Recently, the Ugandan government’s chief negotiator said that the government would continue to respect a landmark truce with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that expired Tuesday night (19 September 2006). Mohammed T. Yusuf argues that: “So far, both the government and the LRA have adhered to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. It is in that spirit that I add my voice to the call for peace, and I urge all peace lovers to join the Civil Society fraternity in their struggle for peace in nor...read more
Recently, the Ugandan government’s chief negotiator said that the government would continue to respect a landmark truce with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that expired Tuesday night (19 September 2006). Mohammed T. Yusuf argues that: “So far, both the government and the LRA have adhered to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. It is in that spirit that I add my voice to the call for peace, and I urge all peace lovers to join the Civil Society fraternity in their struggle for peace in northern Uganda.”
The civil war in northern Uganda has been going on for the past two decades, and has had far reaching consequences in the region. The Acholi people have been the most affected. They have been kidnapped, raped, tortured and displaced.
Be that as it may, the victims of this civil war have not received sympathy and international solidarity like the victims of other wars. The attempts in 2004 to declare the area a disaster zone did not bear fruit.
The government of Uganda has always taken the initiative when it comes to the resolution of this conflict. The present peace negotiations (the Juba Peace Talks) are a result of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of Sudan and the leadership of southern Sudan. The Juba Peace Talks have brought the Lord Resistance Army/ movement (LRA/M) and the Government of Uganda to the negotiation table.
On the 30 August 2006, I attended two very important meetings in Kampala in support of the JUBA Peace Initiatives. The first was a Stakeholders Consultative Meeting on Juba Peace Talks, between the Government’s Peace Team and representatives from the Civil Society Organizations in Uganda.
The organizers (CSOPNU, UNAU, DENIVA and the MACOMBA Link Partnership) handled the issues with sensitivity and made sure that all stakeholders participated in the process.
One of these issues was the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) indictment of the five major commanders of the LRA, including Joseph Kony and his deputy Vincent Otti. This was seen as a stumbling block to the peace process.
On a recent KFM radio talk show, Vincent Otti pointed out that the only thing preventing him from being physically present in JUBA was the ICC’s indictment. He emphasised that as long as the ICC’s indictment remained valid, he would remain in hiding. Meanwhile, the people in northern Uganda have voiced their forgiveness to the entire LRA for the sake of peace in their region.
Otti admitted that he has done his fair share of wrong, and said in public that he is willing to go through the traditional conflict resolution court of the Acholi - the MOTOPUT - and ask for forgiveness if found guilty of any act.
According to Robert Kabushenga, the government is waiting for five major LRA commanders to submit proof that they will cease and desist from engaging in a destructive civil war. What makes Vincent Otti and the other four major commanders of the LRA nervous is what happened to Charles Taylor. Olusegun Obasanjo betrayed Taylor, and now that act of betrayal is indirectly affecting the Juba Peace Talks
The second issue discussed at the meeting was the role of women in the peace negotiations in Juba. It is clear that women play a great role in our societies as our mothers, and face many challenges in times of war or conflict. Therefore they should play a great role in peace making and building in this process. Women have made serious contributions in resolving conflicts in Africa and the world. The Honourable Betty Bigombe is one example of a woman who has attempted to resolve the civil war in northern Uganda.
There were continuous cautions against the presence of spoilers in the Juba Peace Initiatives, and the participants requested the chairperson of the government team to deal with them accordingly. Some of these spoilers are local people, but others from the international community. I am referring to people who pretend to love the country and the people of northern Uganda, but go behind our backs to support acts of violence.
The second meeting I attended was on Women and Conflict. This meeting brought together representatives from Women Organizations (UWONET, ISISWICCE), women refugees from Kampala, students and PADEAP partners like the Jesuit Refugee
Society, to discuss the role of women in conflict resolution.
The major issue here was the involvement of women in peace making and building. Women refugees requested that women’s groups like the UWONET, ISIS WICCE, AKINA MAMA W’AFRICA and others support them to handle better the role of peace building in their own communities.
The core of the discussion revolved around the issue of peace in the region. Participants were enthusiastic and encouraged each other to be committed to peace. I quote Bishop Baker Ochola, the Treasurer of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative:
“…Government of Uganda wants peace, the LRA wants peace, the CSOs want peace, the international community wants peace, and all stakeholders want peace. And this peace shall prevail in northern Uganda, in the whole Uganda, the Great Lakes Region, on the continent and the world at large”.
The two parties in the JUBA negotiations were commended for signing the Declaration for Cessation of Hostilities on 26th August 2006, and were given an assurance that they would receive full support in their endeavours to search for peace. The UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, Ian Eageland, also added his voice recently in support for these negotiations. He requested the Security Council to offer their full support to the JUBA Peace Talks in order to save this region from the cruel acts of war that have been going on for the past 20 years.
So far, both the government and the LRA have adhered to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. It is in that spirit that I add my voice to the call for peace, and I urge all peace lovers to join the Civil Society fraternity in their struggle for peace in northern Uganda. It through peace that socio-economic development can be attained in Uganda.
• Mohammed T. Yusuf is a researcher with the Centre for Democratic Research and a Political Assistant for the Pan African Movement Secretariat Kampala.
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