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Uganda: Calls for Peace, Justice
Oct 31, 2005 (051031)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
The International Criminal Court has issued its first arrest
warrants ever, against the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
in northern Uganda. The group has conducted a systematic campaign
of terror for almost two decades in a conflict that has gained
relatively little international attention. But observers disagree
on whether the indictments will help or hinder the search for peace
as well as for justice.
A study for the International Center for Transitional Justice
(http://www.ictj.org) and the Center for Human Rights Center at the
University of California, Berkeley (http://www.hrcberkeley.org),
released in July and based on randomly selected interviews in
northern Uganda, found extraordinarily high levels of exposure to
traumatic events - including killings, abductions, mutilations, and
sexual violations. Most respondents stressed the urgency of peace
negotiations and supported amnesties to achieve peace, but also
said that key perpetrators should be punished. Of the 2,585
respondents, 40 percent had been abducted by the LRA, 45 percent
had witnessed the killing of a family member, and 23 percent had
been physically mutilated at some point during the conflict.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from two recent IRIN
news reports on the conflict, and a summary of the ICC action, by
the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the
International Criminal Court.
For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins and additional background links
on Uganda, see http://www.africafocus.org/country/uganda.php
Additional links include the following.
Features reports on international walk on Oct 22 to call attention
to the conflict in northern Uganda and particularly the situation
of child "night commuters" who must flee into the bush every night
in an effort to escape abduction or death..
Uganda Conflict Action Network
Affiliated with the Africa Peace and Justice Network, this
organization's site has both news and action alerts, as well as
other informational links.
Africa's Peace Seekers
Profile of Uganda peace negotiator Betty Bigombe
Report on interviews in northern Uganda in April-May, 2005 with
over 2,500 Ugandans on personal experiences of the conflict and
their opinions on peace and justice.
International Crisis Group
Several 2005 reports with background and recommendations on
accelerating the peace process.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Uganda: Relief agencies cut back operations following suspected
October 28, 2005
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
[This report may not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Nations or its agencies.]
Kampala, 28 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - Relief agencies working in northern
Uganda have curtailed their operations following the recent attacks
on aid workers by suspected Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.
The head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs in Uganda, Stephen Lukudu, said agencies had suspended all
non-essential field missions as precautionary measure until the
situation was reviewed.
"All staff have been called back to towns, pending another security
meeting that is going to take place on 31 October," Lukudu added.
Various relief agencies had also decided to limit their work to
towns and protected camps for internally displaced people. These
included Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontiers-Holland (MSF-Holland) and
Christian Children's Fund (CCF).
However, President Yoweri Museveni, whose government has been
fighting the LRA for nearly two decades, urged humanitarian workers
not to "panic", saying the insurgency was almost ended.
"We are going to handle those robbers," Museveni told reporters at
a news conference in the capital, Kampala, on Thursday. "Those
(LRA) are very small groups, they are more or less like robbers."
Two aid workers were killed and four injured in three separate
attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday on vehicles belonging to the
Catholic charity, Caritas, and the British NGO, ACORD. Two of the
injured worked for CCF.
"We have not withdrawn, but we have reduced the movement of both
international and local staff," MSF-Holland Country Director in
Uganda, Christine Schmitz, said.
Emma Naylor, Oxfam Country Programme Manager, told IRIN that
despite the indictments of five LRA leaders by the International
Criminal Court earlier this month, and claims by the government
that the end of the war was in sight, safety and security in the
region had remained "a distant dream".
"We are not moving outside towns. Like other agencies, we have
reduced our field operations. We are assessing the security
situation on a daily basis," Naylor said. "The government needs to
take concrete action, but right now, we do not see that action on
She added: "We are very worried because the government of Uganda
has been pursuing a so-called military solution whose side effect
is that the people who have actually suffered as a result of the
war are not getting properly protected.
"And the attacks of the last few days are unfortunate evidence that
aid workers and civilians in northern Uganda are not safe."
On Thursday, the UN's emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland
condemned the attacks as "vicious" and "unconscionable" and said
they further threatened civilians in the strife-torn region.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 1.5
million displaced in northern Uganda since the LRA started fighting
in 1998. The LRA has been accused of massive abuses of civilians
including murder, mutilations and the abductions of at least 20,000
Uganda: ICC indictments to affect northern peace efforts, says
October 10, 2005
[excerpts only. For full report see http://www.irinnews.org]
Kampala, 10 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - The decision by the International
Criminal Court's (ICC) to issue arrest warrants for the leaders of
the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has changed the dynamics of
ongoing peace talks between the Uganda government and the rebels,
the mediator said. ...
The ICC last week issued five indictments for LRA commanders - the
first ever to be issued by the court. The ICC has, since 2004, been
investigating war crimes committed in the 19-year-old conflict
between the LRA and the Uganda government.
The LRA insurgency has devastated large areas of northern and
eastern Uganda and driven up to 1.4 million people from their homes
into internally displaced persons' (IDP) camps.
Bigombe managed to win some trust from both the LRA and the
government as a mediator. Backed by the governments of Britain, the
Netherlands, Norway, and the United States, she pitched camp in the
region to mediate the peace process that had been started by
religious leaders in northern Uganda.
She came close to brokering a successful ceasefire agreement
between the two sides late last year, when she organised the first
face-to-face meeting in a decade between a senior government
minister and a dozen LRA officials in the bushes in Kitgum
district, some 450 km north of the capital, Kampala.
However, last minute hitches saw the attempt fail.
Bigombe said she had been trying to persuade the LRA leadership to
end the rebellion and accept an offer of amnesty from the
government. However, the ICC's move has scuttled the amnesty option
for the leaders accused of a number of atrocities, including the
kidnap and murder of children. ...
The LRA is notorious for abducting children for use as soldiers,
porters or sex slaves. A recent report by the UN Children's Fund
(UNICEF) said out of an estimated 25,000 children abducted by the
LRA since the conflict began 19 years ago, approximately 7,500 are
girls, 1,000 of whom had conceived during captivity.
The report stated that over the past three years, the number of
IDPs in the conflict-affected districts (Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira,
Apac, Soroti, Katakwi and Kaberamaido) was estimated to have risen
from 550,000 to 1.4 million due to insecurity.
The report added that the conflict had perpetuated a severe
humanitarian crisis in the north, with the rights of children and
women to access basic health services, water, primary education and
security going largely unfulfilled.
First Arrest Warrants Issued for Lord's Resistance Army
The American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the
International Criminal Court: A program of the United Nations
Association of the United States of America
For full version, including footnoes, see
October 17, 2005
On July 8, 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued
sealed arrest warrants for five senior members of the Lord's
Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group in northern Uganda. The arrest
warrants, unsealed on October 13, 2005, are the first warrants ever
issued by the ICC. The five individuals under arrest are all senior
LRA members: Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya, Okot
Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen. They are accused of committing crimes
against humanity and war crimes. The alleged crimes include murder,
rape, enslavement, sexual enslavement, inhumane acts of inflicting
serious bodily injury and suffering, cruel treatment of civilians,
intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population,
forced enlisting of children, and pillaging.
The arrest warrant issued for LRA leader Joseph Kony lists 33
counts, including 12 counts of crimes against humanity and 21
counts of war crimes. Vincent Otti, LRA Deputy Commander in Chief,
is accused of committing 11 counts of crimes against humanity and
21 counts of war crimes. Okot Odhiambo, Deputy Army Commander, is
accused of committing two counts of crimes against humanity and
eight counts of war crimes. Dominic Ongwen, a LRA Brigade
Commander, who is believed to have been killed on September 30,
2005 during an LRA incursion into sub-region of Teso,2 is accused
of committing three counts of crimes against humanity and four
counts of war crimes. The arrest warrant for Raska Lukwiya, LRA
army commander, lists one count of crimes against humanity and
three counts of war crimes. The arrest warrants remained unsealed
till this month to ensure the safety and psychological or physical
well being of victims, potential witnesses and their families, and
to prevent the disclosure of their whereabouts and their
identities. After the Court made arrangements to implement measures
to protect the victims and potential witness, the Pre-Trial Chamber
II decided to unseal the warrants. They remain in a heavily
redacted form to ensure the protection of victims and witnesses
from reprisal attacks.
For the last 19 years, the LRA forces led by a self-proclaimed
prophet Joseph Kony, have been fighting to oust President Yoweri
Musevini and his army, the Ugandan People's Defense Forces. They
claim to be fighting to free the Acholi people of the north by
overthrowing the government and install a system based on the
Biblical Ten Commandments. According to human rights groups, the
LRA rebels are responsible for murdering, raping, maiming,
torturing and displacing civilians. They are also accused of
abducting, indoctrinating and physically and sexually abusing young
children. Children make up 85-90% of LRA fighters, most of who are
kidnapped between the ages of 11-15 and forced to join the LRA. The
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
approximates that 20,000 children have been abducted by the LRA and
forced to become combatants.3 The United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF) also reports that approximately 40,000 children are "night
commuters," children who leave their rural homes at night to sleep
in more populated urban areas.4 The war has caused thousands of
deaths and the displacement of over 1.4 million people in northern
The Ugandan government, a State Party to the Rome Statute, referred
its case to the ICC prosecutor in December 2003. Prosecutor Luis
Moreno Ocampo launched an investigation in July 2004. On May 6,
2005, the Prosecutor filed an application to the Pre-Trial Chamber
to issue arrest warrants for key perpetrators of atrocities. The
governments of Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan were
all served with the warrants following their issuance.
Reactions to Warrants Effects on Peace Negotiations
The Ugandan government welcomed the arrest warrants while others
expressed concern about their impact on peace negotiations and the
security situation in Uganda. Betty Bigombe, former Minister of
State for Pacification of the North and the leader of current peace
efforts who has often been critical of the ICC, acknowledged that
the arrest warrants changed the dynamics of the peace negotiations
and will require her to change negotiation tactics. The government
has been trying to end the conflict through negotiations with the
LRA since 1994, but they have been largely unsuccessful. Bigombe
came close to brokering a successful peace agreement earlier in
2005, but the LRA's lack of a political agenda and clear goals
ended the talks.
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo waited for several months to
issue warrants, providing Bigombe additional time to engage in
peace talks. Refusal of the LRA to surrender prompted the
Prosecutor to seek arrest warrants. The Court remains sensitive to
the interests of justice. If the ICC investigation is seen as a
hindrance to the end of the violence, the Court can suspend the
investigation under Article 53 of the Rome Statute. The Prosecutor
needs to consider all circumstances, including the gravity of
crimes and interest of victims if he decides to suspend the
investigation. His decision is then reviewed by the Pre-Trial
The fact that arrest warrants were issued does not mean that the
Ugandan government is not committed to establishing peace in
Northern Uganda. The government has expressed its commitment to
peace and its full support for Bigombe. The government will
continue talks with rebels who are willing to renounce rebellion,
while the five named individuals must be treated differently due to
the international arrest warrants levied against them.
Can the Court capture those under arrest?
Although the ICC does not have its own police force, State Parties
to the Court under Article 59 agree to use their respective
national authorities to arrest suspected perpetrators and transfer
them to the Court. In September 2004, the Prosecutor concluded a
cooperation agreement with Ugandan governmental bodies to
facilitate investigations and execute arrest warrants.
In addition, both Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
were served with the arrest warrants. DRC is a party to the ICC and
is required to cooperate to apprehend suspected individuals on its
territory. Sudan, however, is not a party to the ICC and is not
required to cooperate. However Sudanese First Vice President Salva
Kiir Mayardit said Sudan would turn Kony over to the ICC if he were
found in Sudan. An agreement was signed between the Ugandan and
Sudanese governments to cooperate in capturing Kony. The agreement,
valid for a month from October 7, 2005, allows Ugandan forces to
search for the LRA rebels in Sudan. Sudanese forces and Sudan
People's Liberation Army (SPLA) will aid Uganda in the pursuit. A
small number of LRA rebels led by Vincent Otti crossed over to the
DRC, but after facing a mounting deployment of Congolese and MONUC
forces (UN peacekeeping force), returned to Sudan. Kony is believed
to be in southern Sudan.
After the capture of an individual or the person's surrender, the
Pre-Trial Chamber II will hold a hearing to confirm the charges
(indictment proceedings). At this time, the Pre-Trial Chamber II
can confirm the charges and commit the person to the trial; decline
to confirm the charges; or adjourn the hearing and ask the
Prosecutor to consider providing further evidence, conduct further
investigation or amend the charges because the available evidence
appears to show a different crime.6
If the ICC is unable to capture the individual, the Pre-Trial
Chamber can also hold a confirmation of charges meeting in
absentia, to confirm the charges on which the Prosecutor is seeking
to try the person. The Prosecutor must demonstrate that the person
fled or cannot be found and all reasonable steps have been taken to
secure his or her presence before the Court. Counsel shall
represent the person in absentia.7
Why only the LRA?
While the first five arrest warrants were only issued for LRA
members, the Prosecutor has made clear that his investigation would
be impartial and investigate all crimes committed under the Statute
in Northern Uganda. The Prosecutor's first criterion for the
issuance of arrest warrants has been gravity. As the crimes
committed by the LRA were more numerous and of higher severity than
those committed by the Ugandan army (UPDF), the Prosecutor decided
to begin with these warrants. The Prosecutor has not ruled out
possible prosecution of other groups involved in the conflict. The
Prosecutor will continue to collect information and evidence
concerning allegations of violence by other groups and if they meet
the criteria specified in the Rome Statute, he may take appropriate
steps to arrest and prosecute other individuals.
A more evenhanded approach is important for the Court's legitimacy.
Investigation and possible prosecution of government forces will
strengthen the Court's commitment to end all impunity and prosecute
perpetrators of the gravest international crimes without any
distinction based on official capacity.
Relationship to Amnesties
President Musevini historically preferred a military approach to
end the conflict in the North, but after a long war with no end in
sight, the Ugandan government introduced a new approach. The
government passed the Ugandan Amnesty Act in 2000, which provides
immunity to any Ugandan who at any time since January 26, 1986
engaged in or is engaging in war or armed rebellion against the
government by actual participation in combat, collaborating with
the perpetrators of the war, committing any crime in the
furtherance of the war or assisting or aiding the conduct or
prosecution of the war or armed rebellion. Amnesty has been given
to a few rebels but the Act has not achieved an end to the
Prior to the issuance of the arrest warrants, President Musevini in
a speech to Parliament on June 8, 2005, stated that he would
forgive Joseph Kony if he gave up fighting. Kony and the other LRA
leaders under arrest did not accept the offer. It is unclear
whether they can still receive amnesty. While the head of the
Uganda Amnesty Commission (UAC), Peter Onega, said if his
commission was to follow Ugandan law, the five indicted individuals
would still be eligible for the blanket amnesty, the Ugandan
Defense Minister, Amama Mbabazi, stated that the government will
continue to provide amnesty to rebels who renounce the rebellion,
but that those under arrest by the ICC will not be treated the same
as before the warrants.
The Rome Statute does not explicitly address the issue of amnesty.
As the Court is complementary to national criminal jurisdictions,
if Uganda decides to give amnesty to the individuals under arrest,
the Prosecutor will examine the issue and decide whether the
actions taken by the Ugandan government satisfy the complementarity
requirements under Article 17. If the Ugandan government disagrees
with the Prosecutor and would like to uphold its amnesty decisions,
the government has recourse through the Pre-Trial Chamber as well.
If the Prosecutor is content with the Ugandan approach, he may
present the case to the Trial Chamber and seek to withdraw the
Peter Onega, head of the Ugandan Amnesty Commission (UAC) and John
Baptist Odium, a Catholic priest who set up a peace initiative to
halt the violence, expressed concerns of increased LRA attacks on
civilians after the issuance of ICC arrest warrants. Ugandan
authorities have not reported an increase in violence or attacks
however. The lack of response from the LRA may be due to several
factors. In recent months, reports suggest that the LRA has only a
few hundred rebels left in its ranks and may not be capable of
further attacks. In addition, the senior leadership of the LRA is
dispersed: Joseph Kony and some of his followers are reported to be
in southern Sudan; Vincent Otti entered the Democratic Republic of
Congo in late September, but after facing large numbers of
Congolese and MONUC forces, fled back to Sudan; and Dominic Ongwen
was recently killed in combat.11 With international warrants on
their heads, the leaders of the LRA are among the most wanted and
State Parties to the Rome Statute are required to arrest them and
hand them to the ICC if they are found on their territory. As
international pariahs, they can no longer command the forces and
inflict the violence they once were capable of.
Researched and drafted by AMICC Professional Volunteer Associate:
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