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Uganda rebels keep peace on hold
For the last two years, U.N. choppers have dropped mediators and dignitaries here among the small huts and careful vegetable plots to try to bring the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to peace and disarmament.
But last weekend, just a few kilometers away, LRA leader Joseph Kony again refused to sign the peace deal that could end decades of conflict that badly affected south Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and devastated northern Uganda.
The conflict has little direct impact in northern Uganda these days, but Nabanga residents still live in the shadow of LRA soldiers. In June, 23 people, including 14 southern Sudanese soldiers, were killed in a suspected attack.
“This is a problem,” Nabanga youth leader Yohan Philemona said when he heard that Kony would not sign. The village used to have a thriving border market with next-door Congo, but LRA attacks have diminished it together with the population.
Michael is sceptical of the peace process but some of Nabanga’s people are now in the jungle with the Ugandan rebels and trying to use force against them is by no means an option without problems.
“Seven girls were taken and have become wives for the LRA,” Philemona said. “We need them back.” Under the unsigned deal, all the LRA’s soldiers would be disarmed including the unknown number of child soldiers.
Many saw this weekend as a final push for the peace deal negotiated between LRA representatives and the Ugandan government under the mediation of the south’s Vice President Riek Machar.
Machar has said he will continue to look for new ways forward for the peace process but he and the U.N.’s special envoy to LRA-affected areas former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano looked dejected as they left Nabanga.
Kony failed to turn up for an April signing ceremony and reneged on other meets with mediators since. In the past months LRA attacks on villages in the DRC has displaced over 6,000 people into south Sudan.
“If there was peace then we could sleep in our houses,” Farris said, adding that most of his 12 children are living in a town to the north where it is safer. Parents do not send children to Nbanga’s broken school, afraid of a mass abduction by the LRA.
Hope in Nabanga is fading of an end to the conflict. Kony has demanded that the International Criminal Court defer its warrant against him for alleged war crimes before he will sign a peace deal. There is no indication it will.
What do you think needs to be done? Is there still hope for mediation? Should the international court drop its warrant? Could military action work?
(Pictures: Tim McKulka, United Nations Mission in Sudan)