LRA: ICC Warrants Biggest Obstacle to Peace

Speaking with Voice of America, a senior consultant to the LRA said that the International Criminal Court’s warrants against Joseph Kony and three other top LRA leadership are the rebel group’s biggest obstacle to successfully concluding the ongoing peace talks.

The International Criminal Court, or ICC, is a fledging organization charged with prosecuting violators of international law – including perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  It’s first-ever arrest warrants were issued two years ago against five LRA leaders, one of whom has since died.  Those warrants have played a pivotal role in the search for peace in northern Uganda.

Kony and other LRA leaders fear that if they surrender as terms of the peace deal, they will be prosecuted by the ICC.  Although the ICC’s mandate allows for local justice systems to supersede its own prosecutions, if those local mechanisms do not meet certain standards of justice the ICC reserves the right to step in.  So even if the warranted leaders are put through some sort of justice process in Uganda, whether formal or traditional, as long as the warrants are in place the ICC can step in at any time to prosecute them from The Hague.

LRA leadership maintains that it will not sign a peace agreement until the warrants are withdrawn, and the ICC prosecutor maintains that the warrants must remain in place.

Everyone lost someone

It’s said here in northern Uganda that everyone has lost someone to the war. I just stumbled upon this story from the BBC from May of this year. It has a great graphic of an actual village, highlighting the pervasiveness of the devastation there. And that village was chosen not because it was exceptional in its loss, but because it was average.

Story and graphic here.

LRA Leaders to Meet with President Museveni

For the first time since the beginning of the war in northern Uganda in 1986, leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army have agreed to meet with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. The historic meeting will begin tomorrow, November 1st, and will pave the way for the LRA to hold nationwide community consultations aimed at finding a strategy to achieve lasting peace.

The LRA’s reclusive leader, Joseph Kony, has refused to leave his base in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Garamba National Park until the the International Criminal Court drops its arrest warrants against him. In his place, the LRA’s chief negotiator will attend the meeting.

More at the BBC

Money for Peace Talks

According to a South African news site, a UN official has confirmed that the $7.7 million budget for the stalled peace talks between the LRA and the government of Uganda has been raised by international donors. This is a major step towards moving the peace talks forward.

However there remain major impediments to the talks recommencing. The LRA has made its continued involvement contingent on $800,000 to fund public consultations, only $600,000 of which has been raised. Moreover, with the recent news of infighting at the LRA base in DR Congo it is not known if or when the LRA will be prepared to continue the talks.

Stay tuned.

Three Senior LRA Commanders Surrender

Following a reported division in the ranks of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has been terrorizing northern Uganda for over 20 years, three senior LRA commanders trekked out of their base in the Democratic Republic of Congo to surrender.

The supposed split could be a major turning point in the decades old conflict, as reports put the force’s top commander, Joseph Kony, against his better educated second in command, Vincent Otti.  Such a split would leave the LRA militarily vulnerable and likely more reliant on the continuing peace talks, which have lately stalled around negotiations of money for various consultations.

The commanders’ surrender is the first hard evidence of such a split.  We’ll keep you posted with more information from Gulu.

Prince Charles to Visit northern Uganda?

According to China’s People’s Daily, Britain’s Prince Charles is scheduling a November visit to the war-torn north of Uganda.

Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, is preparing to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, a week-long summit including over 50 heads of state from the British commonwealth. The event will bring thousands of politicians, journalists, and tourists to Uganda in November, but residents of northern Uganda have felt neglected, a neglect that reaches back over 20 years to the beginning of a war that has been hidden for most of that time.

A visit from Prince Charles would bring a welcome international spotlight to the problems still plaguing the north.