Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s recommendations are still due on “how best to support efforts by states in the region to put an end to the activities of illegal armed groups”, particularly those of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), requested in resolutions 1653 and 1663. At press time, it appears that the Secretariat has prepared a draft, but it is still unclear whether the recommendations will be issued as a report or a letter from the Secretary-General, and when they will emerge.
Once the report is issued, discussions on various initiatives, such as a special envoy, seem likely.
Uganda and the LRA are also expected to arise in Council briefings, perhaps within the context of discussions on Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as well as children and armed conflict.
The most likely option would be the appointment of a special envoy under the Secretary-General’s good offices, with perhaps some Council action endorsing the initiative. The Council might also consider the option of issuing a letter from the Council President to the Secretary-General encouraging the appointment of an envoy.
It is unlikely that Council members will agree that the mandate of the envoy should be focused exclusively on northern Uganda. Kampala would oppose such a focus. It claims that the LRA is a regional problem that must be confronted in Sudan and the DRC as well. A regional dimension is therefore likely. A further option which is more likely is some role, direct or indirect, to help address the root causes of the LRA insurgency. Kampala is reluctant about this, but some note that without this aspect there would be challenges for the design of a meaningful mandate for an eventual envoy.
The option of formal action mandating the UN missions in the Sudan (UNMIS) and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) to engage the LRA is unlikely in July, given the imminent Congolese elections and the need, first of all, to take decisions with respect to Darfur, regarding UNMIS.
The options for appointment of a Panel of Experts (which Uganda opposes) or for the formal inclusion of northern Uganda on the Council’s agenda remain as fallback option but currently have no momentum.
The immediate issue for the Council will be its reaction to the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the LRA. It will be important to find new approaches while bearing in mind Kampala’s concerns. Within that context, a key aspect is the mandate of an eventual special envoy and who would be appointed to the post.
In this regard, most Council members are conscious that a long-term solution to the problem in northern Uganda entails not only military and political efforts regarding the LRA, but also a solution to the social, economic and political issues in Uganda itself.
A key issue is the relationship between the political track (such as talks with the LRA) and the need to execute International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants against LRA leaders. Closely associated with both is the need to find ways to lure rank-and-file fighters out of the bush in light of the influence of the LRA leadership and concerns with reintegration.
On the military track, the Secretary-General’s report is expected to give guidance on how best to support regional action, especially given the fact that Sudan seems to have withdrawn consent for Ugandan troops to pursue the LRA in Sudanese territory. This may be in response to Uganda’s repeated requests for a Chapter VII mandate for UNMIS to pursue the LRA in Sudan.
More complex, however, is the political issue, including the root causes of the LRA insurgency and the need to address the political and social marginalisation of northerners.
The recommendations by the Secretary-General requested under resolutions 1653 and 1663 have been delayed since March. The initial idea was to have recommendations and discussions on a special envoy as two separate tracks. But bilateral contacts between the Secretariat and Kampala seem to have been unsuccessful.
The Secretariat provided an oral briefing on the LRA to Council members on 26 April as a way of trying to meet the Council’s request. It highlighted the issue of root causes and stressed Kampala’s primary responsibility for ensuring that these are addressed. The briefing stressed that a solution would entail the arrest of LRA leaders and the establishment of a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme. Key points would also be information-sharing and better regional coordination.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), launched a mediation attempt between Kampala and the LRA leadership. The initiative followed the Ugandan government’s announcement on 13 May, after a meeting with Sudanese officials, of a two-month ultimatum for the LRA to surrender, citing readiness to guarantee the safety of LRA leader Joseph Kony. Southern Sudanese Vice-President Riek Machar is reported to have recently called on the ICC to hold off and await the results of the negotiations. The ICC has stressed the obligation of the DRC, Sudan and Uganda to execute the warrants.
But Kampala seems to have limited expectations of this track given its commitments towards the ICC and the enforcement of pending arrest warrants, as well as its past experience in negotiating with the LRA leader Joseph Kony. Kampala has recently refused to participate in the talks.
On the military track, the Ugandan government has underlined the need for the establishment of a regional coordination mechanism and for action from UN peacekeeping operations against the LRA.
Together with Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC, Uganda made a formal request that the African Union submit names to the Council for sanctions under resolution 1649. The DRC Sanctions Committee is currently considering the imposition of targeted sanctions on foreign armed groups in the DRC, but it is unclear when a list will emerge. The AU Summit taking place on 1-2 July in the Gambian capital Banjul may lead to some further developments on that front.
It appears that Council members have decided to wait for the Secretary-General’s recommendations and observe developments with the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) before taking any positions. For some, this is due to a degree of sympathy for the efforts by the Ugandan government as well as the government’s views on the appointment of a special envoy. For other Council members, however, a test will be whether the JMC initiative addresses the root causes of the formation of the LRA.
Several members seem intent on keeping the issue alive in the Council and moving along with proposals such as appointing a special envoy. Those members are likely to be concerned also with the execution of ICC arrest warrants.
The recent Council visit to Sudan seems to have reinforced the view among many members that it is essential to consider the overall regional context, including the LRA aspect, very seriously.
Kampala’s opposition to a UN role in addressing the root causes of the LRA and the overall problems in the north as well as its resistance to the possibility of limiting the mandate of a special envoy to northern Uganda is a looming problem.
Finding a balance between the government’s requirements and addressing what most actors consider the key causes of the long-festering conflict will be crucial if any proposal is to have real chances of success.
Furthermore, observers note there have been difficulties in following up on the JMC and Emergency Plan for northern Uganda, which was agreed between the government, the UN and the Core Group and launched on 4 May. In addition to capacity issues within some Ugandan ministries, some of the key steps in the Plan are not yet in place, particularly a more detailed arrangement in terms of expected action and assignment of responsibilities within the government. There also seems to be some scepticism and reluctance on the part of certain JMC participants.
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For the Historical Background, please refer to our April 2006 Update Report.