Bush: Don’t Send Uganda To Somalia

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[Black Star Editorial]

The Bush Administration wants to drive remnants of the Islamic Courts Union government from Somalia—the White House is so desperate that it’s anointed Uganda, a country whose army was found liable for serious human rights abuses and is currently being investigated by the ICC, as regional policeman. A U.S. General, William E. "Kip" Ward, met with Uganda's president Feb. 26, to iron details of the Somalia mission, Uganda media reported.

It’s true that Somalis continue to suffer as a consequence of collapse of government there and widespread anarchy. Equally valid are observations that only international intervention –preferably by the African Union – can help restore Somalia. But there are other stellar candidates to lead the mission, including South Africa and Nigeria.

Let’s review the facts with respect to Uganda: President Yoweri Museveni’s legitimacy in power is under a serious cloud. Last year’s Presidential election was compromised with serious allegations that Museveni stole the elections from key challenger Dr. Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Moreover, Uganda’s own Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the election was flawed; it was by the one-vote majority that Dr. Besigye’s petition to nullify the election results was denied. To begin with, Museveni had used a rubber stamp Parliament to remove constitutionally imposed term limit in order to run.

Secondly, Uganda’s army has failed to bring peace and stability to a large part of the country—northern Uganda. War with the vicious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has lasted 20 years, and nearly 2 million civilians languish under deplorable conditions in camps. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1,000 civilians perish from hunger and diseases in these camps every week. This translates to 52,000 deaths a year: How is this not genocide?

Just this week, Uganda media reported that a new survey shows that as much as 60% of children report being sexually abused. Soldiers have also been pointed as culprits.

But the primary reason why Uganda is not a suitable member for a Somali intervention force is the army's history in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Uganda’s army invaded Congo under the pretence of pursuing anti-Uganda rebels. DRC’s government and international human rights organizations accused Ugandan soldiers and officers of conducting massacres in the DRC and of widespread destruction and plunder.

The DRC case was solid and the Kinshasa government took Uganda to the International Court of Justice (the ICJ, or World Court), which announced its decision in December 2005, ruling that Uganda was liable for $10 billion in damages in the case (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) please see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uganda/Story/0,,1671176,00.html

The court ruled that Uganda's DRC intervention from 1998 to 2003 violated international sovereignty and led to the torture and killing of civilians and the destruction of Congolese villages.

To this date, Uganda has not paid the Congo government a dime or apologized.

Separately, the International Criminal Court –the same ICC that indicted the leaders of the LRA—has been conducting a parallel investigation of the atrocities committed by Uganda’s army, and its allied militias, in the DRC, according to a June 8th, 2006 report in The Wall Street Journal. What if the court returns indictments that include the Ugandan leadership and army commanders?
Does the Bush Administration really want to be seen as cozy to the Uganda regime then? In fact, Uganda may be desperate to participate in the mission as a way to pre-empt the ICC’s current probe.

The Uganda army's mission will be financed by the Bush Administration. Uganda’s army is set to deploy early March—the Democratic Congress, if it has any backbone --and there are many doubters-- must ensure that the US plays no role in this mind-boggling ill-fated participation by Uganda’s army in the Somali mission.

The White House is merely confirming, again, that it doesn’t care about human rights when it comes to Africans.


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