When Mary Kaldor introduced the term "new wars" to the security community, she referred to the changing nature of warfare, arguing that traditional conventional conflict was no longer, as they say in Paris, en vogue. So, by the way, argues Herfried Münkler, who magically came up with exactly the same term. I personally found that term to be misleading, after all new wars were not so new at all, once one studied the history of conflict in Africa. New was only to be attributed at the expense of decades of war in Sub-Sahara Africa and I therefore preferred Kalevi Holsti's term "wars of a third kind". Be that as it may, one of the wars subjected under this category is the war of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) against the Ugandan government. A war that gained momentum in the late 1980s and a war that cost the lives of thousands. The LRA has abused thousands of children, turning them into child soldiers or sex slaves. Its official aims—defending the marginalised Acholi of Northern Uganda and establishing a state on the bible's ten commandments—have been window-dressing for some time now and even in many NGO-circles, the consensus seems to be that only a military defeat will end the war. The war has led to one of the worst humanitarian crises (in the words of Jan Egeland) and has given rise to a phenomenon called night commuting, when children travel tens of kilometres at night, only to find shelter from potential LRA abuse.
Tim Allen and Koen Vlassenroot have now shed some new light on the conflict in their recently released The Lord's Resistance Army. Myth and Reality. I personally found it highly readable, even though many articles were surprisingly short and some authors clearly lacked professional experience in presenting a coherent argument. More than that, some articles are a bit confusing. Sverker Finnstöm, for instance, argues that the LRA has a real political agenda—something doubted by most observers—and argues that this agenda can be found in some political documents, though he fails to quote only from one of them. He has not even engaged the argument that given the track-record of the LRA it might only be some sort of window-dressing in light of mounting pressure. But having said that, Tim Allen's chapters on the “invention of Acholi traditional justice” make a good read and his argument that the churches invented them to foster their own agenda is highly persuasive.
N.B. While taking up an Africa-related subject, I recently reviewed Ian Taylor's new book on the international relations of Sub-Saharan Africa (the review is in German, however).