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USA/Uganda: Recovery from Conflict?
Jun 24, 2009 (090624)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"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 (http://www.independent.co.ug) 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
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 http://www.africafocus.org/country/uganda.php
Congresswoman Waters introduces bill to stop VULTURE Funds / U.S.
Sudan envoy Scott Gration on Sudan situation
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
AFJN Opposes Military Language in Northern Uganda Bill
By Beth Tuckey
Africa Faith and Justice Network
http://www.afjn.org [this text at http://tinyurl.com/mvwkch]
June 23, 2009
A few weeks ago, two of AFJN's core issues - AFRICOM and northern
Uganda - came together in a bittersweet piece of legislation by the
U.S. Congress. While it provides crucial development aid and
support for transitional justice, the new bill (S. 1067, H.R. 2478)
also includes a statement of policy that may allow the U.S.
military to pursue Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
in D.R. Congo.
AFJN strongly supports many parts of the legislation. However, we
believe that allowing AFRICOM to assist in an attack against the
LRA is a recipe for disaster. We ask you to go to
[http://tinyurl.com/l94ntk] to learn more and sign our
petition to Congress, thereby voicing your support for a peaceful
approach to ending the LRA conflict.
Fortunately, we're not alone. There has been a strong outcry from
many religious groups and communities in northern Uganda, including
several AFJN members. Over the weekend, the Acholi Religious
Leader's Peace Initiative (ARLPI) released a statement that clearly
denounces the military option and suggests that not all non-violent
solutions to the LRA crisis have been exhausted.
The text of the legislation does not mandate that the U.S. military
engage in an attack, but it does leave the door open. Despite the
bill's admirable language about a multilateral, interagency
approach against the LRA, we are well aware that the military far
outweighs diplomacy and development in U.S. foreign policy today.
Even suggesting that AFRICOM could help the Ugandan military
execute a strike is a dangerous proposition - particularly as it
involves supporting a dictatorial regime's armed forces. The U.S.
would be repeating its Cold War folly of sacrificing long term
democratic ideals for short-term solutions.
In essence, AFJN believes that a military strike against Joseph
Kony and the LRA is likely to be disastrous for civilians and
abducted child soldiers, and is unlikely to result in Kony's
capture. The precedent set by Operation "Lightning Thunder" in
December 2008 does not give us hope that there can be an effective
military operation against the LRA and we therefore advocate for a
peaceful resolution to the crisis. Those who push for a military
solution often cite the failure of peaceful alternatives; however,
this ignores the clear fact that a military option also failed and
that killing Kony alone might not be the end of the LRA.
Although the Juba Peace Process (2006-2008) ended, it was a rare
window of peace in LRA-affected communities. The LRA committed few
attacks and there was genuine engagement from all sides. Many will
argue that Kony was never serious about the peace talks and simply
used it as an opportunity to re-arm - an opinion with which we do
not disagree. However, there were also many spoilers during the
peace process and a lack of trust between parties, particularly due
to the International Criminal Court indictment. Those who say that
Operation "Lightning Thunder" was unsuccessful and just needs to be
better planned and executed next time are not applying the same
standard to the peace talks. AFJN believes that there can be a more
effective approach to dialogue and negotiation in the future.
Reports from the ground suggest that affected communities are
attempting to contact the LRA to broach a locally-led peace
process. We commend this action and encourage regional bodies and
the African Union (AU) to continue thinking about non-violent means
of creating peace in D.R. Congo. As indicated by the ARLPI, there
are many other rebel groups and conflict areas in Congo; striking
one with military action will not create a stable environment for
Although we praise the legislation's writers for including
transitional justice and development aid to the north, AFJN is
saddened to hear such a strong emphasis from Congress and some
NGO's on section three of the bill. AFJN cannot support a section
of a bill that may divert much-needed development assistance to an
expensive military option. If the affected countries or the AU
decide to take military action, that is their choice, but the U.S.
should not be involved. Instead, we ask the U.S. Congress and
Administration to think critically and creatively about how to
support a diplomatic solution to the LRA conflict.
Response of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) to
the " Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda
Recovery Act of 2009"
Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative
Kitgum Office, Plot 121 Uhuru Drive, P.O. Box 185, Kitgum, Uganda
Pader Office, 1st Street, P.O. Box 50, Pader, Uganda
Gulu Office, Plot 16 Olya Road, P.O. Box 104, Gulu,Uganda
Tel: 256-471-432484 Email: email@example.com
21st June 2009
For over two decades, war between the Lords Resistance Army (LRA)
and the Government of Uganda (GoU) has ravaged the region of north
and northeastern Uganda causing great suffering among the civilian
population. Over the last number of years, the conflict has
unfortunately spread to the Southern Sudan, DR Congo and Central
African Republic. While several methods have been employed to bring
and end to the conflict, all have failed to reach their goal of
To address this issue the "Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and
Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009" was introduced to the U.S.
Senate on May 19th, 2009, detailing the way in which the United
States wishes to engage with the conflict.
We the Acholi Religious Leaders Initiative (ARLPI) who have been
tirelessly working to bring about sustainable peace and
reconciliation throughout the region, wish to express our gratitude
for the continued interest and support the U.S. has shown towards
ending the suffering of those affected. Their support to
initiatives such as the Juba Peace talks and the provision of
humanitarian aid during the course of the conflict has not gone
unnoticed. Such contributions have significantly improved the
conditions in the region.
Of particular concern of bill however is Section 4: Requirement of
a Regional Strategy for Disarming the LRA. This section implies
that a military offensive may be immanent. The military option has
been explored numerous times in the past, notably Operation
North (1991), Operation Iron Fist (2002) and Operation Lightning
Experience shows that despite such attempts to end the conflict,
only dialogue can be attributed to the relative calm experienced in
Northern Uganda since July of 2006 Military strategies launched
against the LRA have time and again led to severe reprisal attacks
on the innocent civilian community as illustrated by the recent 900
civilian deaths during Operation Lightning Thunder.
Not only has the cost of the military option been expensive
regarding the loss of human life, the financial implications of war
are also immense. The large sums of money required to carry out war
drain the resources needed to bring about development and
reconstruction of affected areas.
Therefore ARLPI would like to put forth the following
recommendations which we feel will help to bring stability and
development to the region:
- When it comes to Section 4 of the bill, it should be the highest
priority for any intervention to ensure the protection of
civilians. Such a strategy however needs to be well thought through
as in the past such has been done through the arming of civilian
security organs which has led to further insecurity. Weapons
provided to these organs often become integrated into the community
and has allowed the LRA to increase their military strength during
- It must be acknowledged that there are numerous groups which are
causing insecurity throughout the region. While the LRA is one said
group, any strategy that is put in place must also address the
other negative forces working in the Democratic Republic of Congo,
Sudan, and Uganda who pose a threat to stability.
- As the conflict has transformed into a regional issue, diplomatic
engagement with regional stakeholders, namely those from Democratic
Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan, Central African Republic, and
Uganda is integral so that the needs and concerns of all affected
are adequately addressed.
- Furthermore, we feel that not all non-violent strategies have
been explored adequately. While some have put forward that dialogue
has failed, we argue that there were certain factors such as the
stick and carrot approach, vested interests, presumptions, and the
lack of coordination and communication between the LRA, GoU, and
mediating parties did not provide a fruitful environment for
dialogue to take place.
Time and again, issues of spoilers both regionally and
internationally have played a role in frustrating any attempts at
peace. For any regional strategy to be successful, we feel that
such spoilers need to be investigated, made known if found guilty,
and held accountable for their actions in the interest of
It has been observed that past development programs in Northern
Uganda have failed to make an impact on the ground due to various
factors such as corruption. This raises concerns over PRDP
implementation. If termination of assistance is realized as
suggested in Section 6, A & D of the bill, an alternative plan
needs to be put into place to ensure that support is maintained to
the affected civilian population to prevent them from once again
being victims due to the actions of others.
*Regarding Section 7 of the bill, any transitional justice
mechanism which seeks to foster reconciliation must ensure
participation all those who have been engaged in the conflict,
including the LRA, GoU, and the civilian population. This is to
ensure accountability for all actions taken during the conflict as
well as to illustrate the commitment of all to the process of
healing our community.
In conclusion, we applaud the commitment of the bill 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.
Archbishop John Baptist Odama
Al Hajji Sheik Musa Khalil
Rt. Rev. Bishop Nelson Onono
Rt. Rev. Bishop Benjamin Ojwang
Rt. Rev. Bishop Macleord Baker Ochola II
Fr. Julius Orach
Bishop Sabino Odoki
Open letter to Ambassador Steven Browning regarding US support for
comprehensive recovery in northern Uganda
April 30th, 2009
To: Steven Browning, US Ambassador to Uganda
Cc: Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State; Susan Rice, US
Ambassador to the United Nations; Johnnie Carson, nominee for US
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Dear Ambassador Browning,
Your tenure as US Ambassador to Uganda is taking place during a
major crossroads for the country. The departure of the Lord's
Resistance Army (LRA) and the end of widespread forced displacement
in the North has created a tenuous peace that offers a historic
opportunity to put an end to the decades of divisive politics and
armed insurgency that have marred most of Uganda's
post-independence history. This progress is due in no small part to
the leadership and investment of the US government, including your
office in Kampala.
However, we are deeply concerned at the failure thus far of
Ugandan government-led, donor- supported initiatives especially
the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) to take advantage
of this improved security to attain a peace dividend for
war-affected communities. There has been inadequate progress
towards comprehensive recovery in the North, which is essential to
Uganda's long-term stability, the well-being of its people, and the
advancement of US interests in the region.
To address this grave problem, we urge you to utilize more direct
and proactive engagement with the Ugandan government to revitalize
the recovery process in northern Uganda. We strongly believe that
more proactive US leadership can ensure the groundwork is laid for
lasting peace and urge that such engagement be a central component
of the US' diplomatic strategy in Uganda.
Assessing the PRDP: A work in progress?
The Ugandan government's launch of the PRDP in October 2007 was
widely welcomed as an acknowledgment of its responsibility to close
the gaps in recovery assistance to northern Uganda. [ USAID and
other development partners have thoroughly documented these gaps,
including the lack of basic services such as healthcare and schools
in areas of return, slow progress on transitional justice
initiatives, and the weakness of vital government institutions such
as the police and judiciary.]
However, senior Ugandan officials have so far failed to provide the
leadership necessary to implement the PRDP, preventing forward
momentum on a comprehensive recovery process.
This critical lack of leadership is most evident in the plan's
failure to function as a framework to guide the recovery process.
Over a year after launching the PRDP, the central government has
yet to fill key staff positions, convene the plan's monitoring
body, or develop a transparent strategy to coordinate programming
and funding with local governments and development partners.
In January 2009 one month after USAID reported that the Ugandan
government had made "no movement" towards implementing the PRDP
[USAID/OTI Uganda Annual Summary Report, January 2008 December
2008. Available at www.usaid.gov] the government suspended the
year-old plan in order to improve its budgetary and implementation
mechanisms. However, despite recent signs of progress, the PRDP
still remains more myth than reality for war-affected communities.
[Key among these has been the Ugandan government's promise to
release PRDP monies beginning in July 2009. However, this
progress should be kept in perspective - its annual allocation for
the PRDP, UGX 120 billion, is less than half the UGX 247 billion it
spent to host the 2007 Commonwealth Summit, and only a fraction
more than the cost of the Ugandan president's new Gulfstream jet
(reportedly UGX 88 billion).]
The failure of the PRDP to produce tangible gains for northern
communities compounds the existing marginalization of the region.
Two decades of systemic violence and forced displacement for
which the Ugandan government bears significant responsibility
have created poverty rates in the North double the national
average, while poor management and corruption have prevented
several government-led recovery initiatives from narrowing these
disparities. The PRDP's failure to break from this legacy threatens
to deepen divisions between the North and South and between
northerners and the central government, strengthening the
possibility of future instability in the country.
A crucial role for the US in getting the PRDP back on track
Though the US and international community have worked closely with
the Ugandan government on the PRDP, this collaboration has so far
failed to set tangible recovery efforts in northern Uganda in
motion. Unless the US and international community act decisively to
hold the Ugandan government accountable to its responsibilities,
the process is likely to remain stalled.
Ambassador, during your tenure there have been several welcome
developments in US engagement of the recovery process in the North.
The US has expanded aid to war-affected communities, taken steps to
improve coordination with development partners, and opened a USAID
office in Gulu. But eighteen months after its launch, engagement by
the US and other donors has failed to transform the PRDP from a
paper plan into concrete progress on the ground.
The Ugandan government must be at the forefront of the recovery
process for it to be sustainable and help heal regional and
political divisions, a fact widely recognized by US and
international officials. But so far US officials have hesitated to
acknowledge that political leadership in the upper echelons of the
Ugandan government has been the PRDP's key missing catalyst.
Without serious investment of political will on the part of senior
Ugandan officials, so far deeply lacking, the PRDP will not be
adequately funded, coordinated, staffed or monitored.
Attaining such leadership requires US leaders to directly and
openly engage with the Ugandan government to make PRDP
implementation more of a priority amongst its senior officials. The
US enjoys a close relationship with the Ugandan government, but
this leverage has not been adequately utilized. However, more
effective private engagement and public advocacy from your office
with Ugandan officials and the donor community can help mobilize
the political will needed to inject life into the PRDP.
What's at stake
Genuine implementation of the PRDP is more than a vehicle for
achieving concrete humanitarian progress for war-affected
communities in the North. It also offers a historic chance to help
heal regional political divisions and economic disparities that
pose a threat to Uganda's long-term stability, a key US interest in
To date, we are concerned that US diplomatic engagement has been
inadequate in overcoming the Ugandan government's lack of political
will to exploit this opportunity for lasting peace and development.
More proactive US leadership can help jumpstart the recovery
process, and we urge such engagement to be a central component of
the US diplomatic strategy in Uganda.
We appreciate your consideration of this correspondence and look
forward to continuing this dialogue about how US capacities can
best be leveraged to advance our common goals of peace and
prosperity for the people of Uganda.
Michael Poffenberger,Executive Director, Resolve Uganda
Paul Ronan, Senior Policy Analyst, Resolve Uganda
Additional Recent Policy Papers and Analyses
(1) Finishing the Fight Against the LRA
by Julia Spiegel and Noel Atama, May 12, 2009, 11-page report
full text at http://tinyurl.com/lx2wgv
"Operation Lightning Thunder did not end the threat of the Lord's
Resistance Army, or LRA, and it sparked harsh reprisals by the LRA
against civilians in Congo. Yet, it would be an even greater
tragedy for civilians if key states in the region and the
international community lost their collective will to end the
threat of the LRA once and for all. What is needed now is a second
Ugandan-led operation against the LRA. This new operation must
place civilian protection front and center. In addition, it will
require stronger and more effective support from the United States
and the international community, and the full commitment from the
Congolese government and army to complete the job in a reasonable
timeframe and operate in all LRA-affected areas of northeastern
Congo. If the United States takes the lead in supporting a new
Ugandan military operation, as Enough believes it should, it must
provide solid planning, intelligence, coordination, and logistical
support-and take greater responsibility for the execution and
outcomes of the operation."
(2) Conciliation Resources (http://www.c-r.org)
Conciliation Resources is the international non-governmental
organization with the most sustained experience of working with
civil society groups in Northern Uganda. Their background resources
Regional conference on cross-border peacebuilding, March 2009
"More than 70 civil society leaders and representatives are calling
on the Ugandan government and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to
return to the negotiating table, and for the international
community to support the process."
Protracted conflict, elusive peace: Initiatives to end the violence
in northern Uganda, 2002 issue of Accord, edited by Okello Lucima,
with 13 articles providing extensive background on a variety of
Additional resources, including a detailed 16-page report (April
2009), "After Operation Lightning Thunder: Protecting communities
and building peace"
(3) "Revisiting 'Operation Lightning Thunder,' by Ronald Atkinson
- two-part series in The Independent, Uganda
(http://www.independent.co.ug), June 7, 2009 and June 16, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/nhnxq9 and http://tinyurl.com/njwbpo
Based on recent interviews, including both Ugandan army and former
LRA guerrillas who participated in the latest battles, Atkinson
provides a detailed account of the military offensive. Atkinson,
the author of a standard work on Acholi history, concludes that
"the current UPDF incursion into foreign territory in pursuit of
the LRA was - and 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
(4) Institute for Security Studies, South Africa
"The (Northern) Uganda Peace Process: An Update on Recent
Developments," by David Mwaniki, Manasseh Wepundi and Harriet
Morolong, February 2, 2009 - 12-page report
http://www.iss.co.za / report at http://tinyurl.com/kmg3ds
"the international and African community needs to embrace a broad
integrated approach to ending conflicts in the region, because they
are interconnected. And this has been basic thrust of this report
to underscore the regionalisation of the Northern Uganda conflict,
and the need for an internationalised approach to resolving this
regional conflict system. Leaving the responsibility for an endgame
solely to the Kampala administration would likely narrow options
down to a military onslaught. As is the case, regional security
chiefs from DRC, Southern Sudan and Uganda have already embarked on
the military option, which will create a wider, more costly
regional humanitarian problem (considering the LRA tactics and the
consequences of war). Further, the LRA conflict isn't just rooted
in domestic causes but regional diplomatic rivalry has contributed
to the conflict. Attempting to crush the rebels without resolving
the regional rivalries wouldn't be sustainable."
Short news stories / commentaries
(1) Rosebell Kagumire, "Army cools to calls for fresh LRA
operation," Institute for War and Peace Reporting
(http://www.iwpr.net) May 29, 2009
(2) Opiyo Oloya, "Talking to Joseph Kony again is a wiser option,"
The New Vision, June 16, 2009
(3) Human Rights Watch press release, "U.S.: Pass Bill to Protect
Ugandan Civilians," May 21, 2009
(4) Human Rights Watch, "Role of Uganda's Foreign Partners in the
Military and Security Sector," April 8, 2009
Guide to background reading [from Chris Blattman's Blog]
[reading list at http://tinyurl.com/mf4k27]
Contains links to full text of significant studies by Chris
Blattman and other researchers, including a paper by Blattman and
Jeannie Annan, "On the nature and causes of LRA abduction: What the
abductees say," http://www.chrisblattman.org/BlattmanAnnan.LRA.pdf
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