Stop Genocide In Uganda

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On December 18, Ugandans and their American friends who oppose genocide will gather outside the United Nations headquarters in New York for an educational rally and to amplify the cries of those suffering in deplorable camps in Uganda.

The demonstration will call upon the international community to respond to the suffering in Uganda as forcefully as it did to the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan. The so-called internally displaced peoples' (IDP) camps in northern Uganda were created by the Uganda government, ostensibly to protect civilians caught in cross-fires as Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) soldiers battle the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. They have turned into abysmal failures in social experimentation--innocent civilians die of starvation, while some are tortured and raped. They have become the world's gravest humanitarian disasters and displaced close to two million Acholis from their homes, their farms, and their livelihood.

As the world knows, recently, Jan Egland, the United Nations Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, called the suffering in northern Uganda the world's "worst most ignored" humanitarian crisis. He  referred this urgent matter to the Security Council but, after a short debate, the body failed to call for immediate action or to demand recommendations. In light of the stern and appropriate actions the UN and the U.S. government took to oppose atrocities in the Darfur region of the Sudan, this inaction on the part of the international community is troubling and puzzling.

Ambassador Egland also has said: "The conflict in Northern Uganda is characterized by a level of cruelty seldom seen elsewhere. It pits not just adults but also children against one another, and excludes vast swathes of the population from participation in any semblance of development. No one knows how many people have died as a result of the conflict, but every day schools, homes, villages and families are destroyed, yet more people are abducted, enslaved, beaten, raped, and made to fight for the rebels. Most of these abductees are children."

Commendably, the U.S. Congress recently recognized the plight of the people of northern Uganda through the Northern Uganda Crisis Response Act. However, crucial provisions to address the immediate humanitarian issues as well as the underlying political causes of the war are lacking. In fact, Secretary Colin Powell has yet to provide Congress with a feedback on the situation in Uganda and may not do so before he leaves office. The 18-year war in northern Uganda has claimed over 300,000 lives. The UN estimates that more than 1.8 million Acholis have been displaced from their homes. Although the low level combatants of both the LRA rebels and the UPDF, who are tired of the war, want to bring it to a peaceful end, their respective leaders (LRA's Joseph Kony and Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni) are not interested in serious peace dialogue. Both leaders have no trust and confidence in each other to engage in a serious peace dialogue. It is the moral obligation and responsibility of the international community to create the appropriate environment for the two sides to have confidence in the peace process. That is why we appeal for independent outside intervention.

The international community has  played a highly effective role in pressing the Khartoum government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to conclude an agreement to end the major war in Sudan. Pressure is currently being applied on combatants in the Darfur region to follow suit. Yet, there is a deafening and chilling silence to the suffering in Uganda. A peaceful resolution of the war between the LRA and the Uganda government has remained elusive. In the meantime, the deplorable conditions in the internal camps need to be addressed to prevent further deaths. Despite the current efforts of the international community, basic healthcare has been lacking, food handouts do not provide for basic nutrition, and most children in these camps have no primary school educational opportunities. Human Rights Watch has reported that in two of the camps over a three month period, mortality rates for children under five was 5.67/1,000, where 4/1,000 is considered an emergency.

The grave humanitarian tragedy can no longer be ignored, in light of voluminous documentation and the statements from Undersecretary General, Egland. We pray that the world join in demanding for a prompt end to atrocities in the camps. At the very least, there must be an immediate end to supplying all combatants with all types of military weaponry. These forces must be made to understand that only a peaceful approach is the option to resolving the northern Uganda crisis.

The U.S., and United Nations and the African Union must all become actively involved in the disarmament, peace and rehabilitation process: This is the only way that the all sides can have the confidence to engage in serious peace talks without fear that either is merely postering to improve their combat positions. At the end of the day, no peace can become sustainable unless the civilian victims and disarmed combatants are succesfully reintegrated into civil society. At the outside the inhumane camps must be dismantled and civilians be allowed to return to their homes with farm implements, seeds, food to sustain them and other basic resources.

Then there must be reconciliation, so as to prevent a flare up of armed conflict again. And most importantly, all sides must accept constitutional processes as the only way to attain political power in Uganda. The Uganda government's claim that it is negotiating in good faith is belied by the fact that there is currently a process underway by the President's supporters to amend the constitution to allow him to run for a third term. A country that has endured more than 4 decades of political instability, through the regimes of Milton Obote, Idi Amin, and the current government can ill afford to abort the constitutional process that is just taking root. If this president can abrogate the Constitution, who is to prevent the next one?
The demonstration is to highlight the northern Ugandan tragedy and to call on the UN, non-governmental organizations, and governments which support both rebels and the Ugandan Government to take appropriate actions that will lead to a peaceful resolution of the 18-year old war. It will start at 10 a.m. at the Dag Hammarskjold Park in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 47th Street and First Avenue. All are welcome to come listen to presentations and gather educational pamphlets at the event. The idea is to show Americans how they can help end the suffering in Uganda by lobbying their representatives in Congress.

The writers, Otim, Allimadi and Otika are, respectively:
President, Friends for Peace in Africa,;
CEO Publisher, The Black Star News,;
and, President, The African Trans-Atlantic Alliance,


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