Recovery from Conflict?

SOURCE: Africa Focus
JUNE 24th, 2009
Washington, DC — "We applaud the commitment of the bill [in the U.S. Congress] to bring about stability and development in the region. However, we as the Acholi religious leaders whose primary concern is the preservation of human life, advocate for dialogue and other non-violent strategies to be employed so that long term sustainable peace may be realized. Let us learn from the past experiences where we have seen that violence only breeds more violence." - Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative

Like the Acholi religious leaders, many long-time analysts and advocates for peace in northern Uganda welcome action by the U.S.

Congress and non-governmental groups that are lobbying Congress this week for support for reconstruction in northern Uganda. But with few exceptions they are also very skeptical of proposals by Congress and the Enough Project for a new military initiative to end the conflict by targeting Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, who last November backed off from concluding a peace agreement negotiated over the previous two years.
Few would mourn the demise of Kony, acknowledged to be the perpetrator of forced recruitment of child soldiers and horrific crimes against civilians, including most recently against civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where his forces have sought sanctuary. But advocates of U.S. support for another Ugandan military assault, or for an unspecified U.S. military initiative with some combination of regional forces, seem naively optimistic that such action could "end" the conflict and unduly dismissive of the likely counterproductive consequences.

In the words of Uganda analyst Ronald Atkinson, who analyzed the recent U.S.-backed Ugandan military offensive "Operation Lightning Thunder" in Uganda's Independent ( earlier this month, "Any future incursion will almost certainly remain a poor risk and poor option, better left undone. The US government should have been a prime candidate to have advised Uganda that this was so. It is unfortunate that it did not. We can only hope that the new US administration will not be so reckless."

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a statement by the Washington-based Africa Faith and Justice Network, a participant in the coalition lobby effort for the bill, but an outspoken opponent of the military option; the full statement from the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative; an open letter from Resolve Uganda stressing the need for U.S. support for reconstruction; and additional references to recent analytical background material from the Enough Project, Conciliation Resources (London), Institute for Security Studies (Pretoria), and Ronald Atkinson's two-part series in the Independent.

Also of relevance, although references to Africa are very few, is the recent book by prominent Australian counterinsurgency analyst David Kilcullen, who has served as a top advisor to the U.S.

military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Drawing on his experiences in East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Kilcullen counsels against relying primarily on "enemy-centric" strategies that may kill enemies but have counterproductive side effects and reinforce neglect of diplomacy and population-centric civilian protection strategies.

See David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One. 2009.

The text of the act "Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009," (S. 1067) is available at

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Uganda and related background links, visit

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