Shock Therapy for Northern Uganda's Peace Process
The peace process aimed at ending the eighteen-year old conflict in Northern Uganda is in critical condition because neither the Ugandan government nor the insurgent Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) appears fully committed to a negotiated solution. After the LRA increased its atrocities against civilians in February 2005 and ignored a request to demonstrate its good will, the government decided not to extend its unilateral, limited ceasefire and re-focused on a military solution. The mediator, former Ugandan State Minister Betty Bigombe, needs to obtain a new, more comprehensive government proposal and then test the rebels' willingness for peace by travelling to southern Sudan to put it directly to their leader, Joseph Kony, if the chance to end an extraordinarily brutal conflict is not to be lost. Neither is likely to happen without more international engagement. The LRA is reorganising for intensified conflict. Its attacks on civilians are becoming more frequent and are conducted by larger units. Joseph Kony, its single real decision-maker, has still not responded to any government proposal. Kampala appears to be losing patience with the mediation effort, putting priority instead on a military solution and expanding efforts to target LRA leaders. The process of reintegrating former LRA fighters into their communities is proceeding poorly, thus negatively affecting the calculations of LRA fighters who are still in the bush.