05 December, 2008

Negotiating the end of atrocity

Just to add to Guadalupe's post on the theocratic psycho Joseph Kony. He is indeed, along with his fellow mass murderer Bashir in Sudan, a bad bad man. To go a bit further, what do we do about it? NGOs, humanitarian groups, and the Catholic hierarchy all seem to place their eggs in the peace process basket. And with some reason; Uganda is already a ravaged country and the Ugandan government has not been able to put Kony down for good in twenty years of fighting (although my understanding is that a coordinated, sustained offensive did emaciate his militia in the 1990s).

On the other hand, as Guadalupe notes, the most recent peace initiative ended as have all the others - with Kony backing out at the last moment, pretty much confirming that he never intended to sign and was stringing everybody out for time. He says its because he doesn't want to suffer Charles Taylor's fate - the Liberian warlord who turned himself in only to find himself sitting in a cell of the International Criminal Court in the Hague. And for this reason the question of punishment for despots is much debated in international diplomacy. On the one hand, the Ugandan people deserve justice for the multitudes that Kony slaughtered, and, say, bribing him with a nice maximum security villa on the French Riviera constitutes a bit of a perverse incentive. On the other hand, a robust system of international law that makes it very likely that Kony will be indicted and tried for his crimes no matter where he goes provides him with the opposite incentive - to reject treaties and fight to the bitter end, which is bad for everyone. You don't have to be an irrational millenarian to prefer your jungle compound with your adoring followers and your 50 wives to a cold, dark cell.

So the peace process as I understand it is currently set up is flawed, and will continue to produce a lack of resolution. Without the threat of a resumed, robust military offensive against him (backed perhaps by the US/NATO but help from African Union forces would be much preferable for obvious reasons) Kony is facing no "stick". And without real assurances that he can be made exempt from future prosecutions or at the least given a plush house arrest, there is no "carrot". There is just this vague, well meaning hope that he will change his ways, dashed once again.

Update: Skimming through ResolveUganda.org's policy memo "Giving Peace a Real Chance", I come across this: "The Ugandan government has said it will appeal to the ICC for withdrawal of indictments, but only after a comprehensive peace agreement has been signed and an alternative national justice framework more firmly established." This seems backwards to me, like the demand that Iran stops its nuclear program before negotiations can begin. The object of negotiations would be along the lines of a withdrawal of indictment in exchange for disarmament.

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