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Let's Make a Deal: Leverage Needed in Northern Uganda Peace Talks

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Peace talks between the Ugandan Government and Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, turned one year old on July 14, a milestone marked with little fanfare in Uganda and empty seats at the negotiating table in Juba, southern Sudan. Negotiations had taken yet another one month recess.

Since talks resumed on April 26, the parties have signed basic agreements on two agenda items: “comprehensive solutions to the conflict” and “reconciliation and accountability.” LRA rebels in the southern Sudan state of Eastern Equatoria, who have been divided and pinned down by military pressure, crossed the Nile and assembled at the LRA’s base near the Congo-Sudan border.

While these achievements should not be discounted, they are also shallow, ambiguous, and problematic. Neither comprehensive solutions nor reconciliation and accountability have actually been concluded. The former perpetuates the fiction that peace talks in Juba with the LRA are an appropriate forum to deal with the complex issues that northern Uganda faces, while the latter lays out an array of options to choose from but delays difficult decisions. In both cases, the weak and isolated LRA may be primarily interested in using broad agreements on principles as a cover to buy time, build strength, and gain undue legitimacy by rebranding themselves as representatives of marginalized northern Ugandans.