Uganda (1987- 2010)

Recently ended conflict (updated: January 2011)

With no LRA-related deaths on Ugandan soil for a number of consecutive years, Uganda was removed from the ACR in 2010. In 2007, after two decades of armed violence in Northern Uganda, the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) signed the Agreement on Comprehensive Solutions, which bound them to find lasting solutions to the underlying causes of the conflict in Northern Uganda. In 2008, LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign the Final Peace Agreement and continues to refuse as long as the International Criminal Court indictments against him remain. Despite Kony’s refusal, since 2007, the LRA has not been active in Uganda, and rehabilitation efforts, including the returning of many displaced people, are underway. The LRA remains active in a number of neighbouring countries and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic.


 

 
Summary

2010 The Lord’s Resistance Army continued to launch attacks outside Uganda’s borders, primarily in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and Southern Sudan. Seventy per cent of this year’s LRA attacks took place in the DRC. LRA leader Joseph Kony vowed his fighters would return to Uganda to overthrow President Yoweri Museveni. He also promised that his fighters would become officers in the Ugandan People’s Defence Force. In January, Ugandan forces killed an LRA senior commander in CAR. In March, a fire destroyed the Kasubi tombs in Kampala, sparking riots and leading Ugandan forces to kill three Baganda protesters, who blamed the government for the fire. In July, twin bombs killed 76 people watching the World Cup final on television screens in Kampala. Somali armed Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility, threatening to carry out further attacks in retaliation for Uganda’s decision to contribute troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia. The Ugandan government responded in December by promising to send an additional 4,000 troops to support the force in Somalia. Uganda, CAR, DRC and Sudan agreed to form a joint military force to combat the LRA. U.S. President Barack Obama presented a plan in November to counter LRA activities. Uganda prepared for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on Feb. 18, 2011. Museveni, in power for 25 years, won the presidential election with a majority of 68 per cent. 

2009 Major armed conflict declined within Uganda itself but the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued to wreak havoc on surrounding countries. Operation Lightning Thunder triggered a number of reprisal killings of civilians by the LRA throughout the end of 2008 and early weeks of 2009. The LRA continued to be active in the Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic and was pursued by the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) and the forces of surrounding countries. LRA leader Joseph Kony requested a return to negotiating peace in September and again one of his stipulations was immunity from the ICC, which has charged him with 33 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Cattle raids also persisted throughout this year. In an attempt to foster peace, the UPDF attempted to disarm the region of Karamoja. Internally displaced people and refugees began to return home but faced food and water shortages, land disputes and poor harvest yields. This coupled with a lack of funding for the UN World Food Program resulted in a precarious situation for those living in camps as well as those who have returned home.

2008 Talks resumed between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government but were stifled when LRA leader Joseph Kony continued to demand the removal of ICC warrants as a precondition to signing a Final Peace Agreement. After months of ultimatums, the armies of Uganda, Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo launched a joint operation against the LRA on Dec. 14. The LRA fled into the Central African Republic, and according to reports, raped more than 100, abducted more than 350 and killed 400 to 500 between late 2008 and early 2009. In addition, the LRA killed an estimated 100 people in the first 11 months of 2008. Nonetheless, the LRA has since called for truce and the renewal of peace talks to be mediated by the UN in a neutral setting.

2007 The year saw significant achievements in the peace process between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Both parties signed the Agreement on Comprehensive Solutions, which binds them to find a lasting resolution to the underlying causes of the conflict in Northern Uganda. They also resolved disputes regarding accountability and reconciliation by agreeing to adhere to the alternative, clan-based justice system of Mato Oput. LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign a final agreement in the peace process until the International Criminal Court dropped the indictments against the leadership of the LRA. President Yoweri Museveni issued an ultimatum to the LRA that if it did not fully conclude the peace deal by Jan. 31, 2008, the government would launch a new military offensive against the LRA. Throughout peace talks, neither the LRA nor the government abandoned the use of force. Fighting also continued in the Karamoja region between local inhabitants and the army, leading to many fatalities, including children.

2006 Halfway through the year, 2006 appeared to be the year of peace in the 20-year civil war that has devastated Uganda and spilled into neighbouring countries. Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader, Joseph Kony appeared in public for the first time in 20 years and peace negotiations were conducted throughout the summer. However, the LRA and the government failed to agree on terms surrounding a ceasefire, and the LRA boycotted the talks. Despite a renewed non-violence pact in November, the two sides appeared to still be engaged in violent clashes. Reported casualties for the year totalled only 100, but this figure did not include the thousands that died each month in deplorable conditions within refugee camps. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni offered amnesty to the five LRA leaders indicted by the ICC, but they declined.

2005 Fighting between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government escalated in Northern Uganda, spilling into the Darfur region of Sudan. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for senior LRA leaders, including leader Joseph Kony.

2004 Fighting between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and LRA abductions of children continued. Following LRA attacks on Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers and Sudanese civilians, the SPLA retaliated. Statements by the government of Uganda and the LRA that they were willing to hold talks did not yield results. The government extended an amnesty; and rehabilitated LRA fighters were incorporated into the UPDF. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court began investigations into the LRA.

2003 The Lord’s Resistance Army continued a campaign of terror against the population of Northern and northeastern Uganda, raiding villages and killing and abducting hundreds of civilians. Apart from a short-lived ceasefire in March, the government pursued resolution of the conflict through military means, an approach which has thus far served to intensify the conflict.

2002 After two years of relative peace, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) stepped up attacks against civilians in Northern Uganda in response to a massive military offensive launched by the Ugandan government against suspected LRA bases in Southern Sudan. By October, more than a thousand civilians were reported killed in the fighting. Hundreds more were abducted by the LRA for use as fighters, slaves or concubines.

2001 Hundreds of civilians, rebels and soldiers were reported killed in continued fighting throughout the year. In April, the army captured the headquarters of a rebel commander and in August, 5,000 rebels asked to return home peacefully. Also in April, the Ugandan president announced the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from the DRC.

2000 Fighting between government forces and rebel groups, rebel attacks on civilians and tribal warfare continued to grip Uganda. As of September, more than 150 people were killed by the fighting, down from the estimated 1,000 deaths in the previous year.

1999 The population in the North, West, and southwest bore the brunt of Uganda’s conflict as rebel attacks on civilians, fighting between government forces and rebel groups, and tribal feuding continued in 1999. At least 1,000 people were killed, a figure similar to 1998 estimated deaths. More than 350,000 people remained displaced by the fighting.

1998 The conflict between rebel groups and government troops continued in the North and the West of the country in 1998, as did a rebel campaign of terrorism aimed at civilians.

Type of Conflict

State control

Parties to the Conflict

1. Government of the National Resistance Movement: Led by President Yoweri Museveni, and the government’s Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF). Museveni declared himself President in 1985, while proclaiming a government of national unity. In February 2011, Museveni was re-elected President with 68 per cent of the vote, though opposition parties challenged the validity of the elections.

Versus

Rebel Groups

2. Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA): The principal group in existence for more than two decades is the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA is led by Joseph Kony and in recent years has been reduced in size from a several thousand to a few hundred members. Kony aims to establish a state based on the biblical Ten Commandments. However, he is accused of abducting children to serve as soldiers and child slaves. On Oct. 6, 2005, the International Criminal Court announced that arrest warrants had been issued for five members of the LRA for crimes against humanity. Kony, as well as the LRA’s deputy commander Vincent Otti and LRA commanders Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odiambo and Dominc Ongwen were issued the warrants following a sealed indictment. The LRA also operates in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Sudan. Kony has refused to sign the peace agreement unless the ICC charges against him are dropped. Currently, the number of fighters amount to approximately 400: 250 from Uganda; the remaining 150 from the DRC, CAR and Sudan. However, only Ugandan fighters are promoted to senior ranks. The LRA’s organization is highly centralized and controlled by Kony and his three top commanders: Okot Odhiambo, Ceasar Achellam and Dominic Ongwen. The Sudanese government supported the LRA between 1994 and 2005 by providing them with weapons, ammunition and military training in return for attacks against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the UPDF in Uganda.

Inactive rebel groups: A number of rebel groups have been active in Uganda in recent years, though less so in recently.

3. Allied Democratic Front (ADF): This group operates in the district of Kasese and Bundibunyo, which is in the western part of Uganda. This group was active against the government in the past, but has been less active recently. However, in June 2005 the Ugandan government stated that the ADF was regrouping and rearming in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

4. People’s Redemption Army (PRA): This group operates in parts of the DRC but is linked to opposition parties in Uganda.

5. The West Nile Bank Front (WNBF): This group, mostly operating in the West Nile Region, was active against the government in the past, but has been less active recently.

6. Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF II): This group operated through the DRC, however stopped being active against the government after a peace deal in 2001.

7. Uganda Patriotic Front (UPF): In 2009, a new rebel group called the Uganda Patriotic Front (UPF) was reported by the International Crisis Group to be forming and planning to oust the government. In response to this, the Ugandan government made 17 arrests. In late 2006, Karamoja warriors in the northeastern region of the country clashed with government forces when the Ugandan army attempted to implement a forced disarmament program.

Status of the Fighting

2010 While LRA fighting eased in Uganda, the group continued to be a threat in insecure areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR) and Southern Sudan. The LRA conducted 206 attacks in these countries this year, killing 355 people and abducting 680. In 2010, 380,953 people were reported displaced as a result of LRA fighting. According to the UNHCR, 70 per cent of LRA attacks occurred in the DRC. The Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) claimed it killed 397 LRA fighters between December 2008 and August 2010. In January, the Ugandan army claimed it killed a senior commander of the LRA, Bok Abudema, in CAR. Ugandan forces have been deployed outside Ugandan borders (specifically in northern DRC, Southern Sudan and the CAR) to combat the LRA. In March, riots broke out in Kampala after a suspicious fire at the Kasubi tombs, the burial site of four kings of Buganda. Ugandan security forces shot and killed three Baganda protesters who blamed the government for the fire. Ugandan forces continued to carry out disarmament activities in the northeastern area of Karamoja, killing civilians. In April, Ugandan forces killed 10 people, including four children, in a clash in Kotido. Meanwhile, the Ugandan army deployed former LRA fighters (many of them abducted as children), to hunt down LRA leader Joseph Kony. In October, CAR, DRC, Sudan and Uganda agreed to form a joint military force to fight LRA rebels. The force would consist of at least 1,000 men and would be supported by the African Union. Ugandan forces steadily withdrew from CAR to bolster troops in Uganda ahead of the 2011 elections. Around 1,000-1,200 troops remained in CAR after two battalions were redeployed from CAR to the Ugandan region of Karamoja in July. Seventy-six people were killed in Kampala on July 11 after twin bombs exploded. Somali armed Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility, threatening to carry out further attacks in retaliation for Uganda’s decision to contribute troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia. The Ugandan government responded in December by promising to send an additional 4,000 troops to support the force in Somalia.

2009 Since the start of Operation Thunder Lightning, which began in December 2008, a reported 513 abductees were released by the LRA, more than 300 rebels were killed and 41 were captured in surrounding countries. A disarmament program began in Karamoja in July, however the Feinstein International Center argued that it was increasing poverty and insecurity because civilians felt unable to protect their assets. As of May 2009, approximately 378,000 internally displaced people remained in camps, with an estimated 244,000 residing in transit sites closer to their homes. Those returning faced land disputes and poor harvests, estimated to be 40 per cent of the normal yield. More than 70 per cent of returning refugees and internally displaced people did not have access to clean drinking water.

2008 The LRA conducted periodic raids on villages and military bases in Central African Republic and Southern Sudan throughout the first 10 to 11 months of the year. UN mediators set a Nov. 30 deadline for the signing of the Final Peace Agreement. When it was not met, forces from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Southern Sudan launched Operation Thunder Lightning against LRA rebels in the DRC’s Orientale Province. The military operations began on Dec. 14 and had UN support, as well as technical assistance from the United States. The rebels retreated to the Central African Republic, killing hundreds on the way and vowing further retaliation. The rape of women and the abduction of children continued to be signature features of the LRA’s activities. Even before the renewed conflict in December, the LRA were believed to have abducted upwards of 350 people, including 100 children. Since the renewed offensive against the LRA, at least 100 incidents of rape were reported. In the face of this violence, tens of thousands of civilians, 30,000 by one estimate, fled from Faradje and other villages in northeastern DRC.

2007 Hostilities continued in the Karamoja region and resulted in the deaths of civilians, government soldiers and a UN worker. The fighting occurred mainly during operations conducted by the army, aimed at capturing suspected cattle rustlers and during continuing disarmament operations. The UN World Food Program was forced to suspend operations after an ambush of a convoy of its trucks killed a driver. Peace talks between the government and the LRA were jeopardized in April when the government accused the LRA of executing an ambush in Uganda that killed seven civilians, despite LRA denials. Steady diplomatic gains between the government and the LRA continued throughout the year, however neither party abandoned the use of force to meet objectives. The government was condemned by the international community for human-rights abuses, specifically involving indiscriminate killing of children in Karamoja. The governments of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared that LRA soldiers taking refuge in their country were no longer welcome and that armed action would be taken to remove them if they did not leave voluntarily. The LRA refused to return to Uganda until ICC indictments against its members were lifted.

2006 Skirmishes were limited to the northeastern Karamoja area of the country as well as along the DRC border. Minimal clashes were reported as the LRA and the Ugandan army attempted on numerous occasions to reach a peace settlement. Talks were held in the Southern Sudanese town of Juba, however controversy surrounding the conditions for a ceasefire as well as the indictment of top LRA commanders by the International Criminal Court effectively stalled negotiations.

2005 The Ugandan military clashed repeatedly with the LRA in Northern Uganda and Darfur as fighting spilled into neighbouring Sudan. The Sudanese government also clashed with the LRA in Darfur while the LRA continued bloody attacks on villages and refugee camps in both northern Uganda and Darfur. LRA rebels were also reported to be active in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

2004 Fighting escalated at the beginning of the year when an LRA attack in February resulted in the killing of more than 200 people in a camp for internally displaced people. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) launched a retaliatory offensive against the LRA following attacks on Sudanese civilians and SPLA soldiers. Some LRA fighters defected under the amnesty agreement and were integrated into the UPDF. Although the UPDF captured a few high-ranking LRA officers and President Yoweri Museveni declared the war virtually won, fighting and abductions continued.

2003 The Lord’s Resistance Army continued a campaign of raiding villages beyond the reach of the UPDF’s protection, killing and abducting thousands of civilians. During the year, the attacks shifted eastward from the central region of Northern Uganda into the northeastern districts of Lira, Kaberamaido, Katakwi and Soroti. Although the government intensified military efforts against the LRA, resulting in hundreds of rebel and civilian deaths, the frequency and devastation of LRA attacks increased. The LRA’s use of child soldiers also continued unabated.

2002 In March, the Ugandan army launched a counterinsurgency offensive against the LRA. However, rather than wiping out the rebels, Operation Iron Fist prompted an increase in the frequency and brutality of rebel attacks across Northern Uganda.

2001 In April, the Ugandan army captured the general headquarters of a commander of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Cattle-raiding in the northeast killed some 20 people in September. In August, more than 5,000 rebels appealed to the Ugandan Amnesty Commission to return home peacefully.

2000 Clashes between government forces and the rebel LRA in the North, and the ADF in the West continued during the year, despite a clean-up government military operation against the ADF. The rebel groups continued attacks on civilians in camps for displaced people. Tribal fighting, linked to castle-rustling, persisted in the Karamoja area in northeastern Uganda.

1999 Rebel attacks on civilians, fighting between government forces and rebel forces, and tribal feuding continued in 1999. The ADF was responsible for most attacks against civilians, targeting trading centres and private homes, although the LRA and Rwandan Hutu rebels also targeted civilians. In September 1999, local tribes around the town of Moroto engaged in fierce fighting, ignited by cattle-rustling and revenge.

1998 Fighting continued to be steady in both the West and the North, with major insurgencies in both regions, including a particularly macabre massacre in June that saw 80 students at a technical training college burned to death when, fearing abduction, they refused to leave their dormitories when ordered to do so by the Allied Democratic Forces.

Number of Deaths

Total: Hundreds of thousands of people, possibly as many as 500,000, have been killed in the course of the conflict; 35,000 children have been abducted, mainly by the LRA; approximately two million people have been displaced. In Northern Uganda alone, 65,000 people have been killed.

The LRA has been responsible for many deaths in the countries that neighbour Uganda, where the group began operating in 2008. Since 2008, the LRA-related death toll in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was approximately 2,500. In CAR, the total of LRA-related deaths between 2008 and the end of 2010 was 175. LRA activity in southern Sudan declined towards the end of 2010.

2010 There were no reported LRA attacks in Uganda in 2010. Between June 2009 and July 2010, however, the LRA killed 32 Ugandan soldiers. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the total number of deaths caused by the LRA outside Uganda was 355 in 2010. Seventy per cent of the 306 LRA attacks outside Uganda occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while the remainder took place in Central African Republic and Southern Sudan. A total of 680 people were abducted in these countries as well this year.

2009 Although no LRA-related deaths or attacks within Uganda were reported in 2009, the group mounted attacks in surrounding Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan and Central African Republic. Human Rights Watch reported that an estimated 1,200 DRC civilians have been killed and 1,400 abducted since the December 2008 attacks in that county began. In July, in Central African Republic, 11 people were killed and hundreds displaced. Dozens more were killed in November attacks. In the Sudan, an estimated 188 civilians were killed by the LRA in attacks and 68,000 displaced between January and September of this year.

2008 There were no LRA-related deaths on Ugandan soil this year. But numerous sources reported that at least 500 to 600 people were killed outside Uganda in 2008 and in the first weeks of 2009. About 100 deaths resulted from attacks carried out against villages and army bases in Southern Sudan and Central African Republic (CAR) in the first 10 to 11 months of the year. The LRA were thought to be behind these attacks, though reports suggested government forces may have been responsible for the deaths of 20 Sudanese soldiers in June. The other 400 to 500 deaths resulted from LRA massacres in villages in CAR in December 2008 and early January 2009, as the LRA fled military operations against them.

2007 According to several reports, more than 100 people were killed by violence in 2007. Most of the fatalities resulted from fighting between the army and Karamojong warriors in northeastern Uganda during clashes over cattle theft and the attempted disarmament of the region by the army. As many as 66 children were killed during the fighting, some shot by soldiers, some run over by armoured vehicles and some crushed by stampeding animals. A UN-hired truck driver was also killed during the ambush of a World Food Programme convoy.

2006 Only 100 combat casualties were reported throughout 2006. But this number did not include the 3,500 people, half children under five, who died each month as a result of conditions in Northern Uganda’s refugee camps. According to reports, the civilian toll is three times that of Iraq, thereby necessitating a greater response from the international community.

2005 Although exact numbers were difficult to determine, it was reported that more 4,000 people were killed by conflict violence in the first seven months of this year. Tens of thousands more died due to conditions arising from the conflict, including disease, starvation and a lack of basic necessities throughout Northern Uganda.

2004 At least 845 people were reported killed, including at least 482 civilians and 363 combatants.

2003 The U.S. State Department reported more than 3,000 deaths in the conflict in 2003, the vast majority civilians and LRA fighters. In addition, the LRA continued to abduct thousands of children.

2002 According to unconfirmed media reports, more than 1,000 people were killed. Most were civilians targeted by the LRA, although the Ugandan government said it killed hundreds of rebel fighters.

2001 Hundred of civilians, soldiers and rebels were reported killed by October.

2000 By September, more than 150 people were killed as a result of fighting.

1999 At least 1,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in 1999.

1998 Though the numbers vary, the estimated number of deaths in the conflict in 1998 exceeded 800.

Political Developments

2010 On Feb. 5, Uganda’s major political parties signed a memorandum indicating their understanding of election conduct ahead of the 2011 elections. In April, President Yoweri Museveni stated Uganda’s preference for trying LRA leader Joseph Kony in Uganda rather than in the Hague if he were captured. Museveni signed a bill domesticating the Rome Statute in May leading up to the International Criminal Court Review Conference held in Kampala. The Rome Statute establishes the ICC’s functions, jurisdiction and structure. In November, U.S. President Barack Obama prepared a plan with four strategies aimed at disarming LRA rebels after U.S. legislation, which was passed in May, demanded a strategy to stop LRA killings. The strategy aims to protect civilians, remove and apprehend Kony and his commanders, promote the disarmament of LRA fighters and increase humanitarian assistance to people in LRA-affected areas. The U.S. government continued to provide Uganda military support in the form of trucks, fuel and contracted airplanes. In July, Ugandan police, with assistance from Rwandan police, forced out some 1,700 Rwandan refugees from the Nakivale and Kyaka camps in southwestern Uganda. The UNHCR condemned the action as a violation of refugee rights. The government defended its actions, arguing the Rwandans had no refugee status in Uganda and posed a security risk. In November, campaigning for the Feb. 18, 2011 presidential elections began with eight candidates. Uganda completed its two-year term on the United Nations Security Council on Dec. 31. Museveni was re-elected President with 68 per cent of the vote, though opposition parties challenged the validity of the elections.

2009 LRA leader Joseph Kony continued to refuse to sign a peace deal with the Ugandan government until the International Criminal Court (ICC) charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity were lifted. Elections were set for 2011 and Human Rights Watch was calling for the Ugandan government to reform election laws in order to ensure a peaceful and fair election and avoid previous issues such as bribery and intimidation. In February, Okot Odhiambo, one of the five LRA commanders indicted by the ICC was detained in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. President Yoweri Museveni agreed to provide amnesty for any fighters that came forward. Riots occurred surrounding a visit from King Mutebi, the Kabaka, the ruler of Buganda, the largest traditional kingdom of Uganda and home to the Baganda ethnic group. The visit was cancelled on security grounds in September after the riots left an estimated 27 dead. Mutebi aims to restore his political power, which has created tension with Museveni. Human Rights Watch called for an outside investigation after accusing the Ugandan security forces of being too aggressive.

2008 This year marked a breakdown in diplomacy when LRA leader Joseph Kony repeatedly refused to sign a Final Peace Agreement. On Jan. 31, 2008, the government and LRA resumed peace talks, signing agreements in February for accountability, disarmament and permanent ceasefire. On March 26, a “penultimate” agreement was signed. In April however, Kony showed signs of evasiveness towards the Final Agreement, again demanding that ICC warrants for himself and several lieutenants be lifted, and repeatedly failing to show up for meetings. Dissent within the LRA was evident. Amid reports that nine LRA rebels were killed in internal fighting, their chief negotiator resigned in April, followed by nine other LRA negotiators in June, citing frustration with Kony. Neighbouring governments also grew increasingly impatient. Food aid to the LRA was suspended in April, military leaders of the DRC, Southern Sudan and Uganda threatened military action in June. President Yoweri Museveni announced repeatedly that negotiations had finished and, in August, the United States issued personal sanctions against Kony. With mounting pressure, UN mediators set a Nov. 30 deadline for the LRA to end its cross-border attacks and for Kony to sign the Formal Peace Agreement. When neither of these conditions were met, Ugandan forces, with forces from the DRC and Southern Sudan, commenced Operation Thunder Lightning on Dec. 14 against LRA rebels in DRC’s Orientale Province. Although the Ugandan government claimed success, the efficacy of the operation was questioned in the Ugandan Parliament and media. Nonetheless, an LRA delegation approached UN mediators at year’s end, requesting a truce and a return to peace negotiations. The LRA has, however, refused to return to Juba for peace talks. They’ve called for talks to resume in South Africa or Tanzania and be mediated by a UN-appointed envoy.

2007 Despite several disruptions, the Ugandan government and the LRA signed the Agreement on Comprehensive Solutions, which binds them to find lasting solutions to the underlying causes of the conflict in Northern Uganda. The agreement commits both parties to principles such as the need for broad-based government, affirmative action for marginalized groups and equitable land distribution.  It also recognizes the right to return and resettle of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the need for making more resources available for recovery programs in conflict-affected areas in Northern and northeastern Uganda. Following comments by Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit that the LRA was no longer welcome in Southern Sudan, the LRA disengaged from the peace negotiations and requested that a neutral host for the talks be found. Despite this setback, an agreement was reached in Juba, Sudan, following the participation of representatives from South Africa, Kenya and Mozambique. The LRA and the government struggled to agree on the issue of accountability and reconciliation due to the continued refusal by the ICC to drop the charges against LRA members. Both the government and the LRA asked the international community and the ICC to support a traditional and clan-based justice system known as Mato Oput justice, as an alternative to jail sentences for dealing with war crimes committed by the LRA. Following the peace agreement, the LRA sent a peace delegation to Kampala for a six-week authorized visit, the first to occur since the fighting started, but they continued to refuse a final agreement until the ICC dropped the indictments against its members.  President Yoweri Museveni responded by issuing an ultimatum that if the LRA had not concluded the peace deal by Jan. 31, 2008, the government would launch a new military offensive against them.

2006 Around mid-2006, it appeared significant steps were being undertaken by LRA leader Joseph Kony to negotiate a ceasefire with the Ugandan government. The two sides negotiated a peace deal in August, with a mandate that expired in late September. At first, the LRA was somewhat reluctant to send top officials to the negotiations, citing fears of kidnapping as its top five commanders have been indicted by the International Criminal Court. Eventually, the second-highest-ranking official, Vincent Otti, agreed to attend the discussions in the DRC-Sudan border region. However, the government insisted that a ceasefire would come only as the end result of a comprehensive peace agreement.  This assertion reportedly resulted in the LRA walking out of and boycotting the negotiations until late September. In addition, members of the LRA indicted by the ICC (including Kony) continue to adamantly refuse to turn themselves over to the court and instead have opted to possibly be tried under the traditional Ugandan justice system. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has reportedly offered the four individuals (Raska Lukwiya was killed by government forces earlier in the year) amnesty for their crimes in exchange for a peaceful settlement. Nonetheless, despite early headway, by the end of 2006, the November non-violence pact achieved by the two sides appeared to be disintegrating and plans for renewed negotiations had been put on hold as violent clashes between the two sides began to reappear.

2005 Little progress was made in off-on talks between LRA rebels and chief negotiator Betty Bigombe, who leads an international initiative launched this year and backed by the United States, United Kingdom, Holland and Norway. The Ugandan government continued its strategy of simultaneously fighting the LRA and negotiating with LRA rebels willing to lay down their arms. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for five senior LRA leaders, including leader Joseph Kony. Thousands of former LRA rebels began farming in Northern Uganda as part of the government’s disarmament and reintegration program.

2004 Pledges by the government of Uganda and the LRA to hold peace talks did not come to fruition and both sides blamed the other for this failure. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began investigations into atrocities committed by the LRA. The Ugandan government launched a new program for the recovery and development in the North. Although both sides were expected to sign a truce by the end of the year, negotiations broke down on Dec. 31 and no truce was signed.

2003 A March ceasefire, declared by LRA leader Joseph Kony and subsequently agreed to by President Yoweri Museveni, was intended to foster negotiations. However, due to alleged violations by the LRA, the government ended the ceasefire in April and resumed hostilities, while leaving in place the amnesty offer to rebel fighters. Discord in the Ugandan Parliament increased pressure on Museveni to resolve the conflict. In spite of Ugandan allegations that the Sudanese government supported the LRA, co-operation between the two countries over Uganda’s conflict with the rebels continued for a second year.

2002 In March, the Ugandan government struck an agreement with Sudanese authorities in order to attack suspected LRA bases in southern Sudan. However, by mid-October the agreement was not renewed due to increased fighting between the Sudanese government and rebels in Southern Sudan. The Ugandan government was initially open to forging a peace deal with the LRA, instructing Christian religious leaders to initiate peace talks with the rebels. But, as the fighting intensified, the government rejected attempts at a peaceful resolution and stepped up its military campaign to wipe out the LRA.

2001 In April, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni stated that Uganda had achieved its objective of defeating the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), stationed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and therefore it was withdrawing its forces from the country.

2000 Uganda’s and Sudan’s Foreign Ministers, Mustafa Ismail Osman and Eriya Kategaya, met in Kampala in September and agreed to the encampment of the Lord’s Resistance Army 1,000 kilometres north of the common border. The ministers also agreed to the disarmament and demobilization of the LRA, as well as, in principle, to return thousands of children abducted by the rebel group from Sudan to Uganda.

1999 In early December, Uganda and Sudan signed an agreement urging each country not to support the rebellion facing the other. Uganda also offered an amnesty to rebel groups.

1998 No significant peace talks occurred in Uganda in 1998. A June attempt to form a united rebel front under a single leadership failed.

Background

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, was formed in 1987 after the Holy Spirit Movement, a rebellion led by Kony’s cousin Alice Lakwena, was defeated. The LRA is notorious for atrocities against civilians and for the forced conscription of tens of thousands of children into its forces. The LRA appears to have no real political goals. Its stated objective is to govern the country according to its interpretation of the Ten Commandments.

Initially, the LRA had the support of the northern Acholi and Langi tribes, who felt marginalized by the government, but the abuses against local people weakened this support.

In 1997, another rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), became active in western Uganda. The ADF, which includes some ex-commanders of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s army in its ranks, appears to be driven by an ideology based on Islam. For several years, the ADF were able to launch attacks from bases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). However, the Ugandan government overran the ADF headquarters on the DRC border in 2001 and, with the tightening of border areas, cross-border raids were no longer easily executed.

A third group, the West Nile Bank Front (WNBF), is dominated by tribes from the West Nile region, which made up the bulk of the Idi Amin’s army. The goal of WNBF leaders is to regain power lost when Amin was ousted in 1979.

A 2000 open-ended amnesty offered by the government was taken up by hundreds of LRA fighters.

In 2005, the International Criminal Court, at the request of the Ugandan government, issued indictments for five of the top LRA officials, including leader Joseph Kony; vice-chairman and second-in-command Vincent Otti; deputy army commander Okot Odhiambo; and brigade commander of the Sinia Brigade, Dominic Ongwen. All remain at large. An arrest warrant against deputy army commander Raska Lukwiya, was removed when he died in 2006.

In 2006, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni offered amnesty to those indicted, but none accepted. Despite numerous attempts in 2006 at reaching a peace agreement, the parties remained in conflict.

As a result of the horrendous conditions in refugee camps, close to 3,500 people were reported to have died each month, close to half children under five. By the end of June 2007, 916,000 remained in internally displaced persons (IDP) and refugee camps, many in the Acholi sub-region; 539,000 returned to their villages; 381,000 moved to transit settlements near their villages. The government estimated the reconstruction of Northern Uganda would cost $600-million (U.S.), most of which was expected to be funded by donors.

In 2008, despite personal claims of desiring peace, Kony continued to refuse to sign a Final Peace Agreement until ICC indictments were removed. The militaries of Uganda, DRC and Southern Sudan eventually responded with a joint military offensive in late 2008, named Operation Lightning Thunder, which ended in March 2009. In turn, the LRA terrorized villages in the Central African Republic. This renewed violence, as well as the proliferation of arms in Northern Uganda, is an enormous obstacle to the resettlement of internally displaced people. The LRA has a long history of effective guerrilla warfare, and the efficacy of renewed military operations is questionable.

Arms Sources

Uganda received military aid and equipment from the United States. There have been reports of weapon transfers from Belarus, South Africa, Israel, Bulgaria, Poland, China and Russia. Uganda also allegedly received weapons from the United Kingdom. The LRA and other rebel groups have secured weapons from the Sudanese government.

The Kalashnikov assault rifle appears to be the weapon most used by the LRA. Many LRA fighters also use the Chinese-made AK-47s. In addition, LRA fighters use rocket-propelled grenades, antipersonnel mines and squad-level support guns, like the Russian-manufactured PK 7.62 mm general-purpose machine gun.

Ethnic groups along the border with Kenya are reportedly armed by the Kenyan and Ugandan governments. In 2006, the Ugandan government reportedly accepted a shipment of 30 armoured vehicles from a United Kingdom-based arms corporation subsidiary operating in South Africa. Uganda was also reportedly in breach of a UN-imposed arms embargo against the DRC, who is known to have been receiving weapons from Uganda.

In 2010, United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) peacekeepers patrolled the border more forcefully between the DRC and Uganda after reports in September of LRA arms trafficking across the DRC and southern Sudan.

Since the endorsement of the Amnesty Act in 2000 by the Ugandan government, Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) initiatives have been taking place within the framework of the Amnesty Act. This means that a person who has been involved in insurgency operations against the government of Uganda since 1986 is entitled to amnesty and therefore eligible for demobilization and reintegration assistance.

The granting of amnesty to LRA rebels has not significantly reduced the flow of arms. Though 15,000 rebels surrendered between 2003 and 2008, only 500 guns were surrendered since 2005. Human Rights Watch has accused the Ugandan army of excessive use of force, killing of civilians, arbitrary detention and torture in its aggressive attempts to disarm in the northwest region of Karamoja.

Karamoja has a population of 950,000. The number of weapons in the region is estimated to range between 40,000 and 80,000 and as high as 200,000.

There are three routes on the Ugandan border for the small-arms trade: the route into Karamoja from Sudan (the most heavily used); the Karenga-Lopoch-Kotido route; and the Lokichogio route originating from Sudan.

The trade of small arms and light weapons in the border areas dates back to the pre-colonial era. Guns were introduced to Karamoja in the late 19th century because of communal resource-based competition. Pastoralists used guns in support of cattle raids and to fight off hostile neighbours in the trade in ivory. The ivory trade kept the Karamojong outside colonial control. With little to no state security in rural areas, these communities took initiatives to protect themselves, including purchasing weapons privately. Arms were carried by long-distance traders who dealt in cattle, cash and electronic goods.

In 2008, Uganda spent $341-million (U.S.), which is 2.3 per cent of its gross domestic product on military expenses.

Economic Factors

One of the factors behind the Northern conflict of Uganda is the regional split between the Northern and Southern parts of Uganda. This division has hampered national unity and has perpetuated the concentration of power and resources in the control of specific groups in particular regions. This regional split stems from the divide-and-rule policies implemented during the British colonial regime that separated Uganda into regions of administration and economic profit.

The British exploited previously existing ethnic tensions and enforced stereotypes that persist to this day. The Southern Baganda were deemed by the British to have a more cohesive pre-existing social infrastructure. Therefore, the British built government buildings, hospitals and schools in Buganda. As well, the Southern and larger part of Uganda (under Lake Kyoga) was used as agricultural land to develop cash crops, including tea and sugarcane. The Northern tribes, on the other hand, were categorized by the British to be unco-operative and served as a labour reserve.

People from the North were seen as unfit to participate in political administration and economic governance, whereas the people in the South were trustworthy. The Baganda in the South were put in charge of the civil service sector, while the army was left in the hands of the Acholi and other northern ethnic groups. In Britain’s indirect rule, therefore, the Baganda came to be seen as colonial agents heading the administrative policies in Uganda.

Currently, 80 per cent of the Ugandan workforce is employed by the agricultural sector.

The LRA claimed to be fighting Ugandan forces to challenge the government’s prejudiced policies against the Acholi. But they heavily persecuted the Acholi themselves, forcing Acholi people to relocate to camps, leave their crops behind and face starvation.

The government of Uganda has for many years supported the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (fighting for Southern independence), with the support of the United States, while the Sudanese government in Khartoum, in retaliation, has supported the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda.

The war has become a profitable source of income for high-ranking military and government officials.

map: CIA Factbook