ARLPI Response to the White House Strategy to Support the Disarmament of the Lord’s Resistance Army
On Wednesday November 24th the White House released their plan for the implementation of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009. This plan has been long awaited by the communities affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), NGOs, CSOs, and regional governments. While promoting and supporting several essential items such as reintegration and enhanced telecommunication systems in remote areas, the implementation plan fails to support initiatives for negotiations, concerns about the UPDF, and the root causes of the conflict.
The Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), as an organization that promotes non-violence, has been continuously advocating for a negotiated solution to the LRA conflict to be included in the implementation plan. As witnesses to the atrocities committed on the people of Northern Uganda, and the larger great lakes region, ARLPI has seen the outcomes of both military and negotiated attempts at solutions – negotiations resulted in a fragile peace, while military operations have only resulted in the spreading of conflict and further civilian suffering. ARLPI appreciates the recognition that “there is no purely military solution to the LRA threat and impact” (pg.9). However, an unstated faulty assumption in the plan is that there is also no purely diplomatic solution. ARLPI believes that a negotiated solution is the only way to reach a sustainable peace in the region. In this we were greatly disappointed with the implementation plan as it includes no objectives and allocates no resources supporting the resumption of peace talks.
It appears that the majority of resources allocated within the implementation plan will be going to much needed humanitarian support, DDR programmes, and reconciliation and reconstruction projects. A limited amount of the implementation resources will most likely be going to military operations, none of which is likely to include American boots on the ground. Therefore, the likely result is that any military operation will continue to drag on, endangering many lives, with little success. Furthermore, the implementation plan fails to address the multiple issues that have arisen regarding the UPDF’s lack of mandate in surrounding countries and their inability to work cooperatively with other regional armies (pg.13). This failure could have devastating results for the civilian population, who often lives most vividly with the devastating consequences of the regional armies’ inability to protect. Always in a war situation, many doors are opened to violations of Human Rights.
Though the LRA leadership is clearly responsible for mass atrocities the people of northern Uganda have advocated for amnesty for all; they have not distinguished between leaders and followers, children and adults, abductees and volunteers. The people of northern Uganda have demonstrated again and again through their support of the Amnesty Act and the ways in which they have welcomed LRA abductee’s home that their preference is restorative justice, truth telling, compensation, and reconciliation - not extensive and expensive trials as recommended in Strategic Objective 2. The plan seeks to isolate the LRA leadership in order to end the conflict; however, the larger conflict is not likely to end simply by “apprehend[ing] or remov[ing] from the battlefield Joseph Kony and senior commanders” (pg12).
The implementation plan, while claiming to be comprehensive, fails to address the root causes of the conflict. Therefore, will likely result in further cycles of violence in the region.
ARLPI urges the American Government to act quickly in promoting humanitarian aid and in increasing the opportunities for LRA members to easily and safely defect as promised. However, with concern to any military action, ARLPI urges the government to act with great caution as the costs are high and to reconsider using diplomatic pressure to promote negotiations between the LRA and regional governments as a less expensive and less risky path to sustainable peace.
Happy and peaceful New Year
Kacel pi Kuc (Together for Peace).
+ Most Rev. John Baptist Odama
(Archbishop of Gulu) - Member ARLPI
Date: 31st December 2010
+ Rt. Rev. Johnson Gakumba II (Chairman ARLPI) Bishop Diocese of Northern Uganda)
Date: December 31st 2010
+ Rt. Rev. Macleod Baker Ochola II Johnson Gakumba (Retired Bishop Diocese of Kitgum)
* All Hajji Sheik Musa Khalil (the Khadi Acholi) - Vice Chairman ARLPI
+ Fr. Julius Orach (the Dean of Orthodox) - Member ARLPI
+ Rt. Rev. Benjamin Ojwang (Bishop of Kitgum Diocese) - Member ARLPI
+ Rt. Rev. Nelson Onono Onweng (The retired Bishop Diocese of Northern Uganda) - Member ARLPI
+ Rt. Rev. Sabino Odoki Ocan (now Bishop Diocese of Arua) - Member ARLPI