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This chapter uses the broken, fragmented and very personal views of Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement (LRA/M) members collected during the Juba Peace Talks to show why individuals within the LRA/M embraced the notion of peace with ambiguity. Personal stories give an insight into how LRA/M members experience the day-to-day realities of their often-shifting identities, expressing an ambiguity vis-à-vis being an actor in war and in peace. Some of this ambiguity stems from the history of the conflict. That peace is ambiguous, for LRA/M members question a range of common notions in scholarship and practice, where often an unquestioned assumption persists that conflict actors ultimately are willing to sacrifice their own position for peace. This assumption fails to capture the experience of the LRA/M in the peace talks. The chapter asks the broader question of how to reconcile the pursuit of change through a peace process with the individual loss of status, control and power. While communal benefits of peace might be clear, for individuals recasting themselves in a peace process that continues to work along entrenched power dynamics means loss of status and power in a system where power relations remain unchanged.
This chapter about the failed peace negotiations between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda, the Juba Peace Talks, highlights the main gaps in scholarship on peacemaking, introduces the main arguments of the book, sets the scene on access to the LRA and reflects on methodological challenges. The book argues that contemporary peacemaking suffers from a theory/practice gap, with the way conflicts are supposed to be resolved not mirroring the complexity of the conflict. Current scholarship on peace negotiations emphasises game theory, failing to take context and developing dynamics into account. Yet how actors experience peace talks and their dynamics determines negotiation conduct and the extent to which they can change their own behaviour. For the Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement (LRA/M), the process was a contradictory experience with shifting loyalties and interests. Internal dynamics within the LRA/M were profoundly influenced by their perception that they were trapped in an established hostile system with an uneven playing field. Yet the LRA/M also struggled to transform their internal dynamics of distrust. The chapter further outlines the methodological challenges of access to armed groups and using likely manipulated information for research.
This chapter focuses on the 2007 events in the Juba Peace Talks between the Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement (LRA/M) and the Government of Uganda. Entering the year with a frayed relationship between the LRA/M and the mediator due to the lack of activity to deal decisively with Ugandan army attacks on the LRA as it was trying to assemble as part of negotiations, 2007 brought to the fore the challenging internal dynamics of the LRA/M. These included internal distrust and sabotage but also increased engagement with an ever-growing collection of outside actors which pulled the LRA/M in different directions. One way of maintaining coherence was to exert control at the very heart of the LRA, which led to the killing by Joseph Kony of his deputy, Vincent Otti. The year 2007 also showed increased international engagement, including from the USA, which further confused possibilities for the peace talks: The international community signalled simultaneously its willingness to find a solution to the arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court as well as its support for a military strike against the LRA. In the broader dynamics of the talks, these contradictions further strengthened the impasse.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is one of Africa's most notorious armed rebel groups, having operated across Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When they entered the Juba Peace Talks with the Ugandan Government in 2006, the peace deal seemed like a gift to fighters who had for years barely been surviving in Central Africa's jungles. Yet the talks failed. Why? Based on exclusive interviews with LRA fighters and their notorious leader Joseph Kony, Mareike Schomerus provides insights into how the LRA experienced the Juba Talks, revealing developing dynamics and deep distrust within a conflict system and how these became entrenched through the peace negotiations. In so doing, Schomerus offers an explanation as to why current approaches to ending armed violence not only fail but how they actively contribute to their own failure, and calls for a new approach to contemporary peacemaking.
The Juba Peace Talks between the Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement (LRA/M) and the Government of Uganda were the most promising attempt to end one of Africa’s longest running wars, yet they ended without a peace agreement and are thus largely considered a failure. This chapter unpacks the lessons that the Juba Talks offer for contemporary peacemaking: The need to understand the importance of the developing dynamics and how individuals experienced the peace talks; the phenomenon that peace talks can entrench, rather than transform, violent conflicts; and the challenges in researching and documenting these dynamics and entrenchments. The chapter concludes that the LRA/M to a great extent maintained its reputation as an unreliable and violent negotiation partner torn apart by infighting. The Government of Uganda made few political concessions and instead relief on military intervention; international actors failed to establish themselves as principled with clear guidelines. These dynamics had been present in the conflict and continued during the Juba Talks and beyond, confirming the LRA/M’s perception of being trapped in a hostile and unchangeable system. Only with a holistic approach to managing the ebbs and flows of political conflict can interaction and systems in entrenched situations be changed over the long term.
This chapter gives a detailed and dramatic account of the first year of the Juba Peace Talks between the Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement (LRA/M) and the Government of Uganda. It highlights the many tensions and contradictions that occurred, for example, the pressure to bring LRA senior commanders to the table while they feared for their security, Ugandan government insistence to put a deadline on the talks, the lack of capacity within the LRA/M delegation to deliver negotiation papers, the technical and military challenge to have the LRA fighters assemble, the contradictions within international approaches that simultaneously supported the ICC while also requesting that to back off. Ownership of the process became complex for the LRA/M who sought broad civil society participation while aiming to maintain their powerful hold on the process. In offering a narrative of the convoluted and complex events of this first year of peace talks, the chapter also argues that the developing dynamics of the talks made the pursuit of peace not just an unthankful but rather a damaging experience: For the LRA/M, the start to the negotiations was an experience of continuation, with existing political and military power relations entrenched, rather than transformed.
This chapter focuses on the 2008 events in the Juba Peace Talks between the Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement (LRA/M) and the Government of Uganda, which ended with joint military strikes by Ugandan and US forces (called Operation Lightning Thunder) against the LRA. LRA leader Joseph Kony had repeatedly failed to sign the Final Peace Agreement amidst growing confusion over demand and the role of the LRA/M delegates. In 2008, previously less obvious patterns of mistrust and miscommunication in the peace talks came to the fore, exacerbated by parallel preparations for war and peace and confusing international signals. The USA took on a new and prominent role, working behind the scenes to assure military preparations while also being an observer at the talks. Within the delegation, roles of individuals became increasingly bewildering. Yet despite the tremendous frustrations in the negotiation process and the missed opportunity to celebrate the Final Peace Agreement with a fully planned signing ceremony in the bush attended by 150 guests, the fall out of the military Operation Lightning Thunder shows the gravity of the decision to abandon the often-frustrating negotiation process in favour of what mistakenly continues to be sold as the quicker solution.
This chapter introduces two concepts to understand the dynamics at the Juba Peace Talks between the Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement (LRA/M) and the Government of Uganda. For the LRA/M, the main way of approaching the talks was through a mechanism of ‘connect/disconnect’. The LRA/M progressed by alternating its levels of engagement and kept control by maintaining a fluid, often a vague process. Progress and change came through reaching out in certain moments; control was maintained by pulling back in others. In contrast, international actors supporting the Juba Peace Talks function on a mechanism of ‘galvanic surges’: To continue support to the talks needed continuously developing momentum and consensus to remain committed to the peace talks. Running in parallel, the two approaches created a syncopated rhythm. Profound misinterpretation occurred in moments when external momentum hit a period of lesser LRA/M engagement; at other times, strong LRA/M engagement did not coincide with external momentum. The two operational modes mismatched and thus outside support and reassurances for the process were withdrawn just when the LRA/M had entered a time of adjustment.
This chapter uses the dynamics in the Juba Peace Talks between the Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement (LRA/M) and the Government of Uganda to unpack distrust as a characteristic of the conflict system in Uganda. Internally, distrust acted as a control mechanism for the LRA/M. Externally, it contributed significantly to the LRA/M’s failure to establish itself as a reliable negotiation partner. The struggle for recognition translated into having to pull together an unwieldy fabric of internal interests with often contradictory motivations. The Juba Peace Talks confirmed the workings of the ‘system’ LRA/M that continues to function on its internal trust and distrust between actors of the LRA and the LRM, as well as in collaboration with the government as all groups continuously infiltrate each other. This permanent playing-off of loyalties and betrayals in a system is a crucial reason why the conflict has continued for so long. Unable to get a peace deal signed, the conflict system of LRA/M and Government of Uganda emerged from the Juba Talks internally strengthened. This meant that the Juba Talks had served to confirm beliefs and the conviction that it was correct to act on them, rather than transform a conflict.
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