA leadership and its soldiers make solving the problem far more complicated than capturing the elusive Joseph Kony. With their recent attempt to catch the LRA leader, it apears that the three regional governments are missing, –or ignoring – the point.
The joint offensive launched December 14, 2008 came after Kony failed again to sign a peace deal to end his rebellion against the Ugandan government. The Juba peace process, which began in June 2006, represented an earnest attempt to end 22 years of conflict and instability in Northern Uganda. While it succeeded in producing five protocols in 21 months, it ultimately was a failure. Joseph Kony and his inner circle’s fear of International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments was not addressed adequately by Uganda, among other things, prompting Kony to spoil the latest meeting scheduled to sign the peace deal.
What is being overlooked here, in the face of such large-scale killing and human rights violations, is the need to re-examine strategies for achieving peace in Northern Uganda. In fact, it appears that Joseph Kony may not be as relevant to the peace process as is widely thought. Many report that Kony does not represent the majority of his soldiers, most of whom are abducted Sudanese civilians and have their own agendas and grievances. He certainly does not represent the Northern Ugandans who have their own justified complaints of marginalization and victimization by President Museveni’s National Resistance Army party. In the end, he appears to have little backing from any group he claims as his constituents. Yet until the grievances of Northern Uganda’s population have been addressed by Kampala, and accountability for the heinous war crimes committed over the past two decades comes to fruition, the LRA will likely remain, with or without Kony, a viable option for frustrated Ugandans.
– Will Craigen