Uganda Peace: Women Demand More Role

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[Africa News Update]

Ugandan women want their voices to be heard even as the government negotiates a possible end to the vicious 20-year war with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that has devastated much of the northern part of the East African country.

The Uganda Women Coalition for Peace has asked both sides at the ongoing Peace Talks in Juba, Southern Sudan, to engage more women in the peace process in order to gain a broad commitment to finding a meaningful and lasting solution to the conflict.

Formed a year ago, the coalition’s aim is to back up the Juba peace process. The organization is preparing rural and urban women with communication, mediation, and negotiation skills. The initiative is called “Conflict does not discriminate.”

It all began with a procession match on the streets of Kampala, the capital, to celebrate the United Nation Security Council resolution 1325, which deals with women, peace and security. Among other things, it recognizes the relevance of women’s experience of conflict to its peace and security mandate; advancing women’s rights in conflict resolution and peace processes; as as well as increasing women’s representation in decision making in promoting security.

The October 25 march was well attended and attracted members of the Government and UN representatives in Uganda.
“We want to forge the best way forward. Our participation in the Juba talks will have a great impact when the talks resume,” Betty Achan Tino, a member of the coalition said. She said involving more women will provide an opportunity to build on what has been attained by women in the peace process.

Rosalba Oywa, a trainer in conflict management and one of the key actors in the peace process in Northern Uganda reminded women that the peace process has reached a point of de-escalation and cease fire stage: “This stage after the crisis can be worse than the actual conflict situation if not well handled. We’ve reached a point where intervention is crucial, and the outcome can be better or worse, depending on how we intervene as mothers.”

Former Mbarara Woman Member of Parliament, Miria Matembe, noted that women need to talk to their husbands at home so that “they stop fighting each other,” she said, adding: “We need to stop fearing our men and we identify the problems and how to approach them, address the issue without conflict. This will help us to identify what has gone wrong, why should we gather here talking and talking when our husbands are not peace-loving. They should be our targets if we want to attain peace in Uganda as a nation.”

Gulu Woman member of parliament, Betty Aol Ochan said in an interview that as women, “We will lobby and advocate for the release of children and women in captivity, as well as asking both sides to develop positive attitude in the peace process.” She added: “Getting more women involved on both sides will raise awareness at national, regional and international levels. Women play a central role in the reconciliation process. We need to be mindful of the fact that the conflict transformation process is not as smooth as we would like it to be.  It could even escalate back into a crisis.”

Aciro writes for The Black Star News from Uganda


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