Ending the armed conflict in Uganda (West Nile)

Summary

The ongoing insurgency in northern Uganda was ended with a peace agreement.

As the Ugandan regime of Idi Amin (1971-79) collapsed, the remnants of his government and military retreated to bases in Sudan and Zaire. Over the course of the 1980s, they established a range of armed groups including the Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF), which was led by a former minister in Amin’s government. The UNRF insurgency earned its leadership a brief period in power as part of a military junta (1985-86). This administration, however, was quickly removed from power by Yoweri Museveni (who remains president today), and the UNRF fled once again over the border.1 In 1994, the Government of Sudan seized key territory from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in southern Sudan and began helping the Ugandan exiles to launch a fresh insurgency. In 1995, the West Nile Bank Front began its operations against the administration in Kampala and was joined the following year by the Uganda National Rescue Front II (UNRF II). The UNRF II was dealt a major blow in the summer of 1997, when Sudanese government and UNRF II troops were defeated by SPLM troops, who captured the main base of operations used by pro-Amin Ugandan forces in Sudan. This severely weakened the various armed groups as military organisations and forced them to shelter behind the lines of Sudanese government security forces, thereby cutting off their access to Uganda entirely.2 The losses in Sudan hampered the ability of groups such as UNRF II to pose a genuine military threat to the Government of Uganda, leading approximately 150 personnel to surrender to Ugandan local government officials following the defeats.3 Despite these developments, a significant cohort of UNRF II personnel continued their insurgency.

In 1998, a local peace committee reached out to the UNRF II and opened a dialogue. These initial talks resulted in a ceasefire in early 1999. Combined with the passing of the 2000 Amnesty Act, which offered amnesty for Ugandans involved in ‘acts of a war-like nature’, this created a climate for more comprehensive negotiations to take place. These talks made slow progress until 19 April 2002, when the entire UNRF II organisation returned to northern Uganda from Sudan after losing the backing of Khartoum.4 Under these new circumstances, the belligerents agreed to a formal ceasefire on 15 June.5 The negotiations culminated on 24 December 2002 with an agreement allocating 10 government positions for the UNRF II leadership and 700 positions in the Ugandan military for their troops. The remainder disarmed within the framework a donor-backed Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration programme to become tobacco farmers.6 These arrangements ended the conflict.



1 UCDP. Government of Uganda – UNRF. (UCDP, 2021) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/statebased/682 (Accessed 22/11/2021)

2 UCDP. Government of Uganda – UNRF II. (UCDP, 2021) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/statebased/691 (Accessed 22/11/2021)

3 Anton Baaré. “Development Aid as Third-Party Intervention: A Case Study of the Uganda National Rescue Front II Peace Process.” Journal of Peacebuilding & Development, Vol. 2, No. 1. (2004) p.23

4 Ibid. p.27

5 Ceasefire Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Uganda and the Uganda National Rescue Front II, 2002. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/uganda-agreement-UNRFII2002 (Accessed 22/11/2021)

6 Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Uganda and the National Rescue Front II (Yumbe Peace Agreement), 2002. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/uganda-yumbe-agreement2002 (Accessed 22/11/2021)

Start Year

1998

End Year

2002

Location

West Nile, Northern Region, Uganda

UN Regional Group

Africa

Type of Conflict

Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict with foreign involvement

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

Local people and organisations supported by donors

Impact

Lasting

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