Saturday, January 12, 2013

The international community should consider LRA peace talks

In December 2003, the government of Uganda, a state party to the International Criminal Court (ICC), referred the situation concerning the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) of murder, rape, violence and crimes against humanity to the Prosecutor of ICC. The prosecutor opened investigations into this matter in 2004 and issued an international arrest warrants for five leaders of LRA alleging crimes against humanity. Kony is still on the run and has been the biggest war criminal talked about in 2012. He was particularly made popular by the Invisible Children movie KONY 2012. This movie was viewed over 93 million times on YouTube and an estimated 4 million people reportedly pledged their support for efforts to arrest Kony and bring him to justice. Many including the first prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo believed by the end of 2012, the LRA leader would have been captured. However, more than a year since the US President Barack Obama deployed US Special Forces to support local troops in the region to arrest Kony, the notorious rebel leader is still on the run. Analysts say the challenge with arresting Kony and his LRA group is the nature of their operation; they move in dense jungle areas where neither Uganda’s UPDF nor African Union soldiers can dare. UPDF spokesman Col. Felix Kulayigye once admitted difficulty in isolating the LRA leader. He noted that the presence of other militias and cattle keepers in the jungles of DRC and Central Africa Republic made it difficult to pursue Kony. A re-known Political Science Professor and researcher at San Diego State University, Adam Branch, in one of his publications noted that the ICC intervention would make the war more difficult to resolve. The ICC warrants of arrest have in fact removed the LRA incentives to leave the bush, which have made peace talks difficult. In 2009 for example, the signing of the Final Peace Agreement between the government of Uganda and the LRA stalled, with the LRA citing the arrest warrants issued by the ICC as the main obstacle. ICC’s main focus is to investigate and punish those guilty of grave violation of human rights and crimes against humanity. In the case of Uganda, it became evident that the Amnesty Act 2000 would not work when ICC issued arrest warrants for the leaders of the LRA and the government of Uganda amended the Amnesty Act to exclude the leaders of the LRA. The Amnesty Act had granted a general amnesty to the LRA, including its top leaders in a bid to encourage them to abandon rebel activities and return to normal life. A dilemma for the International Community is perhaps whether peace or justice should reign first. In my opinion, Peace and Justice should be inseparable. However, the meaning of justice needs to be broadened. Retributive justice is not the only concept of justice. The choice of justice at the national level should be prioritised with the choice of justice of the victims or those who have experienced violation. Indeed, the Acholi people of northern Uganda who were the first victims of the LRA have widely spoken about their traditional justice of “MatoOput” which some people believe would have derailed the LRA from fighting and ensured long lasting peace in the region. With the failure of the International Community to arrest Kony and LRA’s continued violence in Congo and Central Africa Republic, it can be argued that ICC work has caused further militarisation of the LRA and violence and has derailed peace in the region. The International Community should explore the Peace Talk option with LRA even though it appears impossible. By Alex Okello Ouma Posted Thursday, January 10 2013 at 02:00. Daily monitor