MAY 31, 2010: If Acholi Religious Leaders Can Achieve Obama's Goal, So Be It

If Acholi Religious Leaders Can Achieve Obama's Goal, So Be It
SOURCE: The Monitor
By Moses Byaruhanga

Saturday Vision of May 29 led with a story about religious leaders in Acholi warning President Obama on LRA. This is in response to the American president signing into law the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act 2009 last week. The brain behind the Bill, Senator Russ Feingold , worked with others to have the Bill sail through with bi-partisan support.

In a statement after signing the Bill, President Obama urged the LRA to "disarm and surrender". He also said "the Lord's Resistance Army preys on civilians - killing, raping and mutilating the people of Central Africa; stealing and brutalising their children; and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

Its leadership, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has no agenda and no purpose other than its own survival, its actions are an affront to human dignity". Senator Feingold said, "I look forward to working with the administration to develop a plan to enhance the protection of civilians, to disarm Kony and the LRA, and to bring a lasting resolution to this conflict".

It is clear that the American administration is trying to help find an end to the LRA problem which now affects the region through disarmament. For Uganda, the UPDF working closely with people of northern Uganda, got rid of the LRA from in the country and southern Sudan.

Today Kony poses problems to DR Congo and the Central African Republic where he has continued his act of abducting and brutalising innocent civilians. Indeed there is need to bring an end to the LRA atrocities wherever they occur. Efforts to bring Kony to a round table seems to have been lost when he failed to sign the peace agreement following two years of talks in Juba.

But as they say, no hope is lost if any one can talk to Kony and ask him to disarm and surrender as President Obama said. But what if Kony does not accept to talk, disarm or surrender? The only other option would be to pursue him militarily while keeping a window for talks open. This brings me to the issue of religious leaders from Acholi who are reportedly writing to Obama to appeal to him not to use force to deal with Kony. No one is ruling out the fact that a peaceful resolution to the conflict can be reached by talking to the LRA.

However, we have in the past seen that Kony doesn't respect talks. If the religious leaders could achieve what the Act Obama signed intends to attain, through talks with the LRA, that is welcome. However, we cannot continue to gloss over the LRA by saying they should not be attacked while at the same time they continue to cause havoc to humanity.

The religious leaders reportedly said the military option was tried in the last two decades but failed to bring peace. This is opposition talk that it is the peace talks in Juba that brought peace being enjoyed in northern Uganda today. There can never be a better lie.

By the time Kony asked for talks in 2006, he was already in Garamba in DR Congo after the military had chased him from Uganda and south Sudan. That must be acknowledged. The Juba talks didn't contribute anything towards returning peace in northern Uganda. The government accepted the talks because it believed that through talks, Kony would release the children and other people he had captured.

Otherwise by the time of the talks, the north had already been pacified. It took long because of the complication of the insurgency. The NRA and later UPDF was not dealing with Kony and LRA alone. If that had been the case, the matter would have been settled much earlier. The matter was complicated by the Sudan regime that sponsored and gave sanctuary to the LRA in southern Sudan. Nevertheless, both parties had to be dealt with militarily to bring peace in the north.

Mr Byaruhanga is a special presidential assistant on political affairs