Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Central Africa: Military strategies against the LRA will have no lasting impact without dialogue and negotiations

Source: European Network for Central Africa (EURAC)

The network of European NGOs for advocacy on Central Africa (EurAc) and its member NGOs have read with great interest the various reports and declarations (Human Rights Watch, Resolve, Enough, International Crisis Group) on the problem of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). They appreciate the attention that the different international bodies have given to this cause of instability and suffering in four countries.

For more than two decades the LRA has never stopped terrorising the civilian population first in Uganda and later in the DRC, the Central African Republic and Sudan. It is clear to EurAc and its members that none of the military operations have brought an end to the crimes committed by the LRA throughout this period.

In spite of the long history of the LRA its composition, its structure and its objectives are not very well known. EurAc believes that civil society organisations in the regions affected by the LRA have a crucial role to play in understanding the LRA phenomenon and in re-establishing dialogue. Should we not refer to the initiatives taken by these organisations, to the positions they have taken on the topic, in particular at the forum organised by Pax Christi?

EurAc affirms that a lasting solution to the LRA problem must be based on negotiation and dialogue. We share this vision with the religious leaders of the region. The military aspect is undoubtedly important but it cannot have a lasting impact if it is not part of a wider strategy.

This is the reason EurAc recommends to the European Union and its members states to:

1) Explore, protect and enlarge the space for a non-violent approach and a negotiated settlement. For this

A) It is important to support the civil society actors, especially religious leaders, and the traditional authorities in their attempts to make contact with Joseph Kony to be certain that he is really willing to take part again in the Juba peace process.

B) In collaboration with local actors including religious leaders and traditional chiefs, it is important to mobilise every means to bring local LRA groups to attend and to remain within the process of demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR). It is especially important to launch an intensive programme of awareness raising by radio, television, posters etc aimed at local LRA groups.

C) It is necessary to create on the ground a reception infrastructure and human resources which will allow for an effective DDR policy. The local communities have to be "trained" to receive LRA deserters, rather than killing them which is sometimes the case at the moment.

2) Harmonise the military aspect of action against the LRA

A) Experience has shown that a military operation on its own does not attain its objectives and it provokes retaliation and the civilian population is the first victim. Military action must be part of a wider strategy which must have enough capacity in the form of human resources, intelligence and equipment.

B) The Uganda army, which is currently active in the struggle against the LRA in the three other countries, must have a very clear mandate and rules of engagement.

C) All the military actors who are countering the violence of the LRA must act according to a common operational plan which is part of a global strategy set up within the framework of the Contact Group.

3) Prioritise the protection of the population and the ending of human rights violations.

A) Monusco's presence should be reinforced in order to protect the population.

B) The local administration, the traditional authorities and other formal and informal structures in the community must be mobilised to discuss how they can contribute in whatever way they can to the creation of a safer community.

C) The formation of a truly national, efficient and disciplined army remains an absolute priority as far as the DRC is concerned.

4) Give a strong signal that from now on the international community will treat the LRA as a regional priority in a coherent and well co-ordinated manner. It is vitally necessary to put the LRA on the international agenda. The creation of a contact group made up of the four countries concerned, various UN missions, several envoys and permanent members of the Security Council is important. This group will allow space for negotiation and will enable a coherent strategy for the protection of the civilian population to be determined.

Kris BerwoutsS Joost van Puijenbroek

Directeur EurAc IKV/ Pax Christi - Nederland