Uganda Peoples Congress
Uganda Peoples Congress
Plot 8-10 Kampala Road, Uganda House,
P. O. Box 9206, Kampala
Refocus The Juba Peace Talks
19 July 2006
- In our Press Statement of 5th July, 2006 the Uganda Peoples Congress welcomed the decision of government to accept to talk peace with the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). In that statement, the UPC called upon the NRM government and the LRA to humbly accept that left to themselves, they cannot negotiate lasting peace.
- It was and is still our view that:
- The peace talks must be restructured to involve all stakeholders including opposition political parties, religious leaders, and the wider civil society, all on one negotiating table and genuinely committed to reaching a peaceful settlement for all the people of Uganda and building a united and prosperous nation where all citizens regardless of tribe, religion or other social and economic status enjoy their rights and freedoms. The second limb of peace building and reconciliation should involve the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the UPC continues to advocate for.
- In this restructured peace process, UPC calls upon the Government and the LRA to accept international bodies and agencies like the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and International Humanitarian Organizations to participate in the all round talks as observers. This will enable these bodies to meaningfully participate in the implementation and monitoring of the peace process.
- The statements so far issued by both the Government and the LRA need to be put in context and refocused with the assistance of all stakeholders and observes that we have already suggested be invited to the talks. In particular:
- It must be appreciated that the unfortunate causes of this war can never be swept under the carpet. They are part of our painful history. The victims of abuses that led to the war whether combatants or civilians should be given chance to vent out their pain as a prelude to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will fully investigate the suffering of the people of Uganda since 1962 to date and reconcile them. For now, there should be no further discussion of the causes of the war if this can jeopardize the success of the talks.
- The proposed disbandment of both the LRA and UPDF are real issues for serious national dialogue. Certainly neither the LRA nor the UPDF is a truly national institution. Both are partisan. At some stage in the peace process, we need to agree, as a nation, on how to restructure the UPDF and transform it from an NRM army into a genuinely national army subordinate to civilian authority. This has been done in Burundi and other countries formally torn apart by war.
- The peace process is bound to be a long and arduous task. There can be no quick fixes of a national problem spanning decades. Deadlines imposed by one party will only serve to complicate and delay the process further. The people of Uganda and its friends should be patient and tolerant and give the talks a chance to succeed. The process took years in Southern Sudan, Burundi, Sierra Leon and Liberia.
- What is critical at this stage is to undertake serious confidence building measures to allow for a positive atmosphere for the talks. The UPC suggests that:
- Both parties should declare a ceasefire and suspend of hostilities over the period of the talks.
- The locations of the fighting forces of both groups should be declared to enable their confinement and independent monitoring by the government of Southern Sudan (in the case of combatants in Sudan) and the African Union for the combatants in Uganda .
- Both parties should speedily eliminate provocative and hostile propaganda and statements against each other. Both parties should give appropriate restraining directives and instructions to their respective officials and functionaries. The government of Uganda should sensitize the media about the need to support the peace process by not demonizing either of the parties to the conflict.
- The government of Uganda should encourage faith in the peace process as a viable and safe mechanism for all involved by taking measures to urgently withdraw its allegations against the LRA leadership from the ICC and have the same addressed in the peace process.
- As confidence is built and maintained, the parties should then invite other participants to the talks to help them draw an agenda for the talks. The war in northern Uganda impinges not only on the combatants, the government and the LRA but also on the civilian population throughout Uganda. The war has had far reaching effects and consequences on the political, economic and social life of every Ugandan and affected Uganda 's relationship with its neighbors. Accordingly, besides the belligerents, namely the LRA and the government, political parties with representation in Parliament have a direct stake in the talks as elected representatives of the alternative political program for the country. Therefore, political parties represented in Parliament should participate in the talks from the very beginning in order to own and be bound to the outcome. The talks and the outcome should not be perceived as belonging to the party in power.
- At later stages of the talks, there will be need to widen the scope of participation, especially when addressing the issues of the north/south political question, local governance, justice and reconciliation. Here representatives of various regions of the country and the wider civil society will have to be involved.
- Other than dealing with the all important issue of establishing permanent peace in Uganda, the agenda for the talks should address:
- The settlement, resettlement and rehabilitation of persons displaced by the war in northern and eastern Uganda.
- The rehabilitation and reconstruction of war torn areas.
- The process of truth, reconciliation and justice through an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
- The northern/southern political question which will inevitably involve discussion of the teething issues of regional governance, income distribution and redistribution and affirmative action for marginalized regions/districts.
- The issue of sourcing and managing, in a frugal manner, of the resources for implementation of the peace agreement will have to be seriously addressed at the talks by the stakeholders. Certainly, the NRM government with its well known record of not honoring bargains and of misuse and abuse of public funds and properties cannot be trusted to manage the peace resources. There will be need for an independent commission composed of all stakeholders to manage the implementation of any agreement reached.
- The UPC will not tire to call upon the LRA and government to listen to the people of Uganda and to involve them in the peace process which is part of the mechanisms for re-establishing the UPC dream of a united, peaceful and prosperous nation where human dignity, freedoms and the broader spectrum of human rights are enjoyed by all.
For God and my Country
Miria Kalule Obote