Demands U.S. Role In Uganda Peace

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The U.S. lawmakers also sharply attacked conditions in Uganda’s death camps. “There remain an estimated 1.5 million internally displaced persons in overcrowded camps throughout the northern region who suffer from insecurity, limited freedom of movement, poor access to basic services and few opportunities for income generation,� states the letter.

(Senator Feingold, right, and others including John Kerry want increased U.S. role in Uganda's peace talks).

In a sharply worded letter, United States senators have warned Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Bush Administration needs to take a more active role in ongoing peace negotiations between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army. “Elevated attention and support from the United States will be decisive to the success of the negotiations,� states the letter which was written by Wisconsin’s Russell D. Feingold and signed by other U.S lawmakers, including Senator John Kerry, who came close to becoming president in the last election.

Peace talks mediated by South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar to end the 20 year war have been sputtering along in Juba, the South Sudan capital. The Senators’ letter to Secretary Rice supports the South Sudan mediators but urged the State Department to “monitor the talks closely and to hold all actors accountable to the process.� The Senators also endorse “national dialogue and reconciliation.�

Additionally, the letter calls on the U.S. government to work with the international community and governments throughout the region to “create a package of incentives,� to seal a peace deal. “This package should be used to help support reconstruction and reintegration efforts in northern Uganda when an agreement is reached, and should provide sufficient political and economic support to ensure successful implementation of this agreement.�

The Black Star News has obtained a copy of the Senators’ letter. Comments from Secretary Rice couldn’t be obtained before online publication tonight. Separately, in an earlier interview Senator John Kerry said the U.S. isn’t doing enough to prod the two sides in Uganda’s conflict towards peace. “We can’t sit by as tens of thousands of children are abducted to be sexually abused or used as child soldiers,� Kerry told The Black Star. “There are an estimated 1.5 million displaced people throughout the region.  If all that doesn’t cry out for America to stand up and act, I don’t know what does?�

The letter signed by the group of Senators to Secretary Rice is dated July 25, 2006. “We are writing to urge you to fully support ongoing talks between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) recently initiated in Juba, South Sudan,� reads the letter. “As you know, the people of northern Uganda have endured a conflict between the LRA and the Government of Uganda for twenty years, which has resulted in human tragedy, chronic insecurity, lawlessness, serious human rights violations, and the marginalization and impoverishment of Northern Ugandans,� the letter adds, outlining details of the conflict which has been referred to by Jan Egland, the United Nations top relief official as the “world’s worst ignored humanitarian crisis.�

The Senators spoke of the LRA’s abduction of over 25,000 children for use as soldiers and sex slaves. The lawmakers also sharply attacked conditions in Uganda’s death camps. “There remain an estimated 1.5 million internally displaced persons in overcrowded camps throughout the northern region who suffer from insecurity, limited freedom of movement, poor access to basic services and few opportunities for income generation,� states the letter. “A July 2005 mortality survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee estimated that 1,000 excess deaths were taking place every week due to the conflict.�

The letter noted that past attempts at peace had collapsed but pointed that the South Sudan government’s involvement “lends it credibility and provides incentives for both the LRA and the Government of Uganda to negotiate in good faith.� Resolving the conflict would “provide a crucial first step toward national dialogue and reconciliation,� states the Senators’ letter, noting that religious and community leaders in the north had long called for a negotiated settlement. “While these leaders are fully committed to holding perpetrators accountable for their actions,� adds the letter, “there can be no justice for the people of northern Uganda until this crisis comes to an end.�

Concludes the letter: “The importance of this peace process is evident. With the backing of southern Sudanese and the investment of all stakeholders, these talks provide a strong opportunity to end the war. U.S support is critical to their success.�

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