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Cablegate: Northern Uganda: What a Difference Two Years Makes


DE RUEHKM #1390/01 2901312
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E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Northern Uganda, once dubbed "the world's worst
forgotten humanitarian crisis" by U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Jan
Egeland, is now emerging from one of Africa's most brutal conflicts.
Today's northern Uganda is dramatically different than it was in
2006. The majority of internally-displaced persons have returned to
or near their homes due to the improved security situation. Elected
local governments have re-assumed responsibility for governance and
service delivery, previously provided by non-governmental
organizations. If anything, northern Uganda suffers from too much
outside intervention. The GOU continues to bristle at international
community efforts to categorize northern Uganda as a humanitarian
crisis comparable to eastern DRC, Somalia, and Darfur/Eastern Chad.

2. (SBU) Summary continued: For the returnees, the first meeting
of the Peace, Recovery, and Development Plan (PRDP) Monitoring
Committee, set for November 4, represents an important milestone in
achieving broad ownership of northern reconstruction and frankly
discussing implementation and resource issues. The Government of
Uganda and donors have collectively committed $615 million to
reconstruction and development activities in northern Uganda over
the past two years. Nonetheless, despite this remarkable progress,
northern Uganda still lags behind the rest of the country in health,
education, and security infrastructure. To meet this challenge,
U.S. Government efforts should focus on ensuring that peace and
security prevail and civilian law and order institutions are
re-established, that local government service delivery capacity is
strengthened, that returnees receive infrastructure support in
return areas, and that food security and livelihoods are
facilitated. End Summary.

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3. (U) The Government of Uganda's (GOU's) Peace, Recovery, and
Development Plan (PRDP) Monitoring Committee (PMC) will hold its
first meeting on November 4. The meeting will spotlight the GOU'S
reconstruction efforts in northern Uganda. The PMC is the
policy-level body responsible for the progressive planning,
coordination and monitoring of the PRDP, which was launched in 2007,
over the next three years. The Prime Minister is the chair and it
includes the Ministry of Finance and sector ministries, elected
district leaders, development partners, non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) and private sector representatives. This first
meeting marks an important step in achieving broad ownership of and
consensus on the PRDP, and will provide an opportunity for all
stakeholders to frankly discuss implementation issues, particularly
financial resource questions and points of contention between the
central and local governments. Future meetings will initially be
held quarterly to monitor progress as the PRDP is rolled out.

4. (U) Implementation of the PRDP would not have been possible
without the dramatic improvement in the security situation on the
ground in the north following 22 years of brutal insurgency led by
the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). There have been no LRA
attacks in northern Uganda over the past two years, the result of
the Ugandan Peoples' Defense Forces (UPDF) having pushed the LRA
into southern Sudan and the LRA's relocation to Garamba National
Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in July, 2006.
Negotiations between the Government of Uganda (GOU) and the LRA
helped to consolidate the improved security situation. The Juba
Peace Process produced a Final Peace Agreement (FPA), which LRA
leader Joseph Kony has yet to sign, and several subsidiary
agreements on Comprehensive Solutions (of which the PRDP is part)
and Accountability and Reconciliation, which the GOU has undertaken
to implement unilaterally.

5. (U) Egeland's successor, John Holmes, recently acknowledged
that the improved security situation has "enabled hundreds of
thousands of Ugandans to enjoy the benefits of relative stability
and to begin to return home after many years of displacement." Some
internally-displaced persons (IDPs) maintain that they would feel
more secure if Kony signed the FPA, but this has not hindered IDP
returns, which are more closely tied to actual security conditions
on the ground, the availability of land for farming, grass for
thatching and the rhythm of the planting seasons.

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6. (U) Northern Uganda today is a very different place than it was
in 2006, when the peace process began, and according to Holmes,
"these gains must be preserved." In July 2006, when the
negotiations between the GOU and LRA began, there were 1.8 million
IDPs and some 24,000 children known as "night commuters" who sought
refuge in shelters in towns to avoid abduction at night. The
shelters closed in 2007 due to the improved security situation. In
2008, displaced persons in Teso and Lango Districts have returned
home. As of August, 63% of the original 1.1 million IDPs in the
Acholi districts of Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum and Pader had left their
"mother camps" and moved either to transit sites within commuting
distances of their farms (36%) or to their villages of origin (27%).
The land is being cultivated, livestock numbers are increasing,
children are walking back and forth to school, and lives are
beginning to assume a new, post-conflict normalcy. Some studies
note, however, that there will be a significant number of IDPs who
were born in the camps who may not want be farmers and who will
choose to stay in town centers.

7. (U) Politically, northern Ugandans have newly-elected
representation in the national Parliament and leadership at the
local government level to voice their needs and grievances, exercise
governance and administration, and deliver services to the people.
They decreasingly depend on non-governmental organizations for these
functions. In February 2006, opposition parties and independents
won a majority of positions in the north. Northern elected leaders
take their governing responsibilities seriously and continue to
engage the central government on a wide range of political,
economic, and development issues in northern Uganda. While this
assertion of governing authority has created friction between
northern local leaders and some NGOs over the role of the NGOs in a
changed political landscape in northern Uganda, the trend on balance
is strongly positive.

8. (U) The primary peace dividend from the conclusion of the FPA
has been a dramatic shift in northern public opinion, some of it
shaped by elected northern leaders. As the peace talks began in
July 2006, public perceptions of the GOU were overwhelmingly
negative. Northerners blamed the GOU for forcing them into squalid
camps, human rights abuses by the military, and political and
economic marginalization. The LRA's lack of commitment to a peace
deal became more and more evident as the negotiations dragged on,
delayed by excessive demands from the LRA delegation. At the same
time, Government negotiators, led by Minister of Internal Affairs
Ruhakana Rugunda and Minister of State for International Affairs
Henry Okello Oryem, worked hard to conclude an acceptable peace
deal. These factors, combined with Kony's repeated refusals to show
up for meetings to sign the FPA, have led northerners to conclude
that Kony is the problem. The GOU, in turn, is held in increasingly
high esteem. Nonetheless, the Government could fail to capitalize
on shifting public opinion if it does not deliver on development

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9. (U) In light of this significant and enduring progress since
2006, Northern Uganda no longer deserves the distinction of being
considered "the world's worst forgotten humanitarian crisis." It
has transitioned from a war zone to a civilian-run reconstruction
effort, with significant amounts of donor assistance and attention.
If anything, northern Uganda suffers from too much outside
intervention. The GOU continues to bristle at efforts to continue
to categorize northern Uganda as a current humanitarian crisis given
that the absence of state power nearby in eastern DRC, Somalia, and
Darfur/Eastern Chad has left large populations unprotected in
lawless and conflict-ridden areas. Uganda has sent its own
peacekeepers and police to these regions to help stabilize these
much more dire humanitarian situations.

10. (SBU) At the peak of the LRA conflict, there were 45,000
Ugandan soldiers in northern Uganda providing protection for the
IDPs, escorting humanitarian convoys, performing civilian law
enforcement functions, and conducting operations against the LRA.
Today, the large military presence is no longer visible because the
military has returned to the barracks and to its traditional role of
securing the Ugandan border from incursion and preparing for
operations against the LRA. Approximately, 40,000 Ugandan soldiers
are deployed on or near the border and in southern Sudan while law
enforcement responsibilities have been returned to the Ugandan
Police Force. The Government has embarked on an aggressive campaign
for recruitment and deployment of police to fully restore
civilian-based law and order in the north. As a sign of the GOU's
commitment to re-establishing civilian authority, the Deputy
Inspector General of Police has been deployed full-time in northern

11. (SBU) Progress on the ground and the LRA's unwillingness to
engage in the peace process has led Joachim Chissano, the U.N.
Special Envoy, not to seek a renewal of his mandate when it expires
in November 2008. The UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Uganda is also supporting the
transition from emergency relief to recovery and development by
preparing a Consolidated Appeal for 2009 focused on the most
vulnerable groups and individuals in the LRA-affected areas; food,
basic services and protection for Karamoja; and residual support for
remaining refugees in the West Nile region. Humanitarian efforts
will work to ensure coherence with development programming and the
shift from UN and NGO to GOU-led service provision.

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12. (U) Nonetheless, despite coming a long way, northern Uganda is
facing several development challenges to bring it to the same level
of development as the rest of the country. The most pressing of
these are: (1) continuing to ensure that peace and security prevail,
and that people have access to justice through enhanced civilian
police and other justice, law and order institutions; (2)
strengthening local governance and service delivery capacity,
especially at the sub-county level, to replace NGO-provided services
during the transition from relief to development; (3) developing and
disseminating information on procedures for former IDPs to adopt one
of the three "durable solutions" following displacement - return to
the place of origin, local integration in the areas in which the
IDPs initially took refuge, or settlement in another part of the
country; and (4) enhanced food security and livelihoods.

13. (SBU) Kony's refusal to sign the FPA is not a show-stopper.
To be sure, there is disappointment that Kony has failed to sign the
agreement. The GOU, donors, and the U.S. Government still support
diplomatic efforts to persuade Kony to sign the agreement, but
donors have decided to no longer fund the infrastructure of a peace
process and food for the LRA in the absence of interest and/or good
faith on Kony's part. The USG, the GOU, and the Government of
Southern Sudan have made it clear that the peace process cannot be
open-ended. The GOU message to the people of northern Uganda is
that it is safe for them to resettle voluntarily following
displacement, return to their home areas, and resume normal lives.

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14. (U) USAID established an office in Gulu in June 2006 and has
extended its presence for another three years in agreement with the
GOU. The USG Gulu Branch office is the only such bilateral donor
presence in the north. The office and its staff visibly demonstrate
the U.S. Government's commitment to move from emergency relief to
recovery and development activities in northern Uganda. For many
years, the U.S. has been the largest contributor of humanitarian and
now development assistance to northern Uganda. This fiscal year,
the USG will provide $163 million to open roads, deliver services to
treat and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, rebuild the
agriculture sector, increase access to clean water, improve the
quality of education, build the capacity of local government, assist
with the reintegration of former combatants, conduct health-related
research and military training. The U.S. Mission in Uganda will
continue to work with the GOU, local authorities, civil society
groups, religious and traditional leaders, and ordinary citizens to
secure a peaceful future for northern Uganda.

15. (U) Other donors and UN agencies have also been supporting the
peace process, as well as humanitarian and development efforts.
This financial year, donor support through the GOU budget amounts to
some $70 million for support to the Office of the Prime Minister's
coordination of the PRDP, the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund
(NUSAF), the Northern Uganda Reconstruction Program (NUREP), support
to the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS), and other sector
support for agriculture, education, health, water and environment,
roads and other public works, and strengthening local governments.
Off-budget support includes an additional $200 million for
humanitarian assistance and projects in all of the foregoing

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16. (U) The Ugandan Government has demonstrated its commitment to a
peaceful settlement of the conflict by persistently participating in
the Juba Peace Process since July 2006. It has also shown
commitment to closing the gap in economic and social indicators
between the north and the rest of the country by launching the PRDP
in September 2007 after two years of extensive consultations with
stakeholders in all 40 PRDP districts and all central government
ministries. Implementation of the PRDP formally began on July 1,
2008 and although progress so far has been slow, the 2008/09
national budget provides $182 million for the 14 programs and 40
districts covered by the PRDP, a 20% increase over the previous
financial year. While the debate will continue through the PMC and
other fora as to whether this financial commitment is sufficient, it
is certainly a start that can be built upon in future years.
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17. (SBU) U.S. efforts to mitigate the effects of the conflict in
the north, bring about reconstruction and development, and
facilitate reconciliation, dominate our peace and security and
economic development agenda in Uganda. The U.S. Government remains
committed to supporting the current positive trends on the ground in
northern Uganda through an active, collaborative Mission team and an
office in northern Uganda. This requires flexibility, constant
analysis of ongoing events, and a willingness to take action to keep
the momentum going in a positive direction. It is important to note
that some statistical indicators will show initial backsliding as
returnees go home to areas that lack the level of health and
educational services provided in the camps. Nonetheless, we expect
current positive trends to continue, which means northern Uganda
will be a different place one year from now, one in which the U.S.
can take pride because of our positive contributions to the peace
process and improvement in the lives of the formerly displaced.

18. (SBU) Nonetheless, we continue to advance our interests and
encourage the Ugandan Government to deliver on its promises to
develop northern Uganda. Our message on northern Uganda includes:

-- Recognition of the Government's efforts to bring about a
peaceful resolution to the 22-year conflict with the LRA. The GOU
has demonstrated restraint and patience during the peace process and
its commitment to protect the people of northern Uganda from the
LRA. We encourage Uganda to continue talking to its neighbors,
particularly Sudan and DRC, to deal with the regional aspects of the
LRA problem and implications for returnees.

-- Reaffirming our commitment to partnership with the GOU on
maintaining and strengthening security and implementing the PRDP.

-- Supporting efforts to re-establish democratic institutions,
respect for human rights and rule of law, reconciliation and
accountability, and strengthening the capacity of local governments
to deliver services to returning populations.

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19. (SBU) We have noted the positive trends in northern Uganda,
which no longer requires as much outside intervention from the
international community to sustain. Ugandans are taking ownership of
recovery efforts in the north. IDPs are returning freely to their
home areas, where they need to be supported, and have elected local
and national leaders representing their interests. The U.S. and
other diplomatic missions are working closely with the GOU on the
implementation of the PRDP and accountability and reconciliation
elements of the FPA. We do not view lack of political will or funds
as the primary cause of slow PRDP implementation, but rather lack of
capacity within the line ministries and districts to absorb and
coordinate large inflows of funds for northern reconstruction, which
is a technical issue. Politically, observers on the ground agree on
Kony's lack of interest in the FPA, that the Juba Peace Process has
played itself out, and that the focus of peace efforts needs to be
in Uganda, not elsewhere.

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