Taking Stock of the First Arrest Warrants of the International Criminal Court


For the last twenty years the Government of Uganda and the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have battled each other in Northern Uganda. In 2004, President Yoweri Museveni referred the situation in Northern Uganda to the nascent International Criminal Court (ICC). In October 2005, the ICC Prosecutor unsealed the warrants of arrest for the top five leaders of the LRA. This paper assesses the first indictments issued by the ICC. It argues that whereas the indicted LRA leaders have not been arrested yet, the warrants have put pressure on the LRA to talk peace with the government.

1. Introduction

It is now more than one year since the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, unsealed the warrants of arrest for the five leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which had been issued and sealed by Pre-Trial Chamber II1 of the ICC on 8 July 2005. The five were named as: Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya.2 The warrants had been issued and sealed ‘to ensure the safety or physical or psychological well being of and to prevent the disclosure of the identity or whereabouts of any victims, potential witnesses and their families’ (ICC 14 October 2005). In issuing the warrants, Pre-Trial Chamber II concluded that ‘there are reasonable grounds to believe that they [the five LRA leaders] ordered the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court’ (ICC 14 October 2005).

It should be remembered that in December 2003, the Government of Uganda referred the situation in Northern Uganda to the ICC. Subsequently, in January 2004, President Yoweri Museveni reached an agreement with the Office of Prosecutor of the ICC (ICC 29 January 2004),3 to start investigating the activities of the LRA,4 with a view to indicting and bringing to trial all those who have wrought untold suffering to the civilian population of Northern Uganda.5

This article assesses the situation regarding the warrants more than a year after they were made public. Whilst they have not been executed, the warrants of arrest have served to put pressure on the leadership of the LRA to talk peace with the Government of Uganda. In addition, the warrants have brought the ICC and traditional justice into focus. Whilst the ICC is insisting that the indicted LRA leaders must be arrested and punished, the view in Northern Uganda is that they should be dealt with under traditional justice mechanisms.

2. The Conflict in Northern Uganda

As Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA, later renamed the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, UPDF) seized power in Kampala in January 1986, the bulk of the former Uganda army, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), predominantly made up of people from Lango and Acholi districts of Uganda, retreated north. When the NRA reached these northern areas, the defeated UNLA attempted to stage a come-back. Their hope was that the people of the north would rise up against the invading southerners who predominantly made up the NRA. By late 1988, the NRA had already been able to defeat a number of rebel groups that had risen to fight against it in the north of the country. Prominent among the groups were the Uganda People’s Defence Army (UPDA) of Odong Latek, the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) I and II of Severino Lukoya and Alice Lakwena, respectively. By the early 1990s the rebellion in Teso region led by the Uganda People’s Army (UPA) of Peter Otai, had all but petered out. However, from the ashes of the UPDA and HSM I and II the LRA arose.

The LRA was started by Joseph Kony, a former altar boy, after the defeat by the NRA of Alice Lakwena’s HSM II at Maga Maga in Jinja district in 1988. Kony is a nephew of Alice Lakwena,6 who herself is a daughter of Severino Lukoya. Kony proclaimed himself a messianic prophet (IRIN 28 January 2004),7 and stated that he aimed to overthrow the Museveni government and rule Uganda according to the Biblical Ten Commandments. However, the rebellion lost popular support among the people of the region and under pressure from both the UPDF and local resistance, the LRA and Kony fled to Southern Sudan (IRIN 28 January 2004). Kony found a fertile ground to operate in Southern Sudan because the area has been wracked by war since the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) of John Garang had been fighting the Khartoum government since May 1983. The Sudanese government found an ally in Kony as the government of Uganda openly supported the SPLA. Kony was able to get bases and the much needed supplies of weapons to continue fighting the Uganda army. The LRA’s tactic, throughout its insurgency, has been to attack and terrorise civilians, through killings, mutilations and abductions. The LRA has been able to keep its ranks swelled through child abductions and forceful recruitments.

In March 2002, the UPDF launched what it called ‘Operation Iron Fist I (OIF I)’, aimed at routing the LRA from its bases in Southern Sudan. This operation followed an agreement reached by the governments of Uganda and Sudan, allowing the former to send her troops onto the territory of Sudan below the 4th parallel, in order to deal with the LRA insurgents. The results of the operation have been mixed. Whereas the government and the UPDF have claimed success by the fact that Kony no longer has permanent bases in the areas of Southern Sudan near the Uganda border where he can launch attacks onto the territory of Uganda, civil society groups like the Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative (ARLPI) – a group that has been seeking peaceful ways to end the conflict – has noted that ‘the operation was the biggest mistake of the government as it has doubled the numbers of the displaced and [has made the] security [situation] worse than ever’ (IRIN 28 January 2004).

The effects of OIF I, initially among others, was the expansion of the LRA’s operational area from its traditional bastions of Gulu, Pader and Kitgum districts to the districts of Lira, Apach and the two districts of Katakwi and Soroti in Teso region. As a result of the LRA’s invasion into Teso, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has estimated that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing LRA terror rose from 800 000 to at least 1.2 million (IRIN 28 Jan 2004).8 The IDPs, who are largely composed of malnourished children, live in squalid make-shift camps called ‘protected villages’. These camps are devoid of food or clean water, and sanitation and medicine are nonexistent (IRIN 28 Jan 2004). The concentration of people in IDP camps gives the LRA a chance to attack, kill and abduct many people. This is in spite of these camps being protected by local militias. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has estimated that in the year 2003, a staggering 8 500 children were abducted by rebels (IRIN 28 Jan 2004). Many of these children, once abducted, are never seen again. The abductions are aimed at accomplishing a number of things. The abducted boys and girls are forcibly recruited into the LRA ranks.9 But also, the girls are married to the LRA rank and file. It is reported that Kony himself maintains a number of these abducted girls as his wives. In addition, the LRA uses the children as human shields, porters and labourers. The children are forced to fight, kill civilians and abduct other children. Those who fail to comply with LRA orders are murdered, often by other children who are forced to kill them.

As the ferocity of the LRA attacks and the government’s counter-insurgency operations increased in intensity, domestic and international calls to end the conflict peacefully also increased. As a result, the two sides have engaged in talks a number of times, but all the efforts have come to nothing. In 1994, the then Minister for the Pacification of Northern Uganda, Betty Bigombe, brought the LRA to the negotiating table. She nearly clinched a peace deal, but the effort was scuttled at the eleventh hour by President Museveni. The latter gave the LRA seven days in which to surrender upon which the rebels abandoned the negotiations. Bigombe again tried to negotiate with the LRA at the end of 2004. Her efforts were supported by the President who appointed a Presidential Peace Team (PPT) to bolster her own team.10 However, the talks hit a dead end when the rebels failed to agree to a draft cease-fire agreement. The latest attempt at peace talks in Juba is the umpteenth time that the two sides are engaging in talks.

3. The Arrest Warrants

The unsealing of the arrest warrants coincided with the LRA’s relocating from Southern Sudan to Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Operation Iron Fist had the effect of forcing the LRA from its traditional areas of operation in Southern Sudan. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 between the Khartoum government and the rebel Sudanese People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) had the effect of diminishing the LRA’s area of operation further. This is because the Comprehensive Peace Agreement placed Southern Sudan under an autonomous administration of the Government of Southern Sudan, led by the SPLA/M. In addition, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement had the effect of lessening the Khartoum government’s support for the LRA. From 1994, the Khartoum government had supported the LRA to counter the SPLA.

With the Government of Southern Sudan in place and under pressure from the Uganda army (the UPDF), the LRA had no choice but to run to the DRC. It must be remembered that the DRC has been in a state of conflict since the war that removed dictator Mobutu in 1996-7.11 The territory where the LRA ran to has for long not been controlled by the DRC government. Thus, it was easy for the LRA to cross from unfettered Sudan and establish itself there. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the rebels of the SPLA/M gave the latter the authority to administer Southern Sudan under an autonomous government. As a result, the LRA which used to roam the areas in Southern Sudan at will, discovered that they could no longer do that. They were therefore forced to find a safe haven in Garamba National Park in the DRC.

Whilst Uganda and the DRC are state parties to the Rome Statute, Sudan is not a state party. The ICC Prosecutor has been calling on the countries in the region to execute the arrest warrants. As I have argued in my paper, ‘The International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) Arrest Warrants for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Leaders and the Peace Prospects for Northern Uganda’ and elsewhere, the government of the DRC is too weak to arrest the indicted LRA leaders.12 The Government of Uganda is not in a position to effect the arrests either. This is because the indicted LRA leaders are beyond its jurisdiction and I do not think the UPDF has the capacity and support to enter the DRC to arrest them. Sudan could easily have executed the warrants because firstly, the LRA operated from its territory. Secondly, and even more importantly, even if the LRA is now based in Garamba National Park in the DRC, they easily cross back into Sudanese territory. The reluctance of Sudan to execute the warrants could possibly stem from two reasons. Firstly, the historical cordial ties between the Khartoum government and the LRA. Secondly, the fact that Sudan was not a state party to the Rome Statute. However it should be noted that Sudan and the ICC have concluded a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate. Sudan could easily execute the arrests but it is reluctant to do so. Possibly this is because of the historical cordial ties between the LRA and some elements of the leadership of Sudan.

When elements of the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) attempted to engage the LRA militarily in Garamba National Park in January 2006, eight Guatemalan peacekeepers lay dead at the end of the skirmish (The New Vision, 8 June 2006). As a result, MONUC has been reluctant to engage the LRA again. The ICC Prosecutor is in a quandary. Since the ICC has no police force of its own, the arrest warrants have gone un-effected. However, the execution of the arrest warrants has become complicated due to the on-going peace talks between the LRA and the Government of Unity in the Southern Sudanese town of Juba. Section 4 of this paper deals with this issue in more detail.

4. The Juba Talks

At the beginning of May 2006, the Government of Southern Sudan announced that the LRA was ready to start peace talks with the Government of Unity with a view to ending the Northern Uganda conflict. As I have already observed above, since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement the LRA’s area of operation had been tremendously diminished. The rebels used to have bases in Southern Sudan from where they could launch attacks on Uganda. However, the combination of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and launching of OIF by the government forces of Uganda, caused the LRA to become hard pressed to find an area where they could operate in an unfettered manner. Garamba National Park in the DRC where the LRA ran to is very far from Uganda. Thus the LRA has not been able to infiltrate Northern Uganda as it used to when it had bases in Southern Sudan.13 But even Garamba National Park has not been very safe for the LRA. When it first moved in there, the DRC government sent its ‘elite’ troops of the Forces Armées de la République du Congo (FARDC) to push them out. However, up to now FARDC has not been able to dislodge the rebels. The reason for this could be that the FARDC is still a weak army as the DRC is just recovering from civil war.

Peace talks between the Government of Unity and the LRA opened in July 2006 under the mediation of the Vice-President of Southern Sudan, Riek Machar. The two sides agreed on five agenda items. These are: cessation of hostilities, comprehensive solutions to the conflict, accountability and reconciliation, formal cease-fire, and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR). Towards the end of August 2006, the two sides signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (The Sunday Monitor, 27 August 2006). The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement committed the LRA and the government forces to cease all hostile actions against each other. In addition, it committed the LRA to move from its hide-outs in Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan and the DRC to designated places in Southern Sudan at Ri-Kwangba and Owiny-Ki-bul, where they were supposed to camp and wait for the final outcome of the talks. Under the agreement, the Government of Uganda committed itself to provide safe passages to all LRA fighters scattered in Northern Uganda, so that they could move to the assembly points. In this regard, the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement gave the LRA rebels three weeks to move to the assembly points. Although the safe passages were provided, the LRA failed to assemble at the designated points. At the time of this writing, the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement has been amended/extended twice. First in November 2006 a revision was made to accommodate the fact that the LRA had failed to assemble at the two designated places as had been stipulated by the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. The amended/renewed Cessation of Hostilities Agreement gave the LRA up to the end of February 2007 to assemble. Again, the LRA failed to assemble within the stipulated time. The LRA cited security reasons for failing to assemble. The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was renewed for the third time on 13 April 2007, and the LRA was given seven days to assemble at Ri-Kwangba (The New Vision, 9 May 2007).14 Both the SPLA and the UPDF committed themselves to provide safe passages for the LRA to the assembly point. However, the LRA has protested against the one week deadline in which to assemble (The Daily Monitor, 11 May 2007). It argues that it is unrealistic to expect the rebels to assemble in one week. Thus, as we write, the rebels have not started assembling.

One of the biggest sticking points for the LRA however, is their demand that the ICC must first withdraw the arrest warrants for its indicted leaders before a comprehensive peace agreement is signed. According to the LRA’s Number Two, Vincent Otti, ‘the rebels will not sign any peace deal until the noose around their necks is loosened by a withdrawal of the arrest warrants’ (The Daily Monitor, 13 October 2006:2).15 He is reported to have added, ‘The ICC is the greatest obstacle … Unless the warrants are withdrawn, we shall not leave for anywhere’ (The New Vision, 12 October 2006:1-2). Otti in fact has threatened to kill whoever attempts to arrest him and his indicted colleagues. The position of the Government of Unity is that a comprehensive peace agreement must first be signed before it can appeal to the ICC to withdraw the arrest warrants. According to the Chief Government of Unity mediator Ruhakana Rugunda, ‘the Government of Unity has no authority to go to the ICC and withdraw the indictment. The indictments are court procedures. [The] LRA should be advised that they are taking an erroneous line to give ICC conditions. They should drop it’ (The New Vision, 12 October 2006:1). Elsewhere, Rugunda is also reported to have emphasised that ‘the indictments will remain in place until there is clear evidence that peace has been achieved …’ (The Sunday Monitor, 15 October 2006:10). When the issue of the warrants was debated in the Uganda parliament, the majority of the members who hail from Northern Uganda were of the view that the ICC should step back (Uganda Parliament Hansard, 7 September 2006). They argued that the traditional justice initiatives should be supported to deal with the problem.

While maintaining that the indictments will stay, the Government of Unity has written to the ICC reiterating the fact that it wants the four surviving indicted LRA leaders to be arrested. In a letter to the ICC, the Government of Unity reaffirmed its commitment ‘to cooperate with and support the [ICC regarding the arrest and prosecution of the indicted LRA leaders]’ (The Daily Monitor, 11 October 2006:1-2). With the two sides not compromising on what to do with the warrants, it seems the Juba talks are in trouble.

In January 2007, the LRA announced that it was withdrawing from the Juba talks. It cited a number of reasons for withdrawing.16 It argued among others that Juba was no longer a safe venue for its delegation. It also argued that the chief mediator, Riek Machar, was not impartial. The sum total of the LRA argument was that the talks should be shifted to another place and that the chief mediator should be replaced. But at the back of the mind of the LRA delegation were the arrest warrants. As long as the warrants are not withdrawn, the LRA is not safe. Nevertheless, with the appointment of former Mozambique President Joachim Chissano as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Representative for Northern Uganda, the LRA has been convinced to go back to Juba. Chissano has been in Southern Sudan and has been able to convince the two sides to resume the talks (The New Vision, 8 May 2007:10). As I write now, the talks are set to resume.

Meanwhile, the ICC has taken the regional governments to task over their failure to execute the arrest warrants. While addressing the UN General Assembly in October 2006, the President of the ICC, Judge Philippe Kirsch, mourned of the inability of the Court to execute the arrest warrants.17 He averred that ‘the Court does not have the power to arrest [the indicted] persons. That is the responsibility of the states and other actors. Without arrests there can be no trials’ (The Daily Monitor, 11 October 2006:2). So the waiting goes on for the ICC to make its first arrests regarding the situation in Northern Uganda.

5. Traditional versus ICC Justice

5.1 Theoretical issues

The ICC involvement in Northern Uganda ‘has brought to the fore an important debate on seemingly oppositional approaches to justice: local restorative approaches versus international retributive approaches’ (Baines 2007:96). The argument has centred on whether the LRA should be dealt with by western liberal judicial institutions which emphasise retribution, or whether the traditional mechanisms which emphasise restoration and reconciliation should be used. In retributive justice, punishment is aimed not at repairing the harm the offenders did to their victims, nor at repairing offenders or their relationship to the victims and their community… Punishment seems to be geared to try to break and rupture their connection to the larger society – not by just putting up all manner of physical, social and emotional barriers, but by making offenders think that the only consequences of their acts they need to think about, are the punitive consequences for themselves. They do not have to confront the consequences [resulting to] the victims and the community (Spelman 2002:56).

The desire for retribution is the desire for vengeance; getting even, putting the world back in balance (Robert 1990:41). Retributionists simply consider it morally fitting that criminal offenders are punished (Berns 1988:85). This is the kind of justice that the ICC is seeking to implement in Northern Uganda. However, for the people who have been affected by this conflict, acknowledgement, reconciliation and restoration (compensation) is what they want.18 Communitarian restorative justice is where justice is implemented in and by local communities, and draws on restorative justice principles to promote reconciliation (Harrell 2003:60). Instead of centralised state-administered courts meting out formal justice, less formal local committees must take control of justice, encourage broad participation in the process, promote reconciliation between victims and wrongdoers and prepare communities to welcome back wrongdoers after they complete their sentence (Harrell 2003:60). Punishments should include community service, restitution and shame – potent tools for moral re-education and reconciliation – as well as traditional penal confinement (Harrell 2003:60).

The traditional African sense of justice is not simply about applying the retributive aspects of justice in isolation, as it is in the Western model. Retribution is but one part of the overarching process that also encompasses rehabilitation, reconciliation, compensation and restoration (Refugee Law Project 2005:12).

In other words, it is not just that retribution equals justice. Indeed, justice itself is one component of restoring perpetrators back into harmony with the values of a community.

Restorative justice sees greater value in educating and rehabilitating an offender than in simply incarcerating him and forgetting about him (Refugee Law Project 2005:12). A cultural leader in Northern Uganda when asked about how Kony should be dealt with opined:

Kony being convicted and taking him to the Hague, that is taking him to heaven. His cell will have air-conditioning, a TV, he will be eating chicken beef etc. He will be given a chance to work in the jail and earn something. I’d rather he be here and see what he has done. Let him talk to the person he has ordered his lips to be cut off. Let him talk and hear. The Acholi mechanism must be allowed to run their course first, so that peace can be brought about. Only if at that stage there is a complainant who wants to take Kony to court should legal action be taken.

This kind of sentiment is echoed by many people in Northern Uganda. The LRA should be made to see and acknowledge the harm that it has brought to its own people. Only after this acknowledgement has been done, forgiveness asked, reconciliation sought and compensation paid to its victims, will its elements be re-integrated back into the community.

5.2 Mato oput

As a way to boost the Juba talks to succeed, the Government of Unity, local civic and traditional leaders from Northern Uganda and civil society groups have called for the adoption of traditional justice mechanisms to deal with the returning LRA’s rank and file. In this regard, they have called for the revival of the Acholi traditional reconciliation mechanism of Mato oput.19 In Acholi tradition (the community from whom the majority of the rebels are drawn), many offences such as homicides, are mediated and resolved by traditional chiefs with a view to promoting reconciliation within the community (Afako 2002:67).20 Whenever a homicide takes place, the chief (called Rwot) intervenes in the situation to cool down the temperature and to offer mediation (Afako 2002:67).

The Mato oput rite is a clan- and family-centred reconciliation ceremony, which incorporates the acknowledgement of wrongdoing, the offering of compensation by the offender and then culminates in the sharing of a symbolic drink (Afako 2002:67). In addition, the guilty party crushes a raw egg to symbolise a new beginning and then steps over an ‘opobo’ (bamboo stick) to represent the leap from the past to the present. At the climax of the rite, both the guilty and the wronged parties drink a brew made from the herbs of the oput tree, to show that they accept the bitterness of the past and promise never to taste such bitterness again.

Since the Mato oput ‘justice’ is not retributive, it has been suggested that it should be adopted rather than the ICC justice, to encourage the rebels to come out of the bush so that they can be re-integrated into their community. The Government of Unity has also come out to support the Mato oput rite. In fact, it has stated that the indicted LRA commanders must first come out of the bush and go through the ceremony, before it can request the ICC to drop the charges against them. To encourage the rebels to talk peace with it, the Government of Unity has granted the indicted rebels total amnesty whilst arguing that this is in the interest of peace and that there are no allies in the region to implement the ICC indictments. The position of the government, therefore, seems to be combining the ‘carrot’ – total amnesty21 and Mato oput – while at the same time wielding the stick of the ICC indictments. It is yet to be seen whether the rebels will take up the offer. However, it seems that as long as the indictments are in place, the LRA leadership will neither take up the amnesty offer nor go through the Mato oput rite.22

6. Possible Outcomes of the Juba Talks

The Juba talks present, for the first time in twenty one years, one of the greatest opportunities to end the conflict in Northern Uganda. As the International Crisis Group (ICG) has observed, ‘the present process is more structured and inclusive than the previous efforts…’.23 The talks, which are in their eleventh month (as we write), have progressed very slowly. Of the five agenda items, the two sides have reached agreement on only two. Nevertheless, we must note that it will take more than structuring and inclusion for the talks to yield a final comprehensive peace agreement. The talks continue to be dogged with problems.

The first major problem facing the talks is the ICC warrants of arrest. The warrants are supposed to be discussed under agenda item number three, which covers accountability and reconciliation. However, as at the time of writing, reports are emerging out of Juba that ‘negotiations have stalled because of disagreement [between the two sides] over how to handle issues of accountability and reconciliation’ (The Daily Monitor, 15 May 2007:5). An LRA delegate to the talks, one Justin Labeja, warned that ‘the ICC stance on the talks would weigh on the process if the indictments remained in place’ (The Daily Monitor, 15 May 2007:5). Ominously, Dr Rugunda has warned that ‘the LRA must understand that the issue of impunity must be addressed. The warrants cannot be lifted, suspended or set aside if the question of impunity is not addressed’ (The East African, 7-13 May 2007:8). The two sides are yet to come to an agreement on the warrants. What is clear, however, is that an agreement or disagreement on the warrants will make or break the talks.

The second reason why the talks might fail is the make up of the LRA delegation. According to the ICG, ‘the LRA delegation, mainly Diaspora Acholi detached from conflict, lacks competency, credibility and cohesiveness’.24 There are no senior LRA commanders on the LRA delegation who can take decisions on issues like DDR and cease-fire terms. In fact, doubts abound as to whether the LRA delegation in Juba is actually in touch with the top leadership of the LRA who are holed up in Garamba National Park. For the talks to succeed, therefore, it is crucial for either Kony or Otti to get directly involved in negotiations. Either of them will be able to make binding decisions as the two are clearly in control of the LRA. However, this cannot happen unless an agreement is reached on the ICC warrants. The last time Riek Machar suggested that Otti travel to Juba to join the negotiations, the latter declined, citing the warrants.25

7. Conclusion

As we write, the talks are about to resume in Juba after a hiatus of four months. So far, only two agenda items have been covered despite the talks taking eleven months. The two sides are yet to reach agreement on the ICC warrants of arrest. The debate on whether the ICC or Mato oput is the best mechanism of accountability for the Northern Uganda atrocities also continues. The LRA is also yet to assemble at Ri-Kwangba, the designated assembly point in accordance with the renewed Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. Suspicions remain between the two sides. What is clear, however, is that the issue of the warrants will make or break the talks. For the ICC, every day that passes without the warrants being executed creates an impression that it is an impotent institution. Nevertheless it must be conceded, as Payam Akhavan has noted, ‘[the warrants have] significantly weakened the LRA by pressuring Sudan to stop harbouring rebel camps’ (Akhavan 2005:403). He adds, ‘the new-found LRA willingness to negotiate with the government is a mark of desperation resulting from this new reality’ (Akhavan 2005:403). In the final analysis, no one knows what the end game of the Juba talks will be. What appears clear, however, is that peace for Northern Uganda is still a very elusive dream.


  1. Afako, Ben 2002. Reconciliation and Justice: ‘Mato Oput’ and the Amnesty Act, in Lucima, Okello (ed.), Protracted Conflict, Elusive Peace-Initiatives to End the Violence in Northern Uganda. ACCORD, Issue 11, 2002. London: Conciliation Resources.
  2. Akhavan, Payam 2005. Uganda’s Submission of the First State Referral to the International Criminal Court. American Journal of International Law 99 2005. Available in LEXIS-NEXIS Library.
  3. Baines, Erin K. 2007. The Haunting of Alice: Local Approaches to Justice and Reconciliation in Northern Uganda. The International Journal of Transitional Justice 1(1).
  4. Berns, Walter 1988. The Morality of Anger, in Baird, Robert M. & Rosenbaum, Stuart E. (eds.), Philosophy of Punishment. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
  5. Dunn, Kevin C. 2004. Uganda: the Lord’s Resistance Army. Review of African Political Economy 31.
  6. Finnström, Sverker 2003. Living with Bad Surroundings: War and Existential Uncertainty in Acholiland, Northern Uganda. Uppsala: University of Uppsala.
  7. Harrell, Peter E. 2003. Rwanda’s Gamble: Gacaca and A New Model of Transitional Justice. New York: Writers Club Press.
  8. ICC 29 Jan 2004. International Criminal Court (Hague Netherlands), Press Release, 29 January 2004. Accessed at <http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200402050214.html> (5 February 2004).
  9. ICC 14 Oct 2005. Warrants of Arrest unsealed against Five LRA Commanders, The Hague, 14 October 2005. Accessed at <http://www.icc-cpi.int/press/pressreleases/114.html> (5 October 2005).
  10. International Crisis Group (ICG) 2007. Northern Uganda: Seizing the Opportunity for Peace, Africa Report No. 124, Kampala/Nairobi/Brussels, 26 April 2007.
  11. IRIN 28 Jan 2004. United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks, 28 January 2004. Accessed at <http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200401280410.html>.
  12. Kasaija, Phillip Apuuli 2005. Amnesty and International Law: The case of the LRA Insurgents in Northern Uganda. African Journal on Conflict Resolution 5(2) 2005.
  13. Kasaija, Phillip Apuuli 2006. The International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) Arrest Warrants for the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) Leaders and the Peace Prospects for Northern Uganda. Journal of International Criminal Justice 4(1) 2006.
  14. Kirsch, Judge Philippe 2006. Address to the United nations General Assembly, 9 October 2006. Accessed at <http://www.icc-cpi.int/library/organs/presidency/PK_20061009_en.pdf> (19 October 2006).
  15. Latigo, Ojera James 2006. The Acholi Traditional Techniques of Conflict Management. The Uganda Living Law Journal 4(1) 2006.
  16. Ministry of Finance 2005. Planning and Economic Development (MFPED), Uganda Poverty Status Report, 2005: Progress in Implementing the Poverty Eradication Action Plan.
  17. Refugee Law Project (RLP) 2005. Peace First, Justice Later: Traditional Justice in Northern Uganda. Working Paper No. 17, July 2005.
  18. Robert, Solomon C. 1990. A Passion for Justice, Emotions and the Origins of the Social Contract. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Publishing Co.
  19. Spelman, Elizabeth V. 1990. Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World. Boston: Beacon Press.
  20. The Daily Monitor, 11 October 2006. Govt still wants ICC to arrest Kony, Otti.
  21. The Daily Monitor, 13 October 2006. LRA’s Otti vows to kill ICC captors.
  22. The Daily Monitor, 11 May 2007. LRA rebels protest assembly ultimatum.
  23. The Daily Monitor, 15 May 2007. Accountability delays Juba talks.
  24. The East African, 7-13 May 2007. Reasons for LRA walkout still pending.
  25. The New Vision, 8 June 2006. Garamba: Kony’s new hide-out.
  26. The New Vision, 12 August 2006. Wanted LRA leader killed.
  27. The New Vision, 12 October 2006. Rugunda explains government line on ICC.
  28. The New Vision, 8 May 2007. Chissano performs a superb tight-rope act in Ri-Kwangba.
  29. The New Vision, 9 May 2007. LRA given two safe corridors to Ri-Kwangba.
  30. The Sunday Monitor, 27 August 2006. Cessation of hostilities deal in full between the Government of the Republic of Uganda and the LRA/M.
  31. The Sunday Monitor, 15 October 2006. Arrest warrants for Kony are a boost to the Juba talks.
  32. Uganda Parliament Hansard, 7 September 2006.


  1. Pre-Trial Chamber II was constituted as follows: Judge Tuiloma Neroni Slade (Presiding Judge), Judge Mauro Politi and Judge Fatoumata Dembele Diarra.
  2. Raska Lukwiya is reported to have been killed by the Uganda army in Kitgum district (The New Vision 12 August 2006).
  3. See story, ‘President of Uganda refers situation concerning the Lord’s Resistance Army to the ICC.’ On January 29, 2004, President Museveni and the Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, met at Hotel Intercontinental, Hyde Park, London, where the formal referral agreement was announced.
  4. In accordance with Articles 13(a), and 14(1) of the Rome Statute.
  5. According to the government of Uganda, the indictments were meant to serve the following purposes: isolate the top leadership and cause internal divisions within the LRA ranks forcing those not yet indicted to take the path of amnesty; force countries that are used by the LRA to cause mayhem in Uganda to take more concrete steps towards expelling the LRA from their territory; get more cooperation from neighbouring countries and the international community in searching for the LRA; the trials of those accused will enable victims of the crimes prosecuted to obtain justice and apply for reparation; and they will ensure more cooperation from neighbouring countries, such as Sudan, where the rebels have operated from. See Ministry of Finance 2005:77.
  6. See Dunn (2004:140), who argues that it is often incorrectly suggested that Kony’s LRA was the continuation of Alice Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Mobile Forces, or that Kony claims to be a cousin of Alice.
  7. See story, Uganda: The 18 year old that refuses to go away.
  8. See note 7 above.
  9. According to reports, over 85% of the LRA forces are made up of children. As part of initiation into the rebel movement, abducted children are forced into committing inhuman acts, including ritual killing and mutilations. In order to evade capture, thousands of children have become ‘night dwellers’, walking large numbers of kilometres to regroup in centres run by non-governmental organisations, on the streets, on shop verandas, on church grounds, and in local factories, heading back to their villages at dawn.
  10. When Operation Iron Fist was underway in August 2002, the President pitched camp in the district of Gulu. In meetings with the community leaders, he was prevailed upon to give a clear signal to the LRA of his willingness to engage in peace dialogue. He responded to these calls by appointing the Presidential Peace Team led by the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Eriya Kategaya. See Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC), Listen to the People! A Call for and Inclusive Approach to the Peace Process in Northern Uganda, Report on the Study on Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Uganda, Makerere University, (Undated), p. 38.
  11. In 2002, the different warring parties signed an agreement in Sun City, South Africa, which ended the conflict. An all inclusive interim government was subsequently established with Joseph Kabila as President. Elections were held in October 2006 which were won by the incumbent Joseph Kabila. However, numerous rebel groups continue operating in several provinces in the east of the country including where the LRA rebels are holed up.
  12. See generally, Kasaija 2006:179-187.
  13. Reports indicate that the LRA has been trying to forge a united front with other rebel groups, such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the People’s Redemption Army (PRA) both operating out of parts of Eastern DRC, to attack Uganda. See International Crisis Group 26 April 2007.
  14. Note that in the renewed Cessation of Hostilities Agreement of 13 April 2007, the LRA is supposed to assemble in one place, Ri-Kwangba.
  15. The Spokesman of the LRA at the Juba talks, Godfrey Ayoo, is reported to have averred that, ‘Our leaders will not sign the peace agreement if the warrants for the four indicted still stands. We are saying that the withdrawal of the indictments should be a pre-condition. Withdraw the case and our leaders will come out in the open and sign’ (The New Vision, 12 October 2006:1-2).
  16. See note 13 above.
  17. See Kirsch 2006.
  18. See generally Refugee Law Project 2005.
  19. Mato oput seems to be thrown around as a magic wand that will solve the problem of accountability and reconciliation in Northern Uganda. However, I would like to note that Mato oput might not be the answer. The Northern Uganda problem has local, national and regional dimensions. Whilst Mato oput might help to heal the wounds between the LRA and the local Acholi population who have borne the brunt of its work, the national and regional dimensions of the conflict will not be solved by it. For example, will President Museveni also undergo the ritual? Remember that the LRA has been fighting the UPDF of which Museveni is the Commander in Chief. What about areas like Teso and Lango regions where the LRA has also operated? Will they also have to undergo the ritual? Nevertheless, there are other Acholi rituals such as Gomo tong (bending of spear). Under this, a deep pit like a grave would be dug. Both the LRA and government representatives would be brought together. They would then vow never to fight again as they bend the guns, spears, grenades etc. These would then be thrown into the pit and buried. The celebrants would curse and say, ‘wang ceng oter, cioter’, meaning ‘let it go with the setting sun’. Anybody who carries a gun again would bear the consequences. For a discussion of the different traditional techniques of conflict management and resolution in Acholi see Latigo 2006:1-15.
  20. 20 See also Finnström 2003:291 (noting that compensation and reconciliation rather than revenge or blood vengeance is the institutionalized Acholi way of handling disputes, homicides and unnatural deaths).
  21. For a discussion on amnesty in Northern Uganda see Kasaija 2005:33-61.
  22. In fact it is reported that Vincent Otti has even doubted the Mato oput mechanism. He is reported to have rejected the version of Mato oput being discussed as an alternative because he said, ‘It is not the traditional alternative’. See International Crisis Group (ICG) 2007:5.
  23. See International Crisis Group (ICG) 2007:i.
  24. See International Crisis Group (ICG) 2007:i.
  25. See Baines 2007:102 (noting that the LRA High Command refuses to attend the talks in Juba, pointing out that the indictments threaten their security).

This Issue


  • Richard Kamidza
  • Jannie Malan

The Case against Taylor’s Asylum

A Review of Nigeria's Domestic and International Legal Obligations

  • Mba Chidi Nmaju

The Dilemma of Restorative Justice when ‘All Are Guilty’

A Case Study of the Conflicts in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria

  • Austin Onuoha

Integrated Development Planning in South Africa

Lessons for International Peacebuilding?

  • Sybert Liebenberg
  • Elsona van Huyssteen
  • Richard Gueli

Agency Theory

A New Model of Civil-Military Relations for Africa?

  • Deane-Peter Baker

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the Workplace

The South African Experience

  • Hanneli Bendeman