Thursday, 17 April 2008

The Future of the LRA

It was almost laughably predictable that Joseph Kony, leader of the Lords' Resistance Army which has terrorised Northern Uganda for the past two decades, wouldn't come out of the 'bush' to sign a permanent peace agreement with the Government as planned last week. The UN and various donors had gone to extraordinary lengths to set up a tented camp at Ri-Kwangba on the Sudanese-DRC border, and had flown in journalists from across the world to cover the signing. In the event of Kony failing to show-up the lead LRA negotiator was sacked/resigned, the Government delegation went back to Juba in a huff and Kony returned to what he knows best by abducting over 50 children and killing one of his longest serving deputies.

There are many reasons why the talks were doomed to failure, foremost among them the total failure to agree on what kind of justice (if any) the LRA top command should face. It seems staggering that this most central of issues had not been agreed upon and yet people still expected the signing to take place. The difference between Kony's preference for mato put, a traditional form of Acholi justice involving little more than a few rituals and a public apology, and the International Criminal Court's demands for him to appear at The Hague, could not be starker. The following are my personal predictions for the future of the LRA (the percentages are totally unscientific but hopefully give a rough idea of what might happen):

- Return to Uganda with the top leaders facing a special tribunal along the line of the war crimes cases in the Balkans or Rwanda, while lesser ranks, including the child soldiers, are forgiven (15% chance)

- Return to Uganda to face traditional justice mechanisms and then integrate peacefully back into society (5%)

- Become a roving proxy army for Khartoum, operating in the DRC, CAR, Chad, South Sudan and Northern Uganda (30%)

- Defeated militarily through multinational cooperation, with Kony most likely KIA (25%)

- Kony apprehended and taken to The Hague to face war crimes charges (5%)

- LRA disbands with Kony given amnesty in a third country (most likely Sudan) as a reward(10%)

- Sign peace agreement with Uganda but continue operations on behalf of Sudan in the rest of the region (10%)

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