Expected Council Action
At the time of writing, Council action appears to be on hold until the results of the peace talks between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are known. Some members are currently working on a follow-up to the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the LRA, in particular the appointment of a special envoy.
Key Recent Developments
Mediation efforts led by Southern Sudanese Vice-President Riek Machar led to an agreement on cessation of hostilities in August, mandating the LRA to assemble in sites in Sudan and Uganda ahead of more substantive discussions. At press time, most rebels were reported to be at or on their way to the sites, including deputy LRA commander Vincent Otti, but not top commander Joseph Kony.
The truce designates a monitoring team of southern Sudanese officials, the parties and the AU. It also determines that the LRA are free to leave-which seems unlikely-if the talks do not succeed. Talks are underway for the release of women and children kidnapped by the LRA.
The breakthrough came after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni promised amnesty for the LRA leadership after a final peace agreement, despite the arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Kony and Otti have conditioned attendance in the talks on the lifting of ICC warrants.
The ICC issue-which some see as a risk to the talks-has sparked wide debate over peace and accountability. The parties seem to be aware that a blanket amnesty may undermine the legitimacy of the talks and that the UN would not recognise an amnesty for serious crimes.
President Museveni has indicated that, in the event of an agreement, he would ask the Court to lift the warrants and perhaps present an alternative plan, seemingly based upon traditional reconciliation mechanisms. But in order to have the arrest warrants revoked, Uganda would have to invoke the complementarity provisions of the ICC statute and show the judges of the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber that it is capable of handling these kinds of cases. Observers note that one possibility for Uganda would be to develop a national mechanism mixing traditional rites and formal justice with a view to complying with international standards. The judges would likely consider Museveni’s promise of amnesty as a factor in rendering a decision.
Some observers have raised a possibility of a decision from the ICC chief prosecutor not to prosecute on grounds that this would best serve the interests of justice. It is unlikely that the prosecutor would be willing to contemplate this move. In any event, to halt prosecutions, he would need to get an approval from the Pre-Trial Chamber.
Another possibility raised by observers is asylum for LRA commanders in a state which is a non-signatory to the Rome Statute, perhaps coupled with a Council request to the ICC to suspend prosecutions. This seems unacceptable to some Council members since it could be seen as undermining the Court and promoting impunity. Under the ICC statute, the Council may ask for a suspension of prosecutions for 12 months, renewable.
express support for the negotiations, perhaps with a limited logistical role for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) (it seems that UNMIS is analysing this possibility);
threaten sanctions against LRA commanders; and
underline the need for improving living conditions in northern Uganda. But some will be conscious that any mention of domestic issues may face opposition. Members may also emphasise the need for accountability.
Other options are to:
impose targeted sanctions and mandate UNMIS to arrest the LRA leadership should the talks fail; and
consider the Secretary-General’s recommendations, particularly the appointment of a special envoy.
The main issue is how best to support the talks while (for some members) making sure that peace and justice go together.
Members are aware that the seemingly inevitable Ugandan plea for the lifting of ICC arrest warrants will pose huge questions, as discussed above.
There is also awareness that ICC warrants have contributed to the pressure on the LRA and that impunity may in fact renew the potential for conflict.
A concern with the implications of the talks’ outcome on accountability looms large. Some members have already indicated that a solution that undermines justice and the ICC is unacceptable. During the debate on strengthening international law in July, most members strongly supported the ICC and emphasised the importance of ending impunity.
There is also an interest in following up on the Secretary-General’s recommendations, particularly the appointment of a special envoy, and in providing support for the peace talks.
Observers note that progress in the peace talks so far has been incremental and success is not yet guaranteed. There is distrust between the parties. The LRA delegation does not include the top leadership, which seems exclusively interested in an amnesty. And the government will need to show results in implementing the multiyear Peace, Recovery and Development Plan, reintegrating fighters and facilitating the return of two million internally displaced persons.
The LRA seems nonetheless extremely weak militarily. It is under pressure of ICC warrants and the DRC’s acceptance of Ugandan incursions should talks fail.
The talks may soon turn to substantive issues. The government has focused on ceasing hostilities and reintegration, and the LRA delegation has focused on solving root causes, power-sharing, wealth-sharing and the restructuring of government institutions, in particular the armed forces. Serious discrepancies are likely to continue between these two approaches.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Meeting Records|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Reports|
|26 August 2006||The parties agreed to a truce.|
|12 August 2006||ICC-indicted LRA commander Raska Lukwiya was reportedly killed.|
|4 August 2006||The LRA announced a unilateral ceasefire.|
|14 July 2006||Peace talks started.|
|4 July 2006||Kampala offered amnesty to LRA leaders in the event of a peace agreement.|
“Peace in Northern Uganda?”, Africa Briefing No. 41, International Crisis Group (13 September 2006)