A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
the bush and giving themselves up, weakened the LRA to the extent that in 2004 it succumbed to pressure to negotiate. In December 2003, Uganda had referred the LRA to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and investigations began in July 2004. Although government declared a ceasefire in November 2004, and peace negotiations were undertaken by an independent mediator, Betty Bigombe, the ICC issued arrest warrants against five LRA leaders in October 2005. These are still outstanding.
A ceasefire between the Government of Uganda and the LRA came into force in August 2006, and the LRA has since begun to assemble in two camps on the border between Sudan and Uganda. The LRA has agreed to release all women and children
present in the group.
At the time of writing, negotiations to finalise the peace
agreement are still continuing in Juba, the southern Sudanese capital.
The dynamics of the war and the actors involved have varied over the years, and have remained impervious to the various initiatives (both peaceful and military) that have been attempted to resolve the conflict. The numerous peace initiatives brokered since the war began have always failed, due to mistrust from both parties. The consequences of failed peace talks always rebound on civilians, who are perceived as betrayers of the peace process by both sides. This is especially prominent on the government side, since government claims that the Acholi are collaborators, supporting the war and unwilling to cooperate with the army in bringing it to an end. This is reflected in general Ugandan attitudes towards the Acholi, namely that they are warriors by nature and therefore constantly at war. Military options have also failed, partly because of the humanitarian emergencies that they tend to give rise to.20
Although neither the peace negotiations nor the ICC indictments have brought an end to the conflict in northern Uganda, there have been significant recent efforts by the United Nations and NGOs to establish programs in northern Uganda directed at disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. However, the main area of focus has been reintegration, owing to the pressing need to address the needs of large numbers of returnees. Reintegration programs include a package of cash and/or in- kind compensation, counselling, training and income-generating projects.
1.3 Challenges facing young people
Young people in Uganda face particularly acute problems, given that, over the country as a whole, more than 50% of the population is under 18 years of age and youth services are therefore overstretched. In the north their situation is even more severe, since the north as a region is relatively under-served by health and education services, and there has been little investment in roads, markets and other
For example, one consequence of Operation ron Fist was an increase in ‘night commuting’, or the practice of people moving into towns at night for security. 20