The Juba talks have produced a ceasefire and agreements on accountability and on a comprehensive solution, but are struggling to conclude a significant agreement on implementation mechanisms. Much of this can be attributed to the parties, particularly the LRA delegation's internal issues over leadership and direction, with individuals taking decisions without informing the entire delegation, which is drawn from the 'diaspora' rather than fighters from 'the bush,' who were withdrawn from the negotiations early on. From October 2007, a major crisis in LRA leadership emerged, echoing peace attempts of the past when chief negotiators defected, renewing discussions about the ability of the delegation to take decisions without Kony at the table. The GoU, meanwhile, continues to send mixed signals about its intentions regarding the ICC problem and renewed military options.
International support has been problematic too, and has not been conducive to incentivising a sustainable agreement in several ways: initial reluctance to offer support to talks with wanted individuals and 'terrorists' has given way to an unwieldy array of international roles, which – combined with threats of renewed military action if an agreement is not reached soon – has conveyed an undermining sense of ambivalence about the international community's support for a negotiated solution. The question of ICC warrants has not been resolved, while arguments over funding for participating in talks and carrying out wider 'consultations' continued until late 2007.
International interest in the fledgling process came initially solely from African countries. Many in the wider international community were sceptical about the intentions of the LRA and the capacity and agenda of the mediator. The GoSS was in its infancy, while many suspected Machar wanted to recruit the LRA for his own local power struggles. Furthermore, the UN was reluctant to engage due to internal debates over whether it could support the talks while also supporting the ICC, which maintained that the priority was extraditing wanted commanders.
However, after Switzerland officially offered support, UNICEF joined the negotiation process in an advisory role. GoSS shouldered fast-growing costs and criticisms until an agreement on cessation of hostilities was signed in August 2006, after which the US, UK, Norway and the Netherlands joined the fundraising and support effort, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) started providing administrative and logistical support.
Other parts of the UN got involved too, leading to some confusion over the division of responsibilities. However, the problem underlying UN engagement has been an inability to take a clear stance on how the organisation would engage with the LRA, especially when the LRA failed to meet UNICEF and OCHA demands for the release of all women and children. UN staff supporting a closer engagement and direct contact with the LRA came under much internal criticism. OCHA was criticised as supporting impunity through its direct engagement with an armed group and individuals under ICC arrest warrants.
OCHA withdrew from its administrative and logistical tasks in 2007 and UN involvement has increasingly focused on the political level. In late 2006, former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano was appointed as the UN Special Envoy for LRA-Affected Areas with a mandate to facilitate the search for a comprehensive political solution. The appointment made clear that his role was to acknowledge both the legitimate grievances at the root of the insurgency and the impact of LRA activities, assisting in the search for a comprehensive political solution and liaising with external actors, including the ICC. Chissano's most important intervention was to reignite the negotiations after the breakdown in early 2007 and provide a communication channel with the GoU. He has been a steady point of contact for the conflict parties and the mediator.
The varied record of UN engagement has sent mixed messages to the LRA, whose distrust in the international machinery is striking. In December 2006 Kony complained about the UN role, portraying it as coercive and biased:
"What I want us to understand clearly is what is the business of the UN. ...What is the UN? Me, you, and everybody is the UN. You go to Uganda, there are people working for the UN. The same in Sudan. The UN is the people. The UN should not be become a force and be used out of context like a dragon."
The ICC issue
The starkest manifestation of this problem for the LRA is the ICC, which has complicated and stalled the talks. The ICC insists that there will be no reconsideration of its stance until the LRA has fully demobilised. The LRA has called for the warrants to be lifted or for a 12-month deferral by the UNSC, while Kony has repeatedly cited the example of Charles Taylor, who was extradited from his Nigerian exile to stand trial in The Hague. In December 2006, Kony said (translated from Luo into English):
"We seem to have built our own deathbed by committing to this peace process. ...The international justice system is that if you are weak, the justice is on you. For the time being, they think me, I am weak. ...Same with Taylor, when he was in power nobody thought of justice. If you want to remain safe from ICC, you must fight and be strong. If that is the rule of the game, it is not going to help anybody at all."
The GoU has also come to see the warrants as a stumbling block to a quick agreement, while fear of driving the LRA away from peace talks has provoked strong resistance to the ICC warrants among many in northern Uganda. The LRA along with locals adopted the stance that the ICC's concept of punitive justice threatened Acholi identity, traditions of justice, accountability and reconciliation. On the other hand, the ICC warrants have worked as an instrument of pressure to address accountability issues. The LRA and the GoU have acknowledged that justice and accountability procedures are necessary and will have to go beyond traditional justice, signing an agreement on reconciliation and accountability in June 2007 to that effect. It established that both formal justice procedures (within the national legal and institutional framework) and the traditional Acholi Mato Oput ceremony of reconciliation would play a role, implying that arrests under ICC auspices would not be necessary. The ICC warrants cannot officially be withdrawn, and it remains to be seen whether the ICC would be willing to put them to one side once local justice procedures have been established.
Funds and incentives
Both the LRA and the GoSS have made use of financial backing for the peace process, while international organisations and NGOs working in Uganda and Sudan base their fundraising efforts on the peace process. All of this risks the talks becoming a self-serving industry, although without the benefit of hindsight it is difficult to distinguish between self-interested involvement and the kind of involvement that will encourage progress towards peace. Some accuse both the LRA delegation and the LRA in the bush of using the talks to cream off as many funds as possible. The LRA has received numerous small-scale material incentives, such as satellite phones and airtime, but disputes have arisen over more substantial support. In 2007 the LRA bitterly protested not being granted USD $2 million for consultations in northern Uganda, which were eventually held with a much smaller budget. Other actors, such as the Cessation of Hostilities Monitoring Team, have been criticised for submitting inflated budgets for field trips. The money provided for talks has been an incentive to keep the process going and a disincentive to streamline it.