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Northern Uganda: Peace process stalled

NewsNotes, September-October 2008

Recent advances in Uganda and the surrounding region are at risk of reversal if the ongoing decline in U.S. and international attention and engagement continues. Lacking any credible pressure to sign the final agreement negotiated through the Juba process, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony has been able to carry out attacks in both eastern Congo and south Sudan, exacerbating insecurity in already volatile areas and abducting hundreds of civilians. A surge of engagement aimed at restoring the prospects for a resolution of the crisis is needed to avoid the return to pervasive insecurity and displacement.

In July, Kony renewed direct contact with mediators for the first time since refusing to sign the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) in April and May. He expressed a desire to end the conflict, a move welcomed by the Ugandan government, which insists that the FPA simply awaits Kony’s signature. However, plans for meetings between Kony and mediators have since fallen through, with long periods of silence from Kony, increasing skepticism of the rebel leader’s intent to sign the peace deal.

Meanwhile, LRA attacks on civilians in the region continued, especially in the DR Congo and South Sudan. The Congolese are increasingly eager to confront the LRA militarily, while South Sudanese officials urge more patience with the peace process. Prospects for responsible and credible military pressure on the LRA are elusive, as regional militaries and UN peacekeepers lack the capacity to confront the rebels in their remote hideouts.

UN special envoy Joaquim Chissano briefed the UN Security Council on the LRA conflict in June. However, divisions among Council members regarding the appropriate role for the International Criminal Court (ICC) prevented it from taking formal action on the issue.

Several South Sudanese officials accused the Ugandan military of carrying out attacks on Sudanese civilians, exacerbating tensions between the governments and leading to South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar telling the Ugandans to withdraw their forces from Sudan. However, South Sudan President Salva Kiir later disagreed, allowing Ugandan forces operating in its territory to remain.

Meanwhile, when the ICC head prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan on charges including genocide, Sudanese officials warned that the move could have “a direct negative impact” on the peace process between the LRA and Ugandan government. (See “ICC prosecutor wants to arrest Sudan’s Bashir.”)

At the same time, improved security has allowed over 130,000 Acholi displaced persons in northern Uganda to return to their homes this year, while the Ugandan military has agreed to withdraw troops from IDP camps in some districts and relocate them to protect borders. But funding for early recovery projects in war-affected communities is scarce, and lack of basic services in return areas is keeping many people in the camps.

In July, the U.S. Congress approved $17.5 million in the 2008 supplemental appropriations bill in new funding for reconstruction programs in northern Uganda to help displaced communities return home and rebuild their lives.

The U.S. diplomat appointed to support the Juba process and regional security, Special Adviser for Conflict Resolution Tim Shortley, has been reassigned as Director of Sudan Programs at the State Department. Shortley retains his responsibilities to address the regional LRA threat in his new job.

Faith in action:

Please write to Tim Shortley, Director of Sudan Programs, U.S. Department of State. Ask him to support appointment of a full time U.S. diplomat to address the LRA threat and increased U.S. funding to ensure that the Ugandan government rebuilds war-affected areas. Send a copy to your member of Congress.

For nformation, see

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