Talking peace and reintegration in Juba

For the first time in twenty years, it looks as though northern Ugandans can say: peace at last, peace at last, peace at last.

A final peace agreement has yet to be reached, but it seems like there is little stepping back from the current negotiations. The Sudan Tribune has details here of the flurry of agenda items signed in the past two weeks between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda.

(For those unfamiliar with the war, I am amazed to say that Wikipedia is not a bad source. See also my suggested reading list.)

As readers of this blog might know, I’ve spent the last few years working with my wife and colleagues on the reintegration of youth affected by this war, and the recovery of the regional economy. There has been both an academic and a policy arm to this work: the Survey of War Affected Youth, or SWAY.

Our work has been very critical of the way reintegration and humanitarian aid has been conceived and targeted in the past. So we followed with great interest progress in the negotiations of Agenda Item 4: the terms of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, or DDR.

We released two research briefs specifically for the Juba peace teams, one challenging previous notions of reintegration, and one drawing attention to the special needs (and past neglect) of women. It’s looking like they they might have been read seriously.

I for one am moderately happy with the DDR agreement so far. Based on discussions about the text, I began quite disappointed with the specifics. But my SWAY colleagues have assuaged me of some of that disappointment.

Why disappointed? I would have liked to see the peace teams focused on the specifics of reintegration aims and expectations. Instead, the agreement is likely to be clear on the “DD” and a bit vague on the “R”.

In comparison to other accords, however, I think we’ll see that it is very detailed in discussion of children and women. We will probably see unprecedented detail in a peace accord for “R”–an emphasis on secondary education, war wounds, and youth.

The peace teams will almost certainly not acknowledge the need to focus on all youth (as opposed to just those formerly with the rebel group), but I think we can expect a reference to a program structure that does not alienate other war affected populations. So that is a start. The agreement should give civil society and non-governmental organizations powerful sticks with which to beat donors and the Government of Uganda.

For continuing news on the (still incomplete) peace process, I recommend the UgandaCAN blog. Also, see a study released last week by the Justice and Reconciliation Project and Quaker Peace and Social Witness.–both excellent organizations and researchers.