Leaders question Chissano's anti-LRA proposal

Joachim Chissano, the UN special envoy for LRA-affected areas with the Gulu district leader, Norbert Mao, at Gulu airport on 17 August 2008. Chissano was in northern Uganda to meet leaders from conflict affected areas in northern Uganda, the internally di
(Charles Akena/IRIN)

While the Ugandan government supports the recommendation by Joachim Chissano, the outgoing UN envoy for areas affected by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), to use military as well as peaceful means to deal with the rebels, several leaders in northern Uganda have opposed the proposal, saying the military option would destabilise the region further.

"Peace-loving Ugandans and I have always opposed the military option in ending this rebellion," John Baptist Odama, the bishop of the Gulu Archdiocese, told IRIN. "We do not have the confidence that any military action will bring security to the region but will instead only further destabilize the relative calm which is being experienced."

Several other local, religious and cultural leaders from the region echoed Odama's sentiments.

In his last briefing to the Security Council on 15 July, the former Mozambican president said there was a need for a two–pronged strategy - pursuing negotiations as well as military action - against the LRA, which has terrorised northern Uganda for more than two decades.

Chissano told the Council that LRA leader Joseph Kony had given the impression of little interest in the peace process and suggested that opportunities for peaceful re-engagement with the LRA and military action should be pursued simultaneously.

However, several leaders from the region that suffered massive displacement and atrocities at the hands of LRA rebels criticised Chissano, saying military action would endanger the lives of children and women abducted by the LRA.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted Kony and his top commanders for 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual enslavement, mutilations and abductions.

[Uganda] Joseph Kony, leader of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). [Date picture taken: May 2006]

The US has called on Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA, to sign and adhere to the Final Peace Agreement (FPA)
The Daily Monitor
[Uganda] Joseph Kony, leader of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). [Date picture taken: May 2006]...
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
US accuses LRA of abuses, calls for a quick peaceful solution
[Uganda] Joseph Kony, leader of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). [Date picture taken: May 2006]...

Photo: The Daily Monitor
LRA leader Joseph Kony

Support for jaw-jaw

Odama said: "We would like to express our gratitude for the service which [Chissano] and his team have provided since being appointed in 2006. We thank him for his multiple consultations and engagement with the people in the region. I respect Chissano’s final recommendations… However, I have great concern regarding his statement that, opportunities for peaceful re-engagement with the LRA should be pursued alongside military action."

Betty Aol Achan, the Gulu Member of Parliament, said: “Chissano is just cornered. It’s not his opinion. They have used the military option for the last 20 years and they have not achieved anything. Dialogue is the only option to end this rebellion.”

Peter Odok Ochieng, the Pader district chairperson, said the military option had in the past failed to pressure the LRA into signing a peace agreement and had also not resulted in the capture or killing of Kony.

"Instead, we witnessed the killings of over 1,000 Congolese civilians [during a joint military operation in late 2008], several hundred more abducted, over 70,000 displaced as a result, and all communication cut off with the LRA," Ochieng said.

In a statement issued on 22 July, the Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative (ALPI) said it was opposed to the military option.

"Time and again, the military option has failed and the civilian population has been left to suffer," the statement read. "We therefore plead with all stakeholders to act with patience and creatively pursue non-violent mechanisms to bring an end to the affliction of the people throughout the region."

The acting director of Institute for Peace and Strategic studies, Gulu University, Daniel Komakech, said the threat of violence brought into question the legitimacy of intentions of resolving the conflict "and therefore is not conducive to sustainable peace. Instead, conflicting parties must enter into an agreement voluntarily with a commitment to the rebuilding of relationships.”


Some of the LRA soldiers sit outside, Sudan, April 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Thousands flee LRA attacks on northeastern villages
Some of the LRA soldiers sit outside, Sudan, April 2007

Photo: Voxcom/IRIN
LRA fighters: Leaders in northern Uganda say pursuing military means to end the LRA's rebellion would destabilise the region (file photo)

In favour of war-war

However, the Ugandan government and some leaders in the region supported Chissano's recommendation.

"We fully support Chissano’s position and recommendations to the Security Council," said Henry Okello Oryem, the acting leader of the stalled Juba peace talks.

Oryem, the state minister for foreign affairs/international relations, said: "He [Chissano] made the right judgment as he has been in the peace process since 2006. Ugandans should applaud and give him an accolade. It is the military option that forced Kony to run to Congo. It’s the military pressure that forced him to negotiations with government in Juba. We shall continue to use the [military] option."

Christopher Ojera, the Pabbo Local Council Three chairperson in Amuru district, said: “Kony only understands fire. It is only military option that can end this rebellion. The government wasted a lot of time and resources to engage LRA in peace talks in Juba.”

Uganda’s ambassador to the UN, Ruhakana Rugunda, has called on the LRA to “come and seize the opportunity still there and sign the final peace agreement".


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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