Northern Uganda-Understanding and Solving the Conflict
For nearly eighteen years the insurgency of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, has produced great suffering in Northern Uganda, including some 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland recently termed the situation among the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. In February 2004, in one of the most horrific atrocities since the conflict began, the LRA massacred approximately 200 civilians, revealing serious deficiencies in the government's capacity to defend the population and defeat the insurgency. The conflict seriously blemishes the record of President Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM), which has otherwise brought relative stability to the country. The international community has leverage and at least strong humanitarian reasons to urge a more politically oriented strategy to resolve the conflict. The conflict has four main characteristics. First, it is a struggle between the government and the LRA. Secondly, it is between the predominantly Acholi LRA and the wider Acholi population, who bear the brunt of violence that includes indiscriminate killings and the abduction of children to become fighters, auxiliaries, and sex slaves. This violence is aimed at cowing the Acholi and discrediting the government. Thirdly, it is fuelled by animosity between Uganda and Sudan, who support rebellions on each other's territory. Finally, it continues the North-South conflict that has marked Ugandan politics and society since independence.