Uganda: Only peace can restore the confidence of the displaced


Update on the Implementation of the Recommendations made by the UN Secretary-General's Representative on Internally Displaced Persons following his visit to Uganda

Preface for the 2nd Edition, October 2006

Since the launch of this report in March 2006, events relating to northern Uganda have moved at a sharp pace. There has been increasing international pressure on the Government of Uganda to address ongoing confl ict and displacement in northern Uganda, and the UN has stepped up its humanitarian presence in the area considerably and put increasing emphasis on questions of protection. At the same time, the Government of Southern Sudan's interest in a resolution of the confl ict in northern Uganda has led them to adopt a mediatory role between the government of Uganda and Lords Resistance Army (LRA).

Both parties have, to date, shown unprecedented commitment to peace talks in Juba, with signifi cant numbers of LRA combatants converging at the two designated assembly points in southern Sudan In addition, at the time of going to press there were unconfi rmed reports that the indicted LRA leader, Joseph Kony, had also reached one of the assembly points, which, if confi rmed, would mark a signifi cant development in the search for a peaceful resolution.2 Overall, the range of people involved in these processes to date, and the level of media coverage, has been qualitatively different from earlier attempts such as the peace talks headed up by Betty Bigombe in 1993/4, the Nairobi Peace Accord of 1999, and the Bigombe Peace Talks of 2004/5. It is also evident that the parameters within which both the LRA and the government are operating have changed signifi cantly, and this should be remembered even if the talks ultimately prove unsuccessful: as such there can be no return to the previous status quo.

However, it remains to be seen whether there has been any fundamental shift in the government's position, and the signs so far are not promising. For instance, the cessation of hostilities signed on 26th August 2006 suggest a continuation of the government's long-standing carrot and stick approach, which demands that the LRA make certain concessions in exchange for clemency, rather than emphasising a spirit of negotiation and compromise.

Indeed, on the 29th of August, the fi rst day of the cessation of hostilities, President Museveni was quoted in a daily Ugandan newspaper as saying: If they [the indicted Lord's Resistance Army leadership] don't respect the [cessation of hostilities] agreement that they and us signed, we are going to hunt them down and catch them because time is not on their side.3

In the same triumphalist tone he then declared that the LRA had experienced a 'soft landing' and had been 'defeated militarily', empty rhetoric given the fact that the government's 20 year military campaign against the rebels has not only failed but has contributed to human suffering on a massive scale.

In the light of these developments, the extent to which the IDP policy has been successfully implemented has largely become secondary to ensuring that the peace process between the LRA and the Government of Uganda reaches a successful conclusion - the most important outcome of which, as suggested by the title of this report ("Only Peace Can Restore the Confi dence of the Displaced") would lead to a more durable and sustainable solution to the problems of the internally displaced in northern Uganda. Nonetheless, if there is a successful outcome to the talks, the process of return, resettlement and reintegration - which in some areas has already begun - will continue to demand close attention in order to ensure that provisions of the national IDP policy are properly implemented and, some might argue, that it is incorporated into national legislation.

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