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14th April 2004 No 48
Items in this issue
1. KM Secretariat editorial: President Museveni ‘ready to talk to LRA’ - A genuine commitment is needed
2. IRIN: Museveni offers to negotiate with LRA rebels
3. UN Security Council: Secretary-General urges Uganda rebels to respond positively to President’s call for dialogue
4. The Monitor: Museveni uses war to keep in power – report
5. The New Vision: Talk peace I insist – Bishop Ochola
6. Mega FM local news
7. Useful links
President Yoweri Museveni’s recent offer to engage in peace talks with the LRA is a welcome development as it comes after several weeks of intensified military engagements. It is now essential that these intensions are translated into actions and concrete steps to create an environment in which meaningful peace dialogue can take place.
This positive move needs to recognise and address the problems which undermined previous efforts at peace talks, and more importantly there should be a sincere and whole-hearted commitment to dialogue instead of the military option. It is worth noting that previous efforts to establish contacts and links between the Presidential Peace Team and the LRA in late 2002 and early 2003 were unsuccessful because of a lack of trust, negligible preparation of the ground for dialogue, failures of declared ceasefires and the limitations of a ‘peace contact area’ within only three sub-counties. If this most recent declaration in support of peace talks is to be successful, important lessons must be drawn and learned from these previous unsuccessful efforts.
Crucially there must be concerted efforts at building trust among all parties and creating a conducive environment as pre-requisites to dialogue on the key issues. Without this, it will not be possible for a cease-fire to hold or violence against civilians to cease, so that meaningful peace talks can take place. Having made this statement, the government should now embark on the initial trust building steps; and the LRA must reciprocate by making a similar declaration of their willingness to talk peace. They must also scale down their own activities, particularly those resulting in violence against civilians. While the establishment of ‘demilitarised areas’ similar to those in Lapul and other sub-counties in 2002 and 2003 might be a good starting point, the government needs to recognise the fears and concerns of LRA leaders about the demands for them to assemble in defined areas. There is therefore need for creativity and flexibility in identifying and implementing confidence building gestures; and a willingness to explore other possibilities if things do not initially work out.
A vital plank in trust and confidence-building is the Amnesty Act which has enabled hundreds of former LRA, UNRF, WNBF and ADF to successfully reintegrate into to civilian life. The extension of the amnesty is therefore once again welcome. However, the proposal to amend the Act to exclude rebel leaders is extremely discouraging and is likely to undermine the prospects for peace talks which the President has declared he is now willing to engage in. The government should therefore reconsider this amendment as it will deal a mortal blow to the Act, which is needed to underpin a future peace and reconciliation process.
In all conflicts situations, questions and disagreements over ‘who jumps first’ on the path to peace talks have usually been major obstacles to the initiation of dialogue. The government now needs to back up the president’s declaration by demonstrating that this is indeed a ‘leap’ towards genuine dialogue. The LRA must also make an unequivocal commitment to dialogue, recognising that there will be other issues in the peace process on which they will have to ‘jump first’. It is also essential that the government and the LRA enter into talks without pre-conditions. Concerns cannot be addressed if there is no dialogue. There must also be a realisation that peace dialogue is essentially a ‘give and take’, where ‘no one gets everything but everyone gets something’.
Is this the dawn of peace? There is a long way to go and many challenges to surmount; only time will tell! The long suffering people of Northern and Eastern Uganda are desperate for the restoration of peace, but for now they can only dream that this is indeed an important step towards the realisation of lasting peace. It is for the Government and the LRA to make their dreams come true!
President Yoweri Museveni
on Thursday repeated an offer to negotiate with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
rebels who are fighting his government in the north, but warned at the same
time that military strikes against them would continue.
The 18-year conflict has had devastating consequences for innocent civilians, particularly children, and all efforts must now be made to ensure a rapid and definitive end to the violence in the area. The Secretary-General calls on the LRA to refrain from any further acts of violence against civilians and to respond positively to President Museveni’s call for dialogue. He urges all those with influence over the LRA to encourage it to enter into a dialogue with the Government, for the sake of peace.
The Secretary-General also calls upon the international community to continue to support efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to affected civilians.
“Indeed, the war helps him justify and maintain the status quo in Ugandan politics, denying his opposition a power base and offering numerous opportunities for curtailing freedom of _expression and association in the name of “the war against terrorism.”
Although the report calls for the use of both a military and negotiated settlement to the war, it raises questions about the ability of the UPDF to finish the war. “A purely military solution could conceivably deal with the immediate rebellion, but would make solving the north-south divide even more unlikely.”
It adds: “The army’s operational deficiencies in any event make such a solution unlikely.”
Speaking about the north-south divide in the country due to the war in the north, the ICG warns that as long as the situation in the north is dominated by security matters, the “monopolisation of power and wealth by Southerners is not put into question”.
The ICG recommends that in order to end the war, “the Khartoum government, the LRA’s only known external supporter, should also be drawn into a negotiating strategy.”
It says that the international community has been central to the conflict and will be central to achieving a solution. “The government needs to be attentive to advice of donors, from whom it receives approximately half its budget,” the report counsels.
ICG says that the US government must put pressure on Sudan to stop support to LRA. It also wants donors to condition all military assistance to Uganda on security sector reform, especially with respect to corruption and human rights. It wants the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes committed by any party in the conflict and urges the LRA to accept a cease-fire.
The ICG report breaks from similar reports about the war in the north and highlights the need to address the grievances of the Acholi. It says: “Another major element of any successful strategy will have to be a genuine effort to address northerners’ grievances.
“The Acholi must be made to feel more a part of Ugandan society. The NRM simply has not unified the country after the turmoil created by colonial policies if ethnic division and decades of armed conflict.
“It is in the interest of Acholi leaders to develop mechanisms for articulating the views of their people, and it is in the interest of Museveni and the NRM to promote the emergence of effective and credible Acholi leaders.”
However, a State House spokesman yesterday criticised the report sharply. Mr Onapito Ekomoloit, the acting presidential press secretary, described it as “ridiculous and the work of research tourists”.
Defending Museveni, Ekomoloit said: “It is an insult to think that a person who has suffered, who has lived in tents would try to manipulate the war to stay in power. That is not fair.”
Army spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza also dismissed claims in the report that the army was unable to finish off the conflict. “If it was impossible, actually, Kony would have cut off the whole of the north,” he said. “The Ministry of Defence has deficiencies but there are also deficiencies in Education, in the Pentagon, in the coalition forces in Iraq and even in the church.”
Bantariza said the military solution is meant to rescue abductees from the LRA, recover guns and kill its leadership – and that the army had achieved on all three fronts.
As part of its recommendations, the report advises government to expand current investigations into army corruption and prosecute “publicly, independently and transparently” all those with cases to answer.
The ICG is an independent, non-profit, multinational organisation operating on five continents.
It is chaired by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and run by former Australian Foreign minister Gareth Evans.
For the full report click on the link below:
Question: Do you still hold the view of peace talks?
Answer: One of the things that we want the world to know is that war does not solve problems, so dialogue is the only solution.
War kills and destroys lives. Whether those dying are soldiers, rebels or civilians, they are our children. God's way is non-violence and peaceful dialogue. That is why great people like Lord Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace, Ghandi of India, Martin Luther King JR, and of course Nelson Mandela, and many others who are like them, deliberately chose the way of God - not because they are cowards but because they know that war does not solve problems.
As Acholi religious leaders, you are opposed to recruitment of the local militias to fight the rebels? What is the point here?
These ethnic militias can create tribal sentiments because they are recruited at tribal level and their loyalty remains at tribal level. If you are an Acholi, your role is only to fight for the Acholi. The Amuka group has limited loyalty to Lango; the Arrow Group has limited loyalty to Teso, and the Frontier Guards have limited loyalty to Kitgum. If something goes wrong, those militias will turn against the civilians of the other ethnic groups. We have already seen this kind of scenario in other countries like Rwanda and the DRC. In Rwanda, the government promoted Hutu militias, and the result was that about a million people were killed on tribal basis (genocide). In the DRC, ethnic sentiments have been promoted between the Hema and Lendu. So the Lendu can now kill, and the Hema can do the same against the Lendu. So we don't want this kind of scenario to take place in Uganda. If people are not careful, it (militias) can bring genocide. So for us who are the voice of God, we must speak now.
Is the UPDF doing a good job to protect the population in the north?
It's a cardinal responsibility of the Government to protect the people. But the Government has failed on this role. Over 900,000 of Acholi are in 62 camps; over 450,000 people in Lango and over 450,000 in Teso are in camps. Is that what you call protection? Protection would mean you are not going to drive people to the camps, they are not going to be abducted.
Does that mean the Government is not doing anything to end the conflict?
Let us appreciate the fact that there is inability of the Government to protect the people. What the Government does is to promote the war, saying we have killed so many rebels. That is not something useful at all. Those dying in the army are our children. The rebels are also our children, the same with civilians dying in the villages. Why should we continue killing ourselves? The positive thing the Government has done was the appointment of the Presidential Peace Team in 2002, and the Amnesty Commission. Those are very positive things on the side of Government. Why can't they continue with those? Last time Parliament passed a motion declaring northern Uganda a disaster area and the diplomatic missions supported it. That was also very positive. But the government turned against Parliament by failing to declare northern Uganda a disaster area. What is the reason behind that? Our stand is that our people in northern Uganda are living in disastrous conditions. Why can't the Government listen to the voices of reason coming from we the religious leaders, civil society, Parliament and the international community? Massive displacement is a disaster, wanton killing is a disaster, over 30,000 children abducted is a disaster, and disparity in education and health is a disaster. Why can't government see this?
But President Yoweri Museveni seems to be doing well by pitching camp in the north to oversee the war against rebels.
I don't think that is the right thing for the President to do. He would do better by finding a peaceful solution than promoting the war. He has been to Gulu so many times, he has been to Soroti many times, but the war is still there.
What role can the international community play towards the northern peace process?
The international community has already given their support by supporting the parliamentary motion declaring northern Uganda a disaster area. The British government and the European Union have already supported this motion. So, it is upon the President to use his constitutional powers to declare the north a disaster area.
You the religious leaders have always tried but in vain to mediate peace talks with the rebels. Do you think Joseph Kony will ever accept dialogue?
Our role is not to mediate. We are only serving as a bridge to build the level of trust and confidence on both sides so that they are able to face each other and talk. Pressure must be put on both the Government and the LRA to stop fighting and talk peace.
But Bishop, do you think the rebels are willing to sit at a round table?
We cannot be judgmental to say they don't want to talk. Let someone come between the Government and the LRA to say ‘why are you fighting?' Now that the world wants this problem to be solved by peaceful means, let us see if the LRA are rejecting it. Let the Government and LRA tell us why they don't want to talk.
And who can do that?
There are people who are doing mediation. The world can ask the British government, Sudan, other governments or any NGO like St. Egidio of Italy to mediate. For a long time Sudan has been accused of aiding Kony rebels. Do you think president Bashir is now sincere to wash his hands clean of Kony? I can't tell because I don't know what Bashir is thinking. But the fact is that the LRA are still in Sudan and in northern Uganda. As for the peaceful dialogue in Southern Sudan (between SPLA and Sudanese government), we have to thank the American government and other governments that are supporting that. And we want to see that what is happening (peace talks) in southern Sudan is also happening in northern Uganda so that we solve both problems by peaceful means.
In 2002, Sudan allowed the UPDF to pursue Kony rebels inside Sudan. Do you think Operation Iron Fist has achieved anything?
That is not solving the problem. It is promoting the war, which is against society and humanity... In 2002, we told the Government that going to Sudan was not going to solve any problem and you have seen what has happened-so many people have been killed.
Let us move away from politics and talk about the recent furore that peasants do not matter in national decision-making...
You know, nobody is worthless-whether you are a peasant, politician or a teacher. And every one of us has a role to play in the development of our country. The peasants are being manipulated, which is very bad. Peasants are our parents. They are the ones feeding us.
How are peasants being manipulated?
Those who want to change the Constitution are the ones who want to manipulate the peasants. The peasants have already spoken through the Constitution, which was made with their consent and they have never come up to say change the Constitution.
Anything you make of the third-term debate?
There is no need for the Constitution to be changed. The two-term limit is good for the country because there are so many children in Uganda who also want to become presidents. I think the idea of changing the Constitution is not far from the one of Idi Amin to be life president. That is not good because you cannot be good all the time. There is no monopoly of wisdom. Because society is dynamic, new leaders will always come up. To say that only one man is good is unacceptable. Leadership must not be like stagnant water. It should come and go so that other people also play their role. In other words, the two-term limit provides opportunity for Ugandans to change leadership peacefully. The opposition should be given the opportunity as provided in the Constitution, the opportunity given to them by God. The competition must be fair and just. Uganda has the opportunity to change leadership peacefully and everybody should respect that.
Finally, what is your view on the on-going dialogue between the Movement government and the multipartyists?
The dialogue is healthy, but they need to be sincere. The ground should be levelled and opportunity given to every son or daughter of Uganda who wants to become president. Political parties must be given the chance to prove why and how they can do better than the others.
Any other thing you want to add?
The beauty of Uganda depends on the unity of the people of Uganda, despite their cultural and political diversity. So people must unite, love one another, forgive and co-exist.
The Lango Community in Kotido yesterday donated food and non-food items to victims of LRA rebel atrocities who are undergoing treatment at Lira Hospital.
The items, which included beans, posho, sugar and soap, were handed over to 21 victims at the hospital by the Vice Chairperson of the organization, Geoffrey Ochieng.
Ochieng conveyed the community’s condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives to the rebels and urged the survivors to turn to God for strength.
He also promised more assistance in a week’s time.
Rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army over the weekend attacked Kolididi Refugee camp in Adjumani and abducted several people, a district official has said.
Owen Mondia, the district Secretary for Defence, told Mega FM that most of the abductees were later rescued, except one young girl who was still reported to be missing.
Mondia said the rebel, who had abducted the refugees to carry their loot, were intercepted by the Army.
Over 20,000 people in Pakelle sub-county in Adjumani district have been displaced following recent LRA attacks.
Adjumani Secretary for Defense, Owen Mondia, who is also the district Vice Chairman, revealed this to Mega FM today.
Mondia described the situation as pathetic, and called on the government and NGOs to address it urgently.
He said since the people were displaced three weeks ago they have not yet received any relief food.
The Vice-Chairman said many of them were camping in front of the offices of the World Food Programme while others are living with relatives as no camps have been set up for them.
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