Ceasefire for Uganda? If so, Hallelujah!

I just heard from a friend in Europe that the Ugandan government and the LRA have agreed to a ceasefire in their long-running armed conflict in northern Uganda.
Thus far, the government had been refusing to commit to a ceasefire, perhpas hoping to be able to impose even greater military pressure on the LRA. The leaders and most of the remaining fighters of the LRA have been holed up in the bush on the South Sudan-DRC border, but last week one LRA leader ventured into Uganda, was caught in a firefight with the army there, and was reportedly killed.
Anyway, I just checked with the Kampala Daily Monitor, and they confirm the story. Writing with a ‘mixed’ dateline from Juba in S. Sudan (where the LRA-government peace talks have been going on), in the north Ugandan capital of Gulu, and the national capital Kampala, a team of DM reporters writes:

    JUBA was gripped with excitement last night when word came through that the government in Kampala has finally agreed to a cessation of hostilities with the LRA rebels.
    Sources inside the talks said the LRA delegation was pleased when the contents of an e-mail from President Yoweri Museveni to his South Sudan counterpart Riek Machar were communicated to them last evening.
    “They found that the new conditions from the President were not so stringent and agreed unanimously,” said a government delegate. “We therefore expect to announce a bilateral ceasefire simultaneously in Juba and Kampala tomorrow (Friday) at 10.00 am.
    Meanwhile the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels have demanded more cabinet portfolios for the northern and eastern regions…

If this ceasefire takes hold and the peace process then accelerates towards a sustainable peace agreement, that will be fantastic news for the peoples of northern Uganda, some 85 percent of whom have spent many years now confined by law in encampments described variously as “IDP camps” or “strategic hamlets”.
Anyway, it looks as though the LRA– which has committed some terrible atrocities against (especially) the people of northern Uganda– is now looking to discuss the political dimesntions of a peace settlement. Civilian leaders of the Acholi community there have, of course, been seeking politically inclusive reform measures for a long time now.
Please, let’s all hope and pray that this works out.
… Interestingly, if it does do so, this will also give a significant political boost to Dr. Riek Machar, the President of Southern Sudan who has convened and hosted the talks, and this in turn could lead to a new model of state and sub-state politics emerging in this part of Central Africa. Not altogether a bad possibility, given that the existing “international” borders there are all nearly completely dysfunctional, having been drawn up by European potentates in 1885 to satisfy their own balance-of-power and imperial interests, rather than the needs of the indigenous African communities concerned…
But that’s for the future. For now, remembering my recent visit to some people in the Inyama IDP camp and to others affected badly by the conflict in Gulu and Kampala, I’m just focusing on hoping that an intra-Ugandan peace agreement can be concluded. And quickly. (I think the farmers in the Inyama camp have already missed out on the current growing season in their lands– which surround and in many cases are easily visible from the sordid huts within the camp.)

4 thoughts on “Ceasefire for Uganda? If so, Hallelujah!

  1. Patrick S. O'Donnell

    Dear Helena,
    Over at Opinio Juris, Kevin Jon Heller posted the following interesting item:
    ‘In what is being billed as the first agreement of its kind, the LRA has pledged to protect rare wildlife in a remote park it occupies in eastern Congo, including rare pygmy giraffe and what are thought to be the last four northern white rhinos in the wild:
    In an apparent bid to burnish their brutal reputation, the Lord’s Resistance Army vowed to assist efforts to conserve endangered species in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Garamba National Park, where rebel leaders are holed up.
    Under an unusual agreement inked on the sidelines of peace talks in southern Sudan, the LRA promised to protect the rhinos as well an estimated 40 rare pygmy giraffes and an unknown number of threatened okapis.
    “The statistics we were shown were devastating and shocked us, and so we have given a tacit commitment that we will do whatever possible to live in harmony with the animals,” said Martin Ojul, head of the LRA delegation to the talks.
    “We will act as their curators and do everything possible to see that they are not harmed for posterity,” he told AFP.
    In addition to protecting the wildlife, the agreement includes assurances from LRA supremo Joseph Kony, who has been hiding in Garamba just over the DRC’s eastern border with Sudan for months, that his fighters would not attack game wardens.
    “We wish to assure the rangers in Garamba Park that, provided they properly identify themselves and not attack us, we undertake to fully cooperate with them,” says the pact, which was signed by Ojul on Sunday with Kony’s authority.
    There is no question that the LRA’s motives in signing the agreement are far from selfless; as the article notes, the LRA believes the agreement will help convince the international community that the numerous allegations against it are untrue. And there is no guarantee that the LRA will honor its agreement.
    Even if it doesn’t, though, the agreement is an important reminder that human conflict harms more than just humans.’
    In the comments section, I noted how, despite his reputation for brutality and unremittant violence against his enemies, King Ashoka eventually had a change of heart, evidencing a concern for both human and non-human animals in a way that was unprecedented for his time. I don’t say the cases are identical or even similar, just that it goes to show that people are often not beyond redemption, and perhaps it behooves us not to speculate about their motives but allow their actions to speak for themselves.

  2. Owor Arthur

    Just been trying to follow the peace process in Juba. I am happy that government has agreed to a ceasefire but this is just a component of the wider talks. It seems to me that Kony is beiong used by a few individuals to foster their personal interests. Such demands as more representation for the East and North in Parliament seem to be smuggled by a collection of individuals pushing their interests.I have been shocked by few comments regarding the Northern Uganda insurgency as opposed to developments in the Middle East and Southern Sudan (Darfur Region). I think this conflict has been availed the attention and publicity it so deserves. Secondly, it is vital that initiatives like that of Helena visiting Gulu should be encouraged to get a balanced picture. I am happy to have executed this exercise with Helena while she was down here in Gulu.

  3. Owor Arthur

    Just to correct the record, Kony has asked for more ministers from the North and East. I also meant he is being used by a few individuals. There was a spelling error.

  4. Helena

    Hey, Arthur, it’s great to have you contributing to the comments here! It would also be good to have any comments you have over at the other (group) blog where I posted this yesterday, with more material from my trip to Gulu (and also, Ocampo.)
    I know you’d talked about starting your own blog, from Gulu/Kampala. Do let me know how that goes. But if you want to do something easier than that, maybe you could send me by email some occasional updates/reflections from Gulu/Kampala and I could post them here on JWN.
    Either way, it would be good if you could put in some basic HTML coding especially to any online sources that you’re linking to…
    Anyway, I’ll try to call you soon about this… though this week I am really, really busy.
    Be well!

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