For 16 years, the Lord's Resistance Army's (LRA) war with the Ugandan government has been a vicious and squalid conflict.
Other wars plaguing the world feature mass rape, theft, kidnapping, revenge slayings and mass murder. Several haunt Uganda's neighborhood, including Sudan's Darfur conflict and the multiple wars within the Democratic Republic of Congo. They continue despite deployed U.N. peacekeepers.
The terrible pity of the Uganda-LRA war is that for almost four years international mediators, Christian religious groups and several African governments have encouraged and sponsored peace negotiations.
The peace negotiations produced a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, but failed to produce peace. Though the LRA no longer actively savages northern Uganda (its home territory), prolonged counterinsurgency warfare waged by the Ugandan Army, not negotiations, created that region's brittle quiet. Now, LRA cadres threaten villages in the Congo, south Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR). This fall, U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo shifted forces to the northeast in an attempt to stop a wave of "Christmas attacks" by the LRA on Congolese villages.
Christmas attacks? The LRA launched several last year as its fighters fled assaults by Congolese and Ugandan forces on their sanctuary in the Congo's Garamba National Park. The U.N. estimated retreating LRA thugs killed 430 Congolese on Dec. 25 and 26, 2008. Forty-five of the murdered were hacked to death with machetes while seeking refuge in a church in the town of Doruma. (But wait, the LRA's stated political goals in Uganda included establishing a government run on the biblical Ten Commandments ...)
What happened to the peace process? The Ugandan government argued that the LRA's senior commander, Joseph Kony, had agreed to sign a "final peace agreement" in April 2008. Kony, despite repeated diplomatic efforts, however, failed to sign on the line.
Why? The International Criminal Court (ICC) has charged Kony with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kony and his thugs have committed heinous crimes throughout the region. The ICC warrants are proving to be a diplomatic resolution, however. For Kony, peace may mean prison. This could be a case where lawfare furthers warfare and justice impedes peace. Peace without justice, however, is often merely a respite before the next bloodbath.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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