Friday, June 5, 2009

Good-bye, Joachim

The United Nations Secretary-General's office this week announced that it's closing the Kampala office of Joachim Chissano, the special envoy to what is called the "LRA-affected areas."

The closing of the office comes as something of a surprise, since just last December, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon extended Chissano's mandate for a year. Now, the office is closing six months early.

He was initially appointed in 2006, not long after peace talks with the Lord's Resistance Army began. In truth, Chissano has been aloof, inaccessible and ineffective, having mostly tagged along as Ugandans and chief mediator Riek Machar did the work.

On one occasion, in an attempt to revive the sagging peace talks, Chissano made a publicized attempt to meet with Kony personally. Only Kony didn't show up, despite apparently have agreed to do so.

Clearly this signals that not only the UN, but most everyone else has given up on trying to reach a peace deal with the Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army.

The spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon, Michele Montas, took a question on the issue Thursday in her daily press briefing:

Question: "Yesterday it became clear that the Secretary-General was closing down the office in Kampala with Chissano, who is done six months earlier. Does that mean that the UN has resigned itself to believing that the arrest of [LRA leader Joseph] Kony is the only way to move forward?"

Montas: "Well, I think it’s a fact that, you know, what is happening on the ground… Mr. Kony has never shown up to sign the agreement, I think is definitely a factor. Mr. Chissano really cannot do much more than he has already done. We’re not resigning ourselves to the fact, but we’re just saying that there is no point in trying to keep the office open if nothing is happening."

Question: "Can’t the UN arrest him, or what…?"

Montas: "The UN does not have the power to arrest anyone."

So what's next? Chissano is probably headed back to Mozambique, which is where he is from and where he served as president.

And, Kony is still out there, roaming around the remote recesses of the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. While the severity and frequency of his attacks have diminished, they're still taking place.

Just this past week, there were fresh attacks by LRA fighters on communities in South Sudan, not far from Yambio, the regional capital of the Western Equatoria state. The people providing any resistance are the so-called Arrow Boys, who are a home-grown militia that is armed with only bows and arrows.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir has promised to send some of his Sudanese People's Liberation Army there, but it's too little, too late, since South Sudan failed in its mission to "seal" its border with the DRC and prevent the LRA from entering the country.

This closure comes in the wake of calls from such groups as Enough for regional forces, supported again by the U.S., to "finish the job" on Kony. And, a bill has been introduced into Congress that essentially calls for the same thing.

Unfortunately, a second effort against Kony would most likely be headed by the Ugandan army once again. And what would that result be?

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