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Cablegate: Northern Uganda: Peace Process Update

DE RUEHKM #1467/01 2631324
R 201324Z SEP 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Tim Shortley, Senior Advisor on Conflict
Resolution, traveled to Kampala with AF A/S Secretary Jendayi Frazer
and remained in the region to meet with key officials in Uganda,
Southern Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo from September
5-17. The GOU's lead negotiator at the Juba peace talks, Ruhakana
Ruganda, was extremely pleased with A/S Frazer's remarks that the
U.S. supported the peace process and that it was not open-ended.
Rugunda made several recommendations for ways in which the peace
process could be expedited, including conduct of full-time
negotiations and the strengthening of the mediation secretariat.
Betty Bigombe, former GOU negotiator with the Lord's Resistance Army
(LRA), reported that it was clear from her recent conversations with
LRA leader Joseph Kony and other interlocutors that the LRA was
listening to the U.S. Close Kony associates do not believe he is
ready to make a deal. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) Senior Advisor for Conflict Resolution Tim Shortley
visited Uganda, Southern Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo
from September 5-17. Shortley and P/E Chief met with a range of GOU
officials, international donors, members of parliament, military,
and non-governmental organization officials. Senior Advisor
Shortley used these meetings to reiterate U.S. objectives and
support for the ongoing peace process in Juba. He also solicited
ideas and information on ways in which the process could be moved
forward. Shortley also shared A/S Frazer's press conference
transcripts with our interlocutors.

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3. (SBU) During his visit, Shortley explained his facilitation
role in coordinating the regional aspects of the LRA problem. The
U.S. believes that the LRA problem is part of larger regional
tensions, and that its cross-border nature involving Uganda, Congo,
and Southern Sudan required attention in order to bring peace to the
LRA-affected areas. Shortley outlined key areas for focus: (1)
support for a timeline for the negotiations, which should not be
open-ended (2) emphasizing to the mediator and the parties that
negotiations should be full-time (3) thinking through scenarios and
formulas for an end game (4) being prepared to handle the needs of
returnees, primarily by getting the Ugandan Peace, Recovery, and
Development Plan officially launched to attract sufficient donor

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4. (SBU) On September 6, Shortley, P/E Chief, and USAID Peace
Support Team Chief were invited to join the GOU's internal debrief
of the consultations held to date on Agenda Item Three:
Accountability and Reconciliation. Minister of Internal Affairs
Ruhakana Rugunda, who is the lead GOU negotiator, and other members
of the negotiating team, reviewed the messages that they heard from
Ugandans during consultations in Adjumani, Gulu, Lira, and Soroti.
The team's deliberations revealed that throughout the consultations,
the team was flexible and made changes in how the discussions were
conducted to accommodate local conditions and demands.

5. (SBU) Rugunda and other team members stated that they were
extremely pleased with A/S Frazer's comments during her visit.
Rugunda argued that focused attention on the peace process was
timely and could facilitate the successful execution of the talks.
Rugunda and Minister of State for Defense Ruth Nankabirwa stated
their willingness to assist U.S. efforts to advance the peace
process. Rugunda requested that Shortley help strengthen the GOSS
mediation effort, particularly the Secretariat. Nankabirwa
explained that she had always been a proponent of "Plan B," a
military strike against the LRA, which she said was actually her
"Plan A." However, she said that progress made at the talks
persuaded her to take a less vocal stance.

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6. (SBU) In Rugunda's view, a peace deal could be completed in a
matter of months if expedited with better time management of the
negotiating sessions and improved administration of the financial
aspects of support for the talks. The LRA was looking for ways to
talk about money, not peace, and manipulating donors, according to
Rugunda. He elaborated that a clearly stated structure of
leadership and administration would significantly decrease the
amount of time wasted at Juba. For example, technical teams could
now be drafting the terms of the cease-fire and the disarmament,
demobilization, and reintegration.

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7. (SBU) He specifically asked Shortley to press the GOSS and
Machar to conduct the talks full-time. This would require more time
and attention by Machar, but also a fully-authorized deputy to
conduct the negotiations in Machar's absence. Rugunda also
advocated more full-time support and attention for the process by
U.N. Special Envoy for LRA-Affected Areas Chissano. Support for
Chissano's offices in Kampala and Juba would be helpful, according
to Rugunda.

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8. (SBU) Betty Bigombe, former GOU negotiator with the LRA, met
with Shortley on September 9 and again on September 17 after her
trip to northern Uganda. Bigombe is now working for the U.S.
Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. Bigombe shared with Shortley
her recent conversations with the LRA leaders and other commanders.
According to Bigombe, A/S Frazer's comments and the Arusha Agreement
between Uganda and Congo (in which Congo agreed to take action
against the LRA in 90 days) had gotten Kony's attention. Bigombe
had spoken with Kony on September 14 and said that she reminded him
that the LRA had not done anything to show that it was serious about
negotiations. She told Kony that releasing women and children and
assembling at Rikwangba would be indications that the LRA was
interested in a peaceful settlement. Kony told Bigombe that he
could not release the women and children because "they would be
evidence to support the International Criminal Court (ICC) charges
that the LRA had abducted people." Bigombe told Kony that there
were thousands of former abductees in northern Uganda that could
testify against him. He did not need to keep the women and children
he had.

9. (SBU) Kony asked Bigombe to explain what it meant to be on the
U.S. terrorist list. Bigombe did not have enough information to
clarify for him, but promised to get the answer for him. He also
wanted to know when the 90-day clock started ticking from the Arusha
declaration. Kony also asked Bigombe to explain how the former
leaders of RENAMO, Pol Pot, Charles Taylor, and a Guatemalan leader
were handled and what security guarantees they were given.

10. (SBU) Bigombe urged a trusted intermediary, Yusuf Odek, to
explain to Kony and Otti, in simple terms, what their options were.
She had already told Otti over the telephone that remarks that the
process should take two or three years were not acceptable and would
not make the ICC issue disappear. During a second call, Otti
threatened to call off talks if the LRA was not given $2 million for
its consultations. (Note: Some observers believe that the LRA's
demand for USD 2 million is based on a GOU payment made to the
former West Bank Nile Front to surrender its arms. End Note.)
During a call with Kony, Bigombe claimed to have received assurances
from Kony that the LRA would be back at the negotiating table in
October. Kony said that the LRA wanted to have joint-consultations
with the GOU after the LRA consultations took place at Rikwangba.
Meanwhile, Acholi paramount chief Rwot Acana went to Rikwangba to
meet with the LRA about the consultations. At this point, the LRA
leaders were calling for all former LRA combatants to come to
Rikwangba. The LRA requested that local and traditional leaders
invite former LRA to the meetings.

11. (SBU) According to Odek, he does not see Kony and Otti leaving
the bush immediately after a peace settlement. Kony reportedly was
"genuinely scared" that coming out of Garamba National Park would
result in his death. Odek did not believe that Kony would prefer to
assess the situation. Odek did not believe that there was
continuing contact between Kony and Khartoum, despite lingering
suspicions. The LRA continued to be concerned about delays in cash
disbursements from the Government of Southern Sudan's Secretariat
and wants to be facilitated with more funds. Odek said that he was
often approached to talk to Kony and Otti but that he did not have a
Thuraya satellite telephone, so his ability to weigh in with the LRA
leaders was severely limited.

12. (SBU) Bigombe also learned from a CARITAS worker who delivers
food to Rikwangba that LRA fighters that come to the assembly area
to pick up the food have made repeated requests to him to bring back
carpenters and masons. The CARITAS worker stated that the LRA wants
to build more permanent structures in the park. The worker was
becoming increasingly worried for his life on each trip because he
had not complied with the LRA requests.

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10. (SBU) Reactions to the public U.S. stand on the peace process

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are generally positive, but some express caution or concern over
U.S. pressure. Government interlocutors and some non-governmental
organizations have praised recent U.S. efforts. This includes some
of the groups that called for a Special Envoy, such as Resolve and
Uganda-CAN, even though they oppose a military resolution to the
conflict. President Museveni and the Ugandan military are anxious
to deal with the LRA as a security problem, and welcome a hard-line.
Other government civilian officials, such as Rugunda and many
northern leaders, support an expedited process with clear direction
that addresses domestic political considerations, such as public
opinion in the north. Rugunda, for example, would view a military
solution as a last resort. The LRA's diaspora spokespersons
publicly denounced U.S. statements and the Arusha Agreement's
timetable for Congolese action against the LRA. However, Bigombe
believes that the LRA leadership at Garamba National Park appears to
be taking the situation and their future more seriously. We
continue to monitor the LRA's threats of war and potential chilling
affects on returns.

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