Some former Lords Resistance Army fighters have said they would rejoin LRA or enlist with Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force in case war resumes in the north, says a report.
“In the unfortunate case that warfare resumes, some former LRA combatants stated that they would have little choice but to rejoin the ranks of the LRA or enlist with the UPDF in order to avoid being killed by the rebels.
These actions would be taken purely as strategies for self-preservation, and not in allegiance to either the UPDF or LRA,” says the report.
The research report titled; With or Without Peace: Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration in Northern Uganda, was launched simultaneously with another, Sharing by the Director of Gulu University Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, Mr Fabius Okumu in Gulu Town on Friday.
Over 300 respondents, most of them formerly abducted persons, in Acholi sub-regions were interviewed between July and October 2007 in the research conducted by Quaker Peace and Social Witness and the Justice and Reconciliation Project.
The respondents, interviewed individually and in focus group discussions, were asked questions like: ‘Do you Know about the Juba Peace Talks?”, ‘What do you think will happen if they succeed or fail?’ and “Do men and women have different experience upon return’.
The Ex-LRA combatants expressed fear that if the current Juba peace process fails, they could be re-abducted and killed on spot by rebels who would think they betrayed them by escaping and revealing their secrets to the UPDF.
The report quoted one respondent as saying “as a re-abducted person your only fate will be death” while another young woman said, “Death is painful so it’s better to be holding a gun.” The launch was attended by representatives of humanitarian agencies, academicians and the media. The JRP research director, Dr Erin Baines, and Mr Julian Hopwood presented the findings.
The research also notes that ex-LRA fighters predicts that further violence and unrest may continue in the region if long standing grievances are not addressed. “Hidden arms caches, unexploded ordinances and landmines scattered throughout the countryside present a largely unmitigated security threat,” the report says.
The report says weapons not taken out of circulation present a grave security threat to any transitional society.
It says since 2002, a proportion of LRA returnees have been through an ad hoc de-briefing during which they are held by the UPDF and are expected to hand over weapons and provide intelligence but however notes that there is no comprehensive firearms collection system in place.