Home Discussion Papers Conflict & Terrorism The shortcomings of African peacekeeping regarding terrorist groups: The case of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)
The shortcomings of African peacekeeping regarding terrorist groups: The case of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)
Written by Arina Muresan (1) Friday, 02 March 2012 03:00

Traditionally, peacekeeping is conceptualised as the practice of assisting "countries to navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace."(2) This is principally done by participating or interested actors deploying human and monetary resources into the conflicting region.(3) Various international and regional organisations now facilitate and generate support for dire conflicting situations and, therefore, play a greater role in the conflict, whereas, in the past, the state would hold the imperative to take action. The appeared state of endless conflict on the African continent may be in part due to the after effects of the legacies of colonialism and the Cold War,(4) as great levels of political and social angst remained as well as the proliferation of arms. Thus to many, a generalised Africa is synonymous with conflict. Observers note the activity of peacekeeping in Africa either as a successful or failing solution to African conflicts. Regardless, African peacekeeping remains a vital component to contentious continental situations.(5)

While African peacekeeping has had some success, a contentious and perhaps overlooked proponent, which is in need of peacekeeping activities, is the existence and activities of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). This paper argues that the perceived presence of African peacekeeping is not as successful when dealing with terrorist factions; in fact, it may be greatly critiqued. It will explore the possibility that African terrorism poses both inter- and intra-country conflict risk; therefore, the impact may have greater ramifications.

African peacekeeping, her successes

The first success of African peacekeeping was creating an organisation that is sanctioned to administer continental peace. The African Union (AU) is such an organisation; the pan-African organisation believes that the prevention of a conflict is key to achieving prosperity.(6) The AU adopts an important stance of "non-indifference" to African conflict, contrary to its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity's (OAU) principle of non-interference. The AU has since then placed a greater importance on protecting civilians against mass atrocity crimes.(7) African organisations are starting to feature more in peacekeeping operations, because they are building up their capabilities. Although the AU acts as a greater umbrella organisation overseeing peacekeeping initiatives, most successes of African peacekeeping are related to the practice of sub-regional or Regional Economic Community (REC) arrangements.(8) Although not all develop at the same rate, the two regions that have shown the greatest growth are the West and South, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), respectively.(9)

For example, ECOWAS’s peacekeeping initiative, ECOMOG, intervened in Cote d’Ivoire in 2003 and brought “relative peace and security to the country.” This was a swift course of action because the conflict had only broken out in 2002.(10) The peacekeeping maintained a cease fire and it subsequently restored the peace; this is thus a positive example of regional peacekeeping initiatives.  Furthermore, the 307th meeting of the Peace and Security Council in January 2012 reiterated that there was a great need to "support peace initiatives on the continent" and to take greater responsibility and initiative with regards to conflicts.(11) This attitude towards an African solution has been continuously promoted by leaders such as Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa,(12) by expressing the unique "ad hoc" management that Africans apply to conflict situations. Thus far, a menagerie of conflicts such as civil wars, rebel insurgencies, and ethnic clashes have been addressed in an African “non-indifferent and non-intervening manner.”(13)

The shortcomings of African peacekeeping

African countries indeed have challenges in keeping continental conflicts curbed. There are two principle shortcomings in relation to peacekeeping and terrorism; one, the definition of terrorism is limited to describing transnational groups such as Al Qaeda as terrorists, and two, African solutions may not be enough and, in various situations, they fail dismally because of their “ad hoc” nature.(14) The effect of limiting the definition of terrorism is detrimental to African countries because it absolves rebel groups that use terrorist tactics. Next, African solutions may in fact have a negative impact on peacekeeping efforts, because they may undermine other peacekeeping initiatives and allow African autocrats to maintain their status quo.(15) This is evident in the case of the LRA.

Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, had once insisted that the LRA terrorist tactics would dissipate in months.(16) The LRA's position had once served Museveni well as the rebel group installed Museveni as President in 1986. This position changed as the Ugandan Government-LRA relationship became strained. Africa is frequently critiqued that it does not "step up and bear its burdens;" instead it waits for funding and the rescue cavalry.(17) Furthermore, the AU or respective RECs cannot maintain the expenses of the operations and the protection of civilians, and disarmament is unsuccessful.(18) This provides greater opportunity for rebel groups such as the LRA to flourish.

Next, African states remain increasingly vulnerable to violent conflict; its susceptibility to the spill over effect is increasing.(19) There are few safeguards facilitating prevention methods and, therefore, the conflict that the rebels incite creates inter- and intra-country clashes. This was evident in the movements of the LRA from 1986 as they terrorised most Northern Ugandan villages, South Sudanese settlements from 2002 onwards,(20) the Central African Republic (CAR) from 2008,(21) and the DRC.(22) Crimes against humanity have been committed frequently by Joseph Kony's militia.(23)

Kony, the LRA leader, has thus succeeded in reinforcing the terrorist organisation's activities by using terror strategically, exploiting regional and border politics, avoiding the authorities, employing sharp strategies by using small groups, informants and unparalleled violence, as well as creating a personality cult.(24) The dire impact of both Kony and his LRA militia was unparalleled to the reactions of the civilians that were affected and those involved in peacekeeping initiatives. In 2008, affected countries decidedly launched offensive action against the LRA.(25) There is a greater risk and fear that external intervention would incite greater conflict that may spill over. For example, the recent deployment of American troops into Uganda will "galvanise a struggling insurgency."(26) The LRA remains a contentious issue that requires immediate peacekeeping attention.

Various strategies have been attempted and recommended that incentives be placed to fragment the LRA to aid in the dismantling of the organisation, fighters would be granted amnesty from the International Criminal Court (ICC), and, in turn, be tried by local Ugandan courts.(27) Although the AU remains seized on the issue, previous actions of setting up have not been sufficient and, therefore, it is important to understand the roots of the conflict to be able to approach peacekeeping adequately. There is a constant struggle between the Government and LRA, there is sustained border friction between Uganda and Sudan and the separate rebel groups that fight over resources, and a persistent North and South conflict in Uganda.(28) From this, one may gauge that there is a “self-perpetuating cycle of loss, resentment and hopelessness that feeds the conflict.”(29) Therefore, it becomes simple for the LRA to claim that they represent the people’s grievances, even though their methods are not paralleled.

African peacekeeping organisations have very little control over such groups; this is important because peace is the most important objective and grievances need to be addressed by the Government at grassroots level.(30) Negotiations with the LRA are close to impossible because they have no apparent political imperative or motivation for their terrorist actions.(31) The AU does suggest regional means of organisation;(32) however, greater mobilisation of resources, protection, a ceasefire, and cooperation are vital.(33)

Concluding statements

African institutions and leaders have the political capability to mobilise support for peacekeeping operations in general and, therefore, it is possible to remain optimistic for a change. However, there is a lack of commitment to peacekeeping regarding terrorist activities. In order to improve operations, broadly, it is imperative that African-led peacekeeping missions receive "continued support—in funds, training, and logistics,"(34) as well as the assistance of their continental partners. It has become apparent that the AU is apprehensive when labelling a rebel group “terrorists;” however, it is imperative that Africans consider rebel groups as such, so that appropriate action can be taken.


(1) Contact Arina Muresan through Consultancy Africa Intelligence’s Conflict & Terrorism Unit ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).
(2) United Nations Peacekeeping website, http://www.un.org.
(3) Ibid.
(4) 'Peacekeeping successes and failures in Africa', Institute for Security Studies, 29 April 2009, http://www.iss.co.za.
(5) 'African Peacekeeping operations', Council on Foreign Relations, 2 December 2005, http://www.cfr.org.
(6) Profile: African Union, BBC News, 6 February 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk.
(7) Ibid.
(8) Williams, P.D. 2008. "Keeping the peace in Africa: Why African Solutions are not enough". Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, pp. 309-329.
(9) Ibid.
(10) Arthur, P. ECOWAS and Regional Peacekeeping Integration in West Africa: Lessons for the Future. Africa Today, 57(2), pp. 4-24.
(11) 'Africa: 307th meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union', African Union, 9 January 2012, http://www.au.int.
(12) Ibid.
(13) Ibid.
(14) Ibid.
(15) Ibid.
(16)  ‘Taking on Uganda’s elusive Lord’s Resistance Army’, BBC News, 19 October 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk.
(17) Ibid.
(18) Ibid.
(19) Olonisakin, F. 1997. African 'homemade' peacekeeping initiatives. Armed Forces and Society, 23(3), pp. 349-372.
(20) Ibid.
(21) ‘Central African Republic profile’, BBC News, 9 July 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk.
(22) ‘Democratic Republic of Congo profile ’, BBC News, 10 January 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk.
(23) Ibid.
(24) ‘Five reasons why the Lord’s Resistance Army remains on the loose’, CNN News, 31 October 2011, http://edition.cnn.com.
(25) Ibid.
(26) Ibid.
(27) ‘Uganda’s first war crimes trial of LRA commander opens’, BBC News, 11 July 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk.
(28) Ibid.
(29) Ibid.
(30) Ibid.
(31) ‘Northern Uganda Understanding and Solving the Conflict’, International Crisis Group, 14 April 2004, http://www.crisisgroup.org.
(32) Ibid.
(33) Ibid.
(34) Ibid.


Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Plaxo