Uganda Peace “Uncertain�: UK House Of Lords Member

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(Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, agrees with Olara Otunnu that there has been an International Conspiracy of Silence with respect to the tragedy in Uganda).

The Lord Bishop of Winchester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, a member of the UK’s House of Lords supports the Juba Peace Talks between the Uganda government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army.

Early this year he traveled to Uganda and visited some of the much-criticized Camps where nearly two million people have been confined by the Uganda government, ostensibly to protect them against rebel attacks--as many as 1,000 civilians die each week according to the United Nations and other human rights organizations. On Saturday, November 4th, 2006, Norman S. Miwambo, caught up with Lord Michael for The Black Star News.

Given the unresolved conflict in the northern part of Uganda, Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, in the interview says the UK government was “deeply concerned� about having Queen Elizabeth in Uganda during next year’s scheduled Commonwealth Heads Of Government summit which the East African country is to host. He agreed with former United Nations Undersecretary General Olara Otunu’s assertion that there has been an International Conspiracy of Silence with respect to the tragedy in Acholi. Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt says he’s encouraged that thus far there’s an absence of “hostilities� between the Uganda government army and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, as well as no rebel harassment of civilians.

He says on “many occasions� he asked the UK government why it had taken so long for the UK to address the situation in the northern part of Uganda and that earlier this year he asked that Uganda be encouraged to have the affected northern part declared a “disaster zone.� He adds in the interview that the “outcome of the Juba Talks remains quite uncertain,� and that religious leaders in Uganda have informed him that they too are “skeptical to whether Museveni is committed to the talks.�

Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt says he doubts the possibility of the British government’s significant participation in a Protection Force in Acholi even if the people there called for it pointing to the colonial history. He says he didn’t “know how President Museveni squares the circle to this kind of question� when asked his opinion of the Ugandan offering an Amnesty to rebel leader Joseph Kony while continuing harassment of political opposition leader Kizza Besigye. The interview follows:

BSN: How is the democratic UK government justified in rewarding Uganda to host the next Commonwealth Summit while at the same time the UK is justifiably condemning Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe for gross Human Rights violations?
Lord Michael Scot-Joynt: I have no doubt that both the UK Government and that of Uganda are deeply concerned about your first question. And indeed, there are some real incentives to President Museveni to resolve the whole Northern question to the world's and the UK's, as well as to his own, satisfaction.

BSN: Given the lessons from the Rwanda genocide, especially the tarnish on the French Government from accusation of complicity, isn't the British Government taking a huge risk of exposing Her Royal Majesty to the accusation of countenancing ongoing genocide in northern Uganda by her presence in Uganda during the Commonwealth?
Lord Michael Scott-Joynt: I will also continue to ask such questions to Her Majesty’s Government. It’s of great concern.

BSN:  Doesn’t the UK position vis-à-vis Uganda expose it to accusation of hypocrisy and duplicity and therefore undermining the UK credibility around the globe?
Lord Michael Scott-Joynt: I am grateful for continuing to put to me searching questions about the whole issue and still-deplorable situation across northern Uganda. I share the profound concern with people of northern Uganda, while also grateful that there really does seem at present to be a silence both in hostilities between the LRA and the UPDF and in the latter's harassment of civilians.

BSN: What can the House of Lords do to protect the people of northern Uganda and Acholi and help promote democracy in Uganda?
Lord Michael Scott-Joynt: I remain in close touch with the Anglican Bishops of Northern Uganda. And I shall continue to do whatever I think I can do in the House of Lords with regard to all these matters, hard though it is to find sufficient time to do them anything like proper justice, as indeed, I know that I do not and cannot.
BSN: How can the UK Government support the Juba Peace Talks in the Sudan to help end the war in northern Uganda?
Lord Michael Scott-Joynt: The UK Government is, as you noted, substantially supporting the Juba Peace Talks, as it has been supporting the range of previous and recent attempts to bring the troubles to an end and the LRA to justice. In October 2006 Her Majesty’s Government agreed to provide £250,000 to the Juba Initiative Fund, which has been set up to help pay for the cost of mediation efforts in support of the ongoing Peace Talks between the Ugandan Government and the LRA.
BSN: Would the House of Lords make a public commitment to the people of Acholi and sponsor an independent and transparent investigation into the alleged genocide in the Acholi land?
Lord Michael Scott-Joynt: I and others will continue to ask questions to Her Majesty’s Government though, the House of Lords itself has no powers to protect the people of northern Uganda and Acholi, or to sponsor an independent and transparent investigation.
BSN: Why has it taken so long for the UK to acknowledge and speak on events unfolding in Acholi? Yet the UK has extensive intelligence and diplomatic assets in that region that could have averted this alleged genocide 15 years ago?
Lord Michael Scott-Joynt: I have on many occasions asked such questions to Her Majesty’s Government and I during my submission in February I told the house that, granted the scale of the humanitarian and cultural disaster throughout northern Uganda inflicted to the population over nine years by the LRA, I raised that specific question whether Her majesty’s Government would encourage the Government of Uganda to declare the north a disaster zone.
BSN:  What is your comment or response to charges of an International conspiracy of silence, as leveled by Olara Otunnu, former United Nations Under-Secretary General? Do you think it’s fair to say that, these charges invariably include the UK as one of  those silent conspirators?
Lord Michael Scott-Joynt: I think that the answer to both in parts can only be yes. I realize, though, that the Camps remain almost wholly as they have been and that the outcome of the Juba talks remains quite uncertain.
BSN: Would you be willing to push for the UK government to lead a protection force to replace the UPDF and LRA from Northern Uganda if such demands were made by people in the affected areas?     
Lord Michael Scott-Joynt: If there is a case for such a force, then I doubt very much whether in the present circumstances the UK could significantly participate in it. And I doubt very much whether, as the ex-colonial power, its doing so would be acceptable to the Uganda Government even if the Northern people specifically asked for UK participation.
BSN: In your opinion how do you consider a person [President Museveni] who is willing to reconcile and extend an Amnesty to someone [Joseph Kony] who is deemed to be a terrorist and has committed such horrendous crimes against humanity and [yet] fails to reconcile with a political opponent [Dr. Kizza Besigye] who has no stain of blood on his hands? 
Lord Michael Scott-Joynt: For this I have little to say because as an individual, it won’t be fair to get direct involvement into the politics of Uganda. And, I confess, because I really don’t know how President Museveni squares the circle to this kind of question. I remain in direct contact with northern Uganda Bishops but they too are skeptical to whether Museveni is committed to the talks.

Miwambo writes for The Black Star News from London.

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