In 2021, Dominic Ongwen, a leader of the notorious Ugandan armed group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was found guilty of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC). In early May, Ongwen was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The trial, the verdict and the sentence have been subject of much controversy.
The prominence of the trial makes it easy to forget that Ongwen found himself in the dock in The Hague because the last peace process with the LRA had failed: the Juba Peace Talks. These talks were the first to be conducted under the influence of the ICC. They ended with a military strike on the LRA and since then, more than a decade later, wide-ranging political tension and marginalisation in Uganda has remained unaddressed; civilians in three countries in central Africa have suffered from armed group and military intervention violence and the verdict against Ongwen is unlikely to bring closure to the many who have suffered. Why did it come to this? Ultimately, because a peace process failed.
Mareike Schomerus’ new book ‘The Lord’s Resistance Army: Violence and Peacemaking in Africa’ (CUP, 2021) offers an insight into how the LRA experienced the Juba Talks. Emphasising the developing dynamics and the deep distrust within the conflict system of which the LRA is part and how this became entrenched through the peace negotiations, the book calls for a new approach in contemporary peacemaking.