Negotiating in the shadow of justice
Even before negotiators for the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began to gather in Juba for peace talks in June 2006, negotiations were already destined to be controversial. The previous year the International Criminal Court (ICC) had issued arrest warrants for leaders of the LRA, including Joseph Kony, for crimes committed in northern Uganda.
Uganda, the ICC’s first referral, had yielded the Court’s first arrest warrants. In the atmosphere of uncertainty that followed President Salva Kiir’s announcement that his Government of Southern Sudan would mediate between the Ugandan parties, it took Southern Sudan’s firm leadership to bring the parties, and later international observers and financial backers, to Juba for the negotiations.
Perhaps the most significant overt political support to the process came from the United Nations. The intervention of Jan Egeland, then Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, was crucial in this regard. He capped this by making a high-profile visit to Juba in November 2006 to meet with Joseph Kony on the border between Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Later, through the appointment of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for LRA-Affected Areas, Joaquim Chissano, the UN’s role and endorsement of the peace process was strengthened. Mr Chissano brought lessons from his experience of ending the brutal civil war in Mozambique through negotiations.
Although the UN was motivated by humanitarian and broader political concerns, its involvement in the Juba process helped to silence any lingering doubts about the legality of the process. With the initial hesitations overcome, more international actors came to support and participate in the talks. Over the next two years Juba then witnessed the acute dilemmas confronting those who seek to balance the demands of peace and justice in the new era of the ICC.