Washington DC conference asking for peace in Northern Uganda


this is sponsored by world vision, invisible children, gulu walk and other organizations. one of the speakers will be carolyn davis of the philadelphia inquirer. here is an editorial she wrote on the subject – http://www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/carolyn_davis/20071030_Without_Borders___Bush__Museveni__Step_up_.html

Memo to President Bush and Ugandan President Museveni:

Good morning, gentlemen. I’m glad you two could get together today in Washington. A loud and clear statement that you are squarely behind the fitful negotiations to end the war in northern Uganda, a war almost two decades old, could score you welcome political and public relations victories.

You could justify stepping up your support for the talks with the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, simply on humanitarian grounds. Nothing is more indecent than 30,000 children kidnapped and forced to become soldiers and concubines during the war.

And think of the precious foreign-policy victory of gaining peace in northern Uganda through the talks being held in South Sudan, which already have temporarily halted fighting.

President Bush: You would no doubt please the GOP bloc of religious conservatives, who are powerful advocates for human rights. Press your friend Museveni to use his government’s and foreign donors’ resources to improve the quality of life for the people of northern Uganda. He should be keen to listen to you, considering all of the foreign aid we give his country.

President Museveni: Your hands are not exactly clean in this. It takes two to wage war, after all, and with your large army, it is hard to understand how this band of rebels, once so small, has been able to hurt so many civilians for so long. Some say you prefer instability in the north, where the majority Acholi people are not among your fans. Prove them wrong. Say loudly, clearly, often: You will pursue peace through negotiations, protect civilians, and put sufficient resources and a transparent effort into comprehensive relief and recovery plans. Extend a hand of peace and equity from Kampala to the Acholi and Lango people. Say the time to end disparity and division has come. Of course, you would have to back up those words.

Both of you: Say, loud and clear, what Uganda’s minister of foreign affairs told me: “The best way is the peaceful solution.”

If negotiations address all the issues, economic prospects for Uganda will grow. A 2002 analysis found that the first 16 years of fighting cost at least $1.33 billion – about 3 percent of Uganda’s gross domestic product for that period. Mr. Museveni: The economic improvements you have shepherded in other parts of Uganda have been impressive, but your legacy will be spotty without the north’s sharing in them.

True, Kony and his inner circle have committed mass atrocities, as detailed in International Criminal Court indictments. But LRA leaders won’t lay down their arms if they think they are walking into the arms of prosecutors at The Hague.

There are other ways to hold the rebels accountable. Negotiations center on the agenda item that deals with justice, accountability and reconciliation. The ICC indictments can be stayed, or if an acceptable Ugandan justice mechanism is established, lifted. Domestic trials could blend judicial and traditional proceedings – a good way to go, because if the Ugandan process breaks down, international proceedings could widen to investigate crimes committed by all combatants. You don’t want to go down that road, Mr. Museveni.

A military victory may be appealing, and if the rebels don’t negotiate, tougher action may be necessary at some point. But vanquishing them through force hasn’t worked in 21 years. Besides, if legitimate grievances among northerners aren’t addressed, another warlord will just replace Kony.

In politics as in life, everything has its moment and its risk-benefit ratio. The moment for planting peace in northern Uganda is now, and the balance is in its favor.


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