In-depth: Living with the LRA: The Juba Peace Initiative

UGANDA-SUDAN: Behind the conflict

LRA fighters on guard duty at Ri-Kwangba near the Sudan-Democratic Republic of Congo border
RI-KWANGBA, 1 June 2007 (IRIN) - The Lord’s Resistance Army is a small, shadowy rebel movement, dismissed as brutal and cultish. Yet its impact has been enormous. According to one international observer in Uganda, the LRA has had a bigger impact on aid and policy than the donors. It directly affects three countries, Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the past decade, two million people have been displaced, an estimated 20,000 children abducted or killed, and millions of dollars have been spent by the international community to support ‘protected’ camps in northern Uganda.

Hope now lies with the internationally sponsored Juba Peace Initiative, mediated by Southern Sudanese Vice-President Riek Machar, in ending the 20-year conflict and resettling the displaced. Since August 2006, international mediators have managed to establish a cessation of hostilities and bring both sides to the table to talk. But it is a precarious process. Very little is known about the movement, or its demands. "The challenge is to find the LRA an exit strategy," said a participant at the peace talks.

''The challenge is to find the LRA an exit strategy''
Its ideology is vague. The LRA wants to remove President Yoweri Museveni’s regime, and establish a system based on the Ten Commandments. But its political roots are more clear, grounded in the marginalisation of northern Uganda, where international human rights groups have recorded abuses by both the government and rebels.

The LRA is one of the movements that materialised after Museveni took over in 1986, when loss of political power in the north went hand in hand with violence. Northern Uganda – homeland of former presidents Amin, Obote and Okello – was seen by the new regime as an arena of rebellion. Former soldiers became a target of state repression and a vehicle for retaliation and resistance. Many former soldiers turned to violence and theft for survival, and became a burden to the northern communities. Critics of Museveni say a strategy was put in place that perpetuated low-level conflict for more than two decades. Neglect and repression kept the north divided and marginalised, critics say, so that it remained politically weak and underdeveloped.


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
Children pose for a photo on a hill overlooking Omiya-Anyima IDP camp in Kitgum District. The LRA has abducted thousands of children to either fight in their ranks or serve as 'wives' to rebel commanders
As a result, despite the considerable brutality of the LRA against its own communities, it has some tacit sympathy from people who feel a common cause as marginalised northerners. This ambiguity in the targeted population has been exacerbated over the years by the failure of the central government to find a political or military solution to the 20-year conflict.

"We had a government in Uganda that was so embraced when it came into power by the West [that] the conflict in the north was a blemish that many people didn’t want to talk about. In that silence, the conflict escalated and became a real humanitarian disaster," explained Professor Morris Ogenga-Latigo, MP Agago County, northern Uganda.


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Lead Feature

Introduction

Living with the Lord’s Resistance Army

Multimedia

 Singing for peace
 A long walk to school
 Should we stay, or go home?
 IRIN Radio: SUDAN: LRA brings fear to Nimule
 IRIN Radio: SUDAN: People of Maridi fear the LRA may yet return
Film

 Picking up the Pieces (22:28 min)
 IRIN Video: see the LRA in Ri-Kwangba (01:00 min)
Reports

UGANDA: Nightmares spoil the dreams of returnees
07/Nov/2007

UGANDA: Boom time in Gulu
16/Oct/2007

PlusNews In-Depth
In the wake of the LRA: HIV in Uganda and Sudan

27/Aug/2007

UGANDA: Displaced families in two minds over return home
09/Aug/2007

UGANDA: Penal code to incorporate traditional justice system
05/Jul/2007

SUDAN-UGANDA: Leave us in peace, Maridi residents tell LRA
21/Jun/2007

SUDAN-UGANDA: Equatoria - reluctant host for the LRA
13/Jun/2007
Photogallery

 IDPs in Northern Uganda
Features

A leadership based on claims of divine revelations

Ri-Kwangba: meeting point

The LRA and Sudan

Peace talks, pencils and helicopters
Frontlines

"The Acholi were provoked" - Prof Morris Ogenga Latigo

Civil society a 'bridge' to the LRA
Interviews

Interview with Vincent Otti, LRA second in command

Interview with David Gressly, UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator

Interview with Dr Riek Machar, chief mediator of the Juba peace initiative
Uganda diaries

"ordinary people, extraordinary lives"



Links and References

The International Criminal Court
International Crisis Group
Human Rights Watch
Documentary: The Shadows of Peace: Life after the LRA - September 2006
(14:48 min)
IRIN archives
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