Cablegate: Lra Talks: Un Begins Technical Assistance

DE RUEHKH #1881/01 2210424
P 090424Z AUG 06




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: LRA Talks: UN Begins Technical Assistance

1. (SBU) Summary: UNICEF and UN OCHA have begun providing limited
support to the talks between Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army
(LRA), currently being mediated by Government of Southern Sudan
(GoSS) Vice President Riek Machar. UNICEF has sent a protection
officer to visit the LRA camps and determine humanitarian needs,
supplied some pediatric drugs, and advised Machar on child
protection issues. They have had no direct contact with the LRA or
its delegation due to the ICC indictments and UN policy, but said
attempts to convince the LRA to release some children as a gesture
of goodwill had failed. Meanwhile, UN OCHA is exploring ways to
provide additional humanitarian technical assistance to the talks.
The UN OCHA representatives feel strongly that these talks, and
application of traditional reconciliation mechanisms, were a good
chance for peace and wanted the United States and the rest of the
international community to support the process. End summary.

OCHA Reps Pushing for Peace Process

2. (SBU) On August 5, the a representative from OCHA in New York and
the head of the OCHA sub-office in Gulu, requested a meeting with
the Acting Consul General (A/CG) in Juba to provide an update on
OCHA activities and discuss the USG position towards the talks. The
OCHA reps believed the talks were a good opportunity for peace and
wanted to see how they could provide help to ensure their success,
focusing on humanitarian concerns. They feared that the talks
should not be allowed to fail "for lack of pens and paper," and
explained that they hoped that a UN political affairs representative
would come to Juba soon and open the way for more direct

Mato Oput Touted as Reconciliation Tool; ICC a Hindrance

3. (SBU) The A/CG expressed fears that this may just be a stalling
tactic to allow the weakened LRA to regroup, as had happened in past
negotiations, and said that the United States did not support
granting impunity for those who had committed atrocities. The reps
explained that, although LRA leader Joseph Kony had been erratic
during the talks, they believed this attempt at peace was genuine
and that the people of Northern Uganda had decided to support the
talks because the needs of a million and a half internally displaced
persons (IDPs) should outweigh the need to detain and prosecute five
people. The A/CG cautioned that exchanging justice for peace often
led to getting neither; the OCHA reps said that the people of
Northern Uganda were ready for peace and should be allowed to seek
justice in their own way, through a traditional reconciliation
process known as "mato oput." They dismissed the idea that
non-Acholi victims of the LRA would not accept the validity of this
Acholi cleansing ritual. While acknowledging that the ICC
indictments had helped push the LRA into talks, they said the ICC
was now a major hindrance. Because the ICC prevented top LRA
leaders from attending the talks in Juba, they said that the next
round of talks may take place in the bush.

4. (SBU) The A/CG explained that the United States remained focused
on the well-being of the people of Uganda, providing humanitarian
aid, and ensuring that atrocities would not be committed with
impunity. Lending international legitimacy to a process that could
not be legitimate was dangerous, so while the USG was following the
talks, there were no plans to get involved. The USG would continue
to work with the contact group in New York to determine the best way
to help northern Uganda.

UNICEF: Children are Biggest Victims

5. (SBU) UNICEF has been providing technical advice at Machar's
request since shortly after the talks began. While they were not
part of the drafting of the talk's agenda -- they would have pushed
for child protection as a separate point -- they had been making
sure children's issues remained at the fore. Because the majority
of LRA fighters, porters, and sex slaves are abducted children, the
well-being and reintegration of this group was a major issue.
UNICEF has provided pediatric drugs to the mediation team,
administered by a nurse that accompanied Machar to the bush, and
last week sent a child protection officer (CPO) to evaluate the
condition of children at the camps, which are just a few miles over
the border from Nabanga, south of Maridi.

6. (SBU) According to the CPO, the health condition of the children
from the camps was quite poor. While the officer did not go to the
actual camps because they would not cross the border into Congo,
just over 100 women and children came to the border to meet with the
CPO. Only two of the women were allowed to speak, and no questions
were allowed. The children included very scared 7 year-old porters
and 9 year-old soldiers who now only knew war as a way of life.
When the women spoke, the CPO said it was clear that they had been
brainwashed and programmed, like members of a cult, and each woman
repeated the exact phrase as if Kony had hit play on a tape
recorder. They said they wanted to go home, but would only go if
there was peace and they could all go together. Attempts to get
Kony to release some of the children as a sign of good will failed.
The CPO said the hardest moment came as she was leaving, when one of
the 7 year-olds broke ranks, grabbed her hand and begged her to take

KHARTOUM 00001881 002 OF 002

him with her.


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