On December 16, 2003, Uganda referred the situation concerning the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was the first time that a state party had invoked Articles 13(a) and 14 of the Rome Statute in order to vest the Court with jurisdiction.
For both Uganda and the ICC, the case presented an important opportunity. For Uganda, the referral was an attempt to engage an otherwise aloof international community by transforming the prosecution of LRA leaders into a litmus test for the much celebrated promise of global justice. Since 1986, LRA atrocities have wreaked havoc on the Acholi people of northern Uganda. Given the absence of any vital national interests, influential states have not been inclined either to pressure Sudan to stop harboring the LRA or to help government forces confront the insurgents. Instead, the burden was placed on Uganda to negotiate a peaceful settlement with a ruthless, cult-like insurgency. The imprimatur of international criminal justice, sought through the referral to the ICC, was a means of thrusting this long-forgotten African war back onto the international stage.