Footnotes from the British Underground

This blog began as venue for my stories as I traveled in Africa. 18 months later, I return to it as I travel to study as a Marshall Scholar in the United Kingdom. My hope is that this blog can be a conduit for you - my family, friends and secret/strange admirers - to track my movements, see a photo or two and get a glimpse of my days in the UK. Apologies once again to Dostoevsky for the blog's name...

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Name:
Location: Bradford, United Kingdom

After graduating from Notre Dame, I'm off to England for graduate study. I'll be studying for a M.A. in International Politics and Security Studies. When not studying, I'm continuing to coordinate Uganda-CAN's efforts to end the 20-year war in northern Uganda!

28.6.05

Dear G-8: Africa Needs Peace and Justice, Not Just Aid

Tonight, I was on BBC News' late night show called "Up All Night," talking about the upcoming G-8 Summit and the realities of debt relief. I will hopefully paste the link to the show up here tomorrow, but I am a bit embarassed because I was quite nervous and consequently stumbled over my words at the beginning. Well, I finally found my groove and hit a few key points.

I thought I'd write some of my general thoughts here on the upcoming G-8 Summit --

When the G-8 convenes next month, I really believe they and we have a great opportunity to address human problems and suffering that has been neglected for far too long. Obviously, my hope is that the G-8 will commit to 100% debt relief and significant increases in non-military relief aid directed towards social sectors like health, education, sanitation and housing. However, if the G-8 simply does that, we ought to be very disappointed. The problems of sub-Saharan Africa today demand more than charity and relief, they demand peace and justice.

Today, in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 13 million people are internally-displaced and more than 9 million made refugees by war and genocide. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, nearly 4 million people have died over the past decade as a result of violence and civil war. More than 30,000 are dying monthly while the world forgets Congo. Of course, many of us have become familiar lately with the ongoing genocide in Darfur, yet so little action has been taken to pursue peace. Or in my own area of interest, the 19-year old war in northern Uganda has killed tens of thousands, displaced more than 1.6 million people and led to more than 25,000 children being abducted and forced into soldiering. Conflicts and violent instability persist in Somalia, Angola, Burundi, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe among others.

Yet, when opportunities exist and continue to exist for the action to facilitate peace, the countries of the G-8 have been silent. Any aid to these countries has not been linked to progress by parties involved in peace processes.

Without resolving these conflicts and providing some sort of protection for the masses of displaced and destroyed by war, no amount of aid is going to solve the harsh circumstances of Africa. The G-8 must address the security needs and concerns of Africa.

Further, many of these conflicts have persisted as a result of geopolitics, military aid/alliances and arms trafficking driven by many of the countries who will sit at the summit to solve Africa’s problems. If you look at every single conflict on the African sub-continent, you can easily see how international, particularly Western involvement has benefited from fueling these wars. Whether it be the arms trade or the pursuit of highly-sought after resources such as diamonds, gold or oil, it is clear that many of the crises facing Africa today are global injustices.

Until the world is willing to walk humbly and speak honestly about these realities, justice will be evaded and Africa will continue to be haunted by the chains of colonial structures of exploitation and subjugation.

In the spirit of looking for justice not simply charity, the G-8 must recognize that much of the aid, trade and debt relief packages that have been given in the past and will be given in the present entrench corrupt, inept and inhumane political systems. Just think about it – by giving all of these benefits to existing regimes, the international bloc is actually enforcing and empowering those regimes. But what about those countries whose regimes shoot people in the face at protests, use child soldiers and embezzle monies that are supposed to fight AIDS?

The G-8 needs to realize that if it is going to give such aid – as it should given its complicity and responsibility in the face of such mass human suffering – then it must accept the responsibilities and obligations to be intelligent and targeting with that aid in the name of international values of human rights and human dignity.

---

In the coming weeks, we need to hear about the humanity of Africans, and consequently we need to hear about the humanity of Africa. So often we talk about Africa as this land of problems, horrors, suffering and darkness. And yet, it’s a land of bustling vitality and excitement and energy. Instead of seeing photos of kids starving to death, we need to see photos of kids kicking footballs and laughing and playing in the mud. We need to see families. We need to see marriages.

The African continent is only appropriately called the dark continent in that we know so little about it and its people. Not because it is difficult to know, but because we have never made it a priority to listen and learn.

Thus, our perceptions, the language we use enforces dependency theory where we dehumanize and delegitimize the dignity, power and knowledge of Africans whether then be in Nigeria, Angola or Uganda.

We need to start talking about justice, not charity. Solidarity not service. Brother and sisterhood. The ONE Campaign that Bono has championed is great in that its very name calls for that oneness between us – and yet I wonder how much the existing movements actually live and speak that oneness.

If the discussions surrounding the G-8 in these weeks do nothing more than tell us stories that humanize Africa, allowing us to go beyond the headlines and 400-word stories to connect with people oceans and continents away, it has done a hell of a job.

26.6.05

Uganda-CAN in Weekly Observer newspaper!

The news of the advent of the Uganda Conflict Action Network continues to break as the Weekly Observer, an opposition-controlled weekly newspaper in Uganda, ran a story on our group. See the linked story.

22.6.05

LRA Attack in Pader District

The linked news story tells of four Ugandans hacked to death by LRA rebels (probably 12-year old abducted child soldiers) and many more wounded in Pader District. These sobering stories highlight the stakes in northern Uganda, where such brutal killings have gone on since 1986.

21.6.05

Ugandan Newspaper Runs My Editorial on Uganda-CAN!!!

After much pestering, The Monitor, the largest independent Ugandan newspaper, ran my Op/Ed piece, titled "Global Action Needed to End LRA War." It's pasted here, but you can see it at http://www.monitor.co.ug/oped/oped06215.php.

It all began with a little boy at Barr IDP camp. Three months ago, I made my first trip north over the Victoria Nile and into northern Uganda.

What I witnessed over the coming two months was a horrifying picture of unnecessary mass suffering that deeply moved me - a 19-year old war that has left tens of thousands of people maimed or killed, more than 20,000 children abducted and 1.6 million people displaced into camps of the most squalor conditions.

When the little boy in Barr IDP camp took my hand and refused to let go, I promised that I would refuse to forget all that I saw, heard and felt in the north.For far too long, the international community, especially my own government in the United States, has done the opposite: forgetting, ignoring and neglecting the gross human atrocities in northern Uganda.

Recent reports by the United Nations, Reuters AlertNet and Medicins Sans Frontiers place this conflict on top of their lists of the world's most forgotten crises. Over the years, the international community has failed to provide the necessary relief assistance and use its diplomatic power to push the Ugandan government to commit to ending the war.

This inaction has facilitated the maintenance of the status quo and has served to perpetuate violence.Silence in the face of such human agony is complicity. The time has come for the international community to use its influence to advocate, support and facilitate peace negotiations to end the war.

Special role

The US government, whose influence is perhaps greatest, has a special role to play in using its clout in both Kampala and Khartoum to support and facilitate such negotiations. Jan Egeland, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, recently told the BBC that this is a historic chance to end the war. It is critical that this opportunity is not lost.

Recognising the opportunity and urgency for action to end the war, the Washington-based Africa Faith and Justice Network is launching the Uganda Conflict Action Network (Uganda-CAN) to press for the US government to advocate and support the peace process.

Uganda-CAN will work to build a grassroots campaign of ordinary, outraged citizens around the world to combat this unnecessary suffering and help bring peace and reconciliation to the Great Lakes Region.

Working closely with individuals and organizations on the ground in northern Uganda, Uganda-CAN will highlight the realities that are often suppressed, while pushing for action to contribute to ending this 19-year old war.

Together, we will work that the international community can no longer ignore such gross human tragedy. Visit the Uganda-CAN website at www.ugandacan.org to learn more and become a member of Uganda-CAN.

There could be no more pressing or opportune moment to demand global governance that hears and answers to the suffering of the most poor and vulnerable of our world.

20.6.05

"Kony Anti-War Pressure Group Formed" - The Monitor News Story

Linked is an article from today's Monitor about the launch of the Uganda Conflict Action Network. It's a short article and the title is a bit misleading, but it is a big accomplishment after a week of pushing for some East African press coverage. Check it out!

18.6.05

"Calling to Mind a Forgotten War" - UgandaCAN on ND NewsWire

Notre Dame Newswire featured the work of Uganda-CAN today on its website. Check it out at http://newsinfo.nd.edu/ - look to the right-hand side for our feature article. This is an exciting development for our campaign as we keep working to build our foundation and get off the ground.

16.6.05

The Primary Victims of the War: Children

The linked news report from the Kenyan Nation tells the story of so many children brutalized, victimized and destroyed by the war in northern Uganda.

The Rape that Arises out of War

The linked article from the UN News Service highlights the widespread, systematic rape throughout northern Uganda, where vulnerable peoples are so easily manipulated by those who hold any power or access to resources. It is a sad fact of war that in the rubble of destruction and killing, systemic acts of personal violence and exploitation persist as people are dominated by their base carnal desires to control, to desire, to dominate. This article is a call to action for the international community to demand better protection for the vulnerable peoples of northern Uganda.

15.6.05

Crumbs for Africa - IHT Editorial

Linked is an editorial from the NY Times in the International Herald Tribune that discounts the myth that many, such as President Bush, would like to swindle that the United States makes significant contributions in aid to Africa. The truth is that the U.S. spends very little of its national budget on foreign aid, far less than the rest of the so-called "developed" world. Further, the aid that is given is distributed based on U.S. geostrategic interests in sub-Saharan Africa. So, a country like Egypt gets large amounts of aid, while one like Botswana (where about 33% of the population have HIV) gets extremely little. Bush's praised Millenium Development Challenge in 2002 had such serious strings attached to it that only 6 or 7 African countries were eligible, and only one has been able yet to get aid from the account.

In the coming weeks as the world focuses on Africa, there must be a cry from the American people, moved by the very real suffering on the African sub-continent, to spend more aid ensuring that people's basic needs are met. This is not only the right thing to do, it is in our interest for security as we move forward in these turbulent times.

14.6.05

The Story of Four Girls Abducted by LRA

Linked is a great piece of journalism by Melanie Thernstrom about four girls who escaped from the Lord's Resistance Army after being abducted. It is a powerful human story, but horrifying when one multiplies it by the more than 25,000 children ranging from age 7 to 17 that have been abducted over the last decade as part of this war.

13.6.05

Fr. Carlos Rodriguez Reports from Gulu

Possible for IDPs to return home...
by: Fr. Carlos Rodriguez, in northern Uganda

A great good deal of what is being published in Uganda about the conflict in the North is written by people who sit either in Kampala or abroad. Aggressive scribes who censor, prescribe remedies, advocate, condemn, and proclaim quasi-dogmatic statements from their air-conditioned offices. Little judges more familiar with the Sheraton or Munyonyo Speke ballrooms, or with the London universities than with the mud and wattle huts of the displaced camps.
As for your poor columnist, the day I go away from the North, I shall stop writing about this tragedy because I’ll have nothing to say. Whatever I say, I state it from inside; from what I see and hear from the victims.

One of the temptations I have always resisted is to accept invitations to speak abroad about northern Uganda. I speak from here, with nothing to hide.

So, today I wanted to tell you that a couple of weeks ago I spent some few hours visiting a most peculiar village in Gulu district. It is six kilometres inside the bush.

Some years ago people in this village used to have a normal life, digging their fields and sleeping in their homes; then they vacated the place and went to live in the nearby displaced people’s camps. But for some months now, a few hundred have voluntarily returned and they have a semblance of a normal life. During daytime they stay at their homes –which they have rebuilt – and work at their gardens. At night, everybody moves close to the nearby military detach and sleep safely in small huts. Everybody told me that relations with the soldiers are very good, a key element in ensuring stability. I also talked to some of the soldiers and they really looked motivated. A company that does commercial farming has opened a good road and those who wish to join their scheme can cultivate one or two acres – from their own land, whose property they retain – sell the produce and get some cash.

My only objection (or is it undue suspicion?) is to wonder whether that security arrangement that has resettled hundreds has been made for the sake of the people or for the sake of that American-sponsored company. But that is another story.

Of course, some fear still remains, but most people told me: “You see, before we returned here to our villages, it was a miserable life in the displaced people’s camps; the whole day redundant doing nothing, but now at least we are producing our own food, we are recovering our traditions and we feel free”.

Two boreholes provide enough water for the community. The only inconvenience is that the nearby school cannot yet operate and children have to walk six kilometres, the same distance to reach the nearest dispensary, but that is not unusual in rural Uganda, anyway.

On the whole, it was one of the rare occasions where I have visited a community of folks in Acholi made up of happy and hopeful families with a future to look to.

As soon as I left, I started thinking why it would not be possible to see that happening in many more places. The genuine sign that peace is closer is not the number of rebels supposedly killed, but the number of people who can go back to their homes and rebuild their shattered lives. I used to keep detailed records of the official briefings – mirrors of truth and fairness admired worldwide – about how many LRA were killed monthly (only rebels, of course, abducted children are never killed, they are only rescued), until I noticed a most peculiar pattern: every few months it was announced that only 300 remained, only to hear six months later that after that previous date 900 had been either killed or surrendered.

I couldn’t make sense of the additions and subtractions, but ever since I was a child I was never good at Maths, anyway.I, and many others, will understand better the statistics of dwindling figures of displaced people and growing figures of people who go back to their homes.

As the government continues to pursue a strategy of maintaining security through military means, attracting rebels out of the bush through the Amnesty and leaving the door open for a negotiated end, it may also find it wise to pursue a fourth element: to work towards organising a gradual normalisation of people’s lives by helping them move closer to their homes.

It is not impossible. I saw a hopeful sample two weeks ago. Those who are ready to leave their comfort in the Kampala offices or the universities abroad and come right here can see it with their own eyes too.

Contact Fr. Carlos at lcoromoi@africaonline.co.ug. The author is a Catholic missionary working in northern Uganda since 1985.

"Horror in Uganda" Presentation

Linked here is a moving multimedia presentation by the Los Angeles Times about the horrifying human suffering as a result of the 19-year old forgotten war in northern Uganda.

Justice, Not Charity for Africa

Naomi Klein, the fierce critic of neo-liberal capitalism, has recently published a great column in The Nation that addresses the misperceptions and subsequent mistakes of the current push to end poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. She writes, "He asked not for charity, pity or "relief" but for justice." I am posting one other paragraph here and will link to the whole article.

"This is what keeps Africa poor: not a lack of political will but the tremendous profitability of the current arrangement. Sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest place on earth, is also its most profitable investment destination: It offers, according to the World Bank's 2003 Global Development Finance report, 'the highest returns on foreign direct investment of any region in the world.' Africa is poor because its investors and its creditors are so unspeakably rich."

11.6.05

Uganda-CAN Website Launched!

Check out the Uganda-CAN website at www.ugandacan.org and read the following press release that will go out to Ugandan and other East African media sources tomorrow -

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**

Press Contact: Peter Quaranto, Founding Director of Uganda Conflict Action Network
Email: pquaranto@ugandacan.org
Phone number: (508) 523 9914 (USA)
Contact in Uganda: Stephen Okello, Director of Operations in Uganda, (071) 671 937
URL:
http://www.ugandacan.org

June 10, 2005

AFJN Launches Uganda Conflict Action Network

WASHINGTON – The Washington-based Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) today formally announced the launch of the Uganda Conflict Action Network to pressure the U.S. government to advocate and support peace negotiations to end the 19-year old war in northern Uganda, a war that has gone largely ignored by the western world. The grassroots campaign seeks to raise awareness among Americans in hopes of acting to support a peaceful resolution in Uganda as part of a greater movement for renewal and peace in the Great Lakes Region.

“The United States, through military aid and strategic alliances, has played a significant role in the persistence of this horrific war,” said Peter Quaranto, the founding director of Uganda-CAN. “We are launching this project to demand that the U.S. play a larger role in advocating for and supporting peace initiatives on the ground.”

The 19-year old war in northern Uganda has left more than 20,000 children abducted, tens of thousands of people maimed or killed, and 1.6 million people displaced into camps. Yet, it has remained one of the most forgotten crises in the world, according to recent reports by Reuters AlterNet, Médecins sans Frontieres and the United Nations. “The silence of the international community is equivalent to complicity in this unnecessary mass human tragedy,” Quaranto stated.

Quaranto, along with Michael Poffenberger, both international peace studies students at the University of Notre Dame, founded Uganda-CAN. They were deeply moved by the realities they experienced in the north during their academic study abroad program in Uganda, sponsored by the School for International Training in Kampala. Quaranto remarked, “As I sat there listening to people in IDP camps telling me their stories, I just kept thinking to myself: how can this be happening? How can this have happened for 19 years?”

Uganda-CAN is working to build an effective, broad-based campaign that will raise awareness to mobilize people to action. The campaign has already launched a website that will present updated news about the conflict, research reports and action alerts. The staff and volunteers are working to form partnerships with key actors in Washington, both in Congress and other Africa-related organizations, while also linking with numerous Ugandan organizations. By August, the campaign hopes to have begun a nationwide awareness and mobilization tour.

Quaranto and the more than twenty-five committed volunteers working tirelessly on this campaign are hopeful. “Together, we have a real opportunity to push for action that could contribute to an end to this war,” said Quaranto. “There is no more pressing or opportune moment to demand global governance that hears and answers to the suffering of the most poor and vulnerable of our world.”

Learn more about Uganda-CAN at http://www.ugandacan.org/.

10.6.05

Reuters AlertNet Reporting on War

Reuters AlertNet has also done some great recent reporting on the conflict, including many moving photos and a web documentary. The linked page is the axis for all these articles, reports and multimedia presentations.

UN Reporting on War in Northern Uganda

There has been some really great reporting coming out recently on the war in northern Uganda, including a series of interviews and articles from the United Nations IRIN. Though the interviews with President Museveni and Moses Ali are infuriating if you have been to the north and seen the realities, it is still important to hear their stories and perspectives. The linked webpage from IRIN News gives a general report on the war, with many different links to interviews and articles conducted by the UN agency.

9.6.05

Breaking News? "Museveni Extends Olive Branch to LRA Leader"

The United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks is reporting that President Museveni has said he would forgive Joseph Kony if he came out of the "bush." This is a very hopeful sign, especially from a president who one month ago said he would never talk peace with the rebels. Yet, one has to question the seriousness of Museveni with such statements given a long history of mistrust and contradictions. Let's hope that this will at least provide a space for a renewal of negotiations that could bring an end to the war. The role of the international community, particularly the United States government and the troika of Great Britain, Norway and the Netherlands, could not be more critical in facilitating, sustaining and monitoring such a moment for negotiation.

Uganda Donors Urged to Pressure for Peace

The link I am posting here is to a Reuters AlertNet article from today, contending that the donors should and must use their tremendous clout in Uganda to push for serious peace negotiations. This is right in-line with what we are trying to say with Uganda Conflict Action Network. I am going to paste the final three paragraphs here.

"He added that the United States, not traditionally a major player in Ugandan aid, was becoming increasingly important in egging on the peace process.

Washington used to favour military suppression of the LRA, while the European donors pushed for peace talks, but the United States has come into line with its fellow donors over the last year and a half.

“NGOs have been pushing for a unified donor view on the conflict and how to end it, so if all the donors as one can say that a peaceful solution is the best way to go, that has an impact,” he said."

8.6.05

The Silent Tsunami of IDPs in Africa

The linked article from the United Nations highlights the plight of the world's internally displaced peoples - some 25 million people, of which 13 million are in Africa. This is truly a silent tsunami that deserves the attention and action of the global community. The Great Lakes Region of Africa may be the most troubled spot with 5-6 million IDPs in Sudan, 2-3 million IDPs in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 1.5-2 million IDPs in Uganda.

Northern Uganda - The Forgotten Crisis

According to a recent poll by Reuters AlertNet, northern Uganda is the world's second most forgotten crisis, only behind the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Further, the United Nations listed northern Uganda as one of its "10 stories the world should hear more about." Medicins Sans Frontiers placed northern Uganda at the top of its list of Top 10 Underreported Stories of 2004.

The forgotten crisis in Gulu, Pader, Kitgum, Apac and Lira districts rages on, crying for international coverage, attention and action.

6.6.05

First Media Coverage of Uganda-CAN

Check out the Featured News at the OurWorld/World Learning website (http://ourworld.worldlearning.org/site/PageServer?pagename=homepage)

or

Just go straight to the article titled "Help End the War in Northern Uganda" through this link: http://ourworld.worldlearning.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6451&news_iv_ctrl=1341

This is some good media coverage of the launch of Uganda-CAN to mobilize, advocate and act to support peace efforts in northern Uganda! Also, the DONATE section of our website - www.ugandacan.org - is now functional, so you can donate securely online through our website.

5.6.05

Links Addressing Darfur Genocide

My blog focuses and mainly analyzes issues of Uganda, though as most people know, genocide is happening in Darfur in Sudan. In coming months, I want to look at the northern Uganda conflict in the wider context of the crisis facing the Great Lakes Region of sub-Saharan Africa. For now, I thought I would just post a few links that give good updates, analysis and information relating to Darfur.

http://darfurgenocide.org/ - Darfur Advocacy Project

http://www.genocideinterventionfund.org/GIF_index.php - Genocide Intervention Fund

http://www.savedarfur.org/ - Save Darfur

http://www.passionofthepresent.org/ - Sudan: Passion of the Present

And be sure to check out articles and multimedia by Nicholas Kristof reporting from Sudan for the New York Times (www.nytimes.com).

Bush Opposed to Increasing Aid to Africa

I wanted to post the linked article from today's New York Times headlined "Bush Maintains Opposition to Doubling Aid for Africa." I hope to write a response to President Bush in this blog later this week, but for now I will just say that I see this is both an abdication of global moral responsibility and perpetuation of the deep injustice of contemporary U.S. policy towards the African sub-continent. This is not to say that aid is the answer to all the crises facing many African nations - far from it actually - but aid can go a long way in helping meet the basic needs of masses of human beings.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/02/politics/02prexy.html

3.6.05

Washington's Power in Uganda

The following is an analysis of the origins and persistence of a strong relationship between Uganda and the United States, whereby Washington holds tremendous power over the affairs in Uganda -

According to all insiders and analysts of Ugandan political affairs, it is clear that the one entity with significant power over the polity is the United States government. In order to understand this influence, it is important to recognize the history of this relationship, which dates back to the early 1990s.

In the early 1990s, the initial civil war between the National Resistance Movement government and the Lord’s Resistance Army was transformed into a proxy war between the Sudan and Ugandan governments. This proxy was further fueled by international politics as the West, particularly the United States, sought to fight against what it perceived to be an Arab-Sudan axis pushing a wave of Islamic fundamentalism in sub-Saharan Africa. When Sudan began to provide military assistance to the LRA, Uganda also began to provide military assistance to Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in southern Sudan. The United States, which wanted to challenge the regime in Khartoum, began to funnel massive amounts of military aid to the SLPA through the Ugandan government. People in the north recall witnessing substantial military supplies being transported through the northern regions of Uganda across the Sudanese border. These military supplies were advanced enough that they could have only come from a powerful western country.

Thus, this proxy war created an alliance between the United States and Uganda, which would persist throughout the 1990s. This alliance was furthered as President Museveni welcomed the economic intervention of the U.S.-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. As the southern part of the country experienced economic growth, the U.S. was able to publicize Uganda as the “success story” of sub-Saharan Africa. Uganda also has boasted a very successful fight against HIV/AIDS, predominantly utilizing the ABCD (Abstain, Be Faithful, Condoms or Die) campaign supported by President George W. Bush. This has given more incentive for the U.S. to provide different forms of aid, while touting Uganda as its success case.

Following the terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States on 11 September 2001, President Museveni has attempted to ally with Bush and has actively sought the patronage of the United States. President Museveni was quick to become one of the first and only African leaders to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, even though the majority of the Ugandan population opposed the war. Museveni has courted U.S. support and approval by declaring his own war on terror in Uganda, declaring the LRA to be a terrorist organization. Government officials have even declared that the LRA is funded and supported by al-Qaeda. In 2002, the government passed a Suppression of Terrorism Act, which declared immediate death penalty for terrorists and collaborators of terrorists.

During Museveni’s visit to the United States in June 2003, he brought a document which outlined his program for “Northern Uganda Reconstruction and Counter-Terrorism Initiative.” The document included the following telling paragraph:

“Uganda, a steadfast friend and ally of the United States in its war against terrorism, has been facing and continued to face a serious terror threat of its own in the north. Uganda is successfully countering the LRA, which the U.S. Department of State has officially designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The group was created by Sudan out of the remnants of former Ugandan dictators, Amin and Obote. Sudan has been supporting the LRA until recently when the United States put the LRA on its list of international terrorist organizations. The US military in Baghdad has found documents linking former President Saddam Hussein’s intelligence apparatus to some terrorists that have been trying to destabilize Uganda.”

This paragraph clearly shows a government trying to manipulate U.S. sentiments to gain military support and aid.

Such statements have fallen on open ears as the United States has significantly increased military assistance to Uganda. In January 2003, the Liu Institute highlighted the U.S. contribution of $3 billion to Uganda’s military. Over the last four years, the United States has given substantial and increased amounts of military aid to Uganda for its support in the “war on terror.” Further, the United States placed the LRA on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. The LRA remains on the list today. This is an attempt to pressure Khartoum, but also a sign of support for Museveni and his NRM regime. In 2002, U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell thanked Uganda for its counter-terrorism support and praised the NRM government for its work. In July 2003, President Bush included a stop in Uganda as part of his Africa trip as a result of this alliance.

This support from the United States has only empowered Museveni’s commitment to the “military solution” to deal with the LRA. The United States, until recently, has strongly supported the military approach to dealing with the war. In early 2004 when Bigombe was planning to return to Uganda to start peace talks, she was approached by a U.S. State Department official who told her not to return to her country.

Recently, Washington has begun to articulate a policy shift, claiming that the military approach must be complemented with serious peace negotiations. According to chief peace negotiator Betty Bigombe, Kony has expressed keen interest in Washington’s statements. It is yet to be seen how serious the U.S. government is about this policy shift.

As a result of this relationship and the history between the two countries, President Museveni cares deeply for and cannot ignore the statements, wishes and action that come from Washington. According to insiders and analysts, Washington is the one government with the power to actually change policy and direction of Ugandan politics. Numerous insiders make the statement, “If Washington decided at breakfast that it wanted the conflict over, it would be finished by dinner.”

Thus, the United States government has significant influence that it can and should utilize in this opportune moment for intervention and action. In a coming piece, I will show how the U.S. should use that influence immediately and effectively to support an end to the 19-year old horrific war in northern Uganda. With Uganda-CAN, we are working together to see that Washington takes such action that answers to the suffering of Ugandans in the north.

Recent News Analysis of the Race for Peace in northern Uganda

Over the last six months to a year, much has happened in the race for peace in northern Uganda that suggests we stand at an opportune moment for intervention and action that could effectively bring an end to the war and its consequent suffering -

On 15 April 2004, President Museveni made a statement expressing readiness for peace talks with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in mutually-agreed safe areas under international monitoring. Just the day before, the United Nations under-secretary general, Jan Egeland briefed the United Nations Security Council on the situation in northern Uganda. Later in 2004, after Sam Kolo, the then-political commissar of the LRA, made statements on the BBC expressing LRA willingness for peace talks, President Museveni declared a seven-day ceasefire on 14 November. Over the next two months, President Museveni extended the ceasefire four times. Betty Bigombe returned to the forefront of negotiations, reinitiating peace talks with the help of traditional leaders and elders. On the 31 of December, a scheduled signing of cessation fell apart after the LRA said they were not ready to sign. The ceasefire ended and 2005 entered with disappointment.

In the first month of 2005, Betty Bigombe continued her efforts to maintain communication and openness between the two parties. On 15 January, Vincent Otti of the LRA talked on the phone with the head army commander. On 17 January, Bigombe met with Sam Kolo and other commanders to discuss a draft ceasefire agreement. The government declared another 18-day ceasefire on 3 February, which expired at the end of the month. On 16 February, LRA Brigadier Sam Kolo surrendered to the UPDF, thus the peace process lost one of its most important participants. Bigombe declared this a big loss to the prospects for peace because Kolo was one of the few rational actors in the LRA willing to work and compromise for a settlement. Yet, Vincent Otti, the new LRA spokesmen, quickly attempted to assure Bigombe of the LRA’s continued commitment to peace talks.

Following the collapse of the ceasefire, Museveni quickly returned to his militaristic posture and insistence on the “military solution” to end the war. He claimed that he had only expressed openness to peace talks because of pressure from international organizations and donors. Museveni even went so far as to blame foreign donors for contributing to the persistence of the war by their call for peace talks. Over the last month, the army has made multiple claims of killing rebel fighters and commanders. Ugandan military officials claim the LRA has weaned down to just a few hundred fighters. However, attacks on civilians in the north have increased over the last two months as the LRA has attempted to show that it is still a force. Further, the number of children forced into town for security at night is on the rise. Many in the north believe attacks are on the rise and the war will become inflamed again soon.

Thanks to her commitment and lobbying, Bigombe has recently resumed phone contact with the rebels, and it appears the government has allowed her to resume talks for a ceasefire and consequent negotiations. She has resumed contact with Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, and other commanders. According to Bigombe, Kony’s greatest concerns at the present are his post-conflict livelihood and security. Further encouraging, the international community has given increased attention and some small gestures to support peace talks. OxFam and other non-governmental organizations have called on the United Nations to intervene to end the conflict. The international community has sent officials to support Bigombe’s work and monitor the situation.

There are indicators that now is the time for action to support Bigombe's efforts to bring the Ugandan government and LRA to the table for trust-building talks and negotiations. This will require commitment and action from Washington to support Bigombe and peace negotiations in Uganda. The State Department should send a senior official immediately to Kampala to articulate this commitment to Museveni. Further, the U.S. should press Museveni to present the rebels with a post-conflict resettlement package as a way to facilitate negotiations (taken from ICG's latest report). Finally, Washington must show its care and attention to this situation to ensure that all actors involved remain committed.

2.6.05

The Advent of the Uganda Conflict Action Network

Africa Faith and Justice Network
3035 Fourth Street, NE Washington D.C. 20017
Phone: (202) 832 3412
Fax: (202) 832 9051
Web: afjn.cua.edu


The Advent of Uganda Conflict Action Network (www.ugandacan.org)

At the end of 2003, Jan Egeland, the United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the BBC: “I cannot find any other part of the world that is having an emergency on the scale of Uganda that is getting so little international attention.” Egeland’s words could not have been more true or their ramifications more horrifying. While the 19-year-old war in northern Uganda to which Egeland referred has devastated the region, the most disturbing element of this mass violence has been the silence of the Ugandan government, U.S. government, and international community. It is clear to almost all observers that a serious commitment to peace from any of these bodies can catalyze an immediate end to the war. Yet, silence abounds.

On the ground in northern Uganda, the scene is shocking. Tens of thousands of civilians have been maimed or killed by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Ninety percent of the region’s population of almost two million people has been relocated into internally displaced people’s camps that lack food and security. People in the camps are enduring disease, malnutrition, and nighttime attacks from the LRA. An old man living in one such camp told us, “Since 1985, we have just had restless nights...In some ways, we are already dead. We yearn for peace, but we have no hope anymore.”

The bulk of the soldiers fighting for the LRA are children aged seven to seventeen who have been abducted from towns and camps. Escapees recount stories of being abducted, brutalized, brainwashed, and forced to kill viciously. One account from a nine-year-old boy highlights this hell:
“There is nothing I liked there. They collect all the children together and make you beat someone to death. Once there were about seven who tried to escape, including two girls. The commander decided not to kill the girls. He picked one boy to be killed. He told one of the girls to come and chop this boy into small pieces. The other boys were told to help. Then they were told to play with the dead person’s head. After that, they commanded the girls to smear blood of the dead boy on their chest. Finally, they informed us that anyone who tries to escape will have the same thing.”[1]

Ugandans deserve better. For years, the U.S. government and whole international community have looked the other way, not providing the necessary relief assistance, nor using their diplomatic power to push the Ugandan government to commit to ending the war. This inaction has maintained the status quo, fueling the persistence of the conflict. This irresponsibility cannot be tolerated. Now as different movements arise to call for attention to the many crises of the Great Lakes Region and the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, the time has come to act. At present, there is great potential for effective international action and pressure to impact the emergency in northern Uganda. We must use our power as people and citizens to turn attention and resources to this disaster. We must act now to see that our own government seizes this opportunity to contribute to a long-awaited peace in northern Uganda, the whole Great Lakes Region and beyond.

To this end, the Washington, D.C.-based Africa Faith and Justice Network is launching the Uganda Conflict Action Network (Uganda-CAN), and we invite you to join. Together, we will raise awareness about this hidden war, expose the silent complicity of the global community and demand action for a peaceful resolution. With your funding and support, united in solidarity with the hopes and visions of millions of Ugandans, we will build a campaign of ordinary, outraged citizens to combat this unnecessary human suffering and help bring healing and renewal to the region. Together, we will learn the true meaning of civic duty in a global world.

Success with this campaign will require several key elements. Uganda-CAN staff and volunteers—over two dozen of which have already committed themselves—will be building a website, developing resources for organizing, writing and updating numerous internet blogs about the conflict, publishing research papers, hosting press conferences, giving presentations throughout the country, partnering with Ugandan civil society organizations, and forming strategic relationships with key actors in DC such as Congress people and other Africa activists. Through these actions, our coalition will raise nationwide awareness, thus mobilizing an effective force to lobby Washington for action that answers to the suffering of northern Ugandans. Betty Bigombe, the chief negotiator for peace in Uganda, told us, “If your campaign is successful, it would be a huge contribution for peace in our country.”

There are several ways that you can contribute to Uganda-CAN to help bring peace to Uganda. The most important contribution you can make to the effort is your TIME. Visit our website at www.ugandacan.org to learn more about the situation in Uganda and about our mission. Spread word of our efforts and help raise awareness by sharing our website and mission with your family, friends and coworkers. Sign up for our email listserv to receive action alerts and occasional updates.

Second, this campaign needs your ACTION. Visit our website for information on how to express your concern about this situation to your elected representatives as well as information about our "Virtual March" on Washington this fall. By demanding action from our government, we hope to bring about legislation that will end the conflict and bring peace to this troubled area.

Finally, this campaign needs your MONEY. Funds are needed to publish and distribute information about the crisis and to effectively communicate the gravity of the situation and our demands for action to representatives in Washington. Funds are also desperately needed to provide direct aid to the people of Uganda who are most affected by this crisis; a significant portion of all donations will be redirected to humanitarian relief efforts in the area. Any contribution that you are able to make will be greatly appreciated. Checks can be made out to Africa Faith and Justice Network, and sent to the address above, or donations can be made through our secure website, www.ugandacan.org. Africa Faith and Justice Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.

Thank you for your willingness to face the reality of horrors in northern Uganda. We look forward to hearing from you and working with you. We firmly believe that this world can be a better place, and together we can make a difference.

Sincerely,

Peter J. Quaranto, Director of Uganda Conflict Action Network
pquaranto@ugandacan.org, peterquaranto@yahoo.com, (508) 523 9914

Michael Poffenberger, Associate Director of Africa Faith and Justice Network
mpoffenberger@ugandacan.org, mpoffenberger@alumni.nd.edu, (574) 229 1301

[1] “Behind the Violence: Causes, Consequences and the Search for Solutions to the War in Northern Uganda.” Refugee Law Project Working Paper No. 11, February 2004.

Northern Uganda Disaster Worse than Tsunami?

I am posting here an article from today's Monitor titled "Northern Disaster Worse than Tsunami, Says WFP." I did not visit southern Thailand or Indonesia to see the effects of the tsunami, but I can certainly testify that the disasters of northern Uganda are absolutely horrific. I still have flashbacks to viciously malnourished kids walking miles to get to Noah's Ark for safety or people starving to death in the IDP camps or the stories of women raped viciously by UPDF soldiers or children forced to kill by the LRA. As I have written before, it is hell on earth. And it is most definitely genocidal.

The world responded with immense generosity to aid those who faced the tsunami because the suffering was blatantly undeserved and unnecessary, and the onslaught was immediate. The horrors of northern Uganda are muddied, complex and raise difficult questions about complicity and responsibility that frankly most of us do not want to face. Most of all, the longevity of the war desensitizes us and we dehumanize the situation.

I saw a friend of mine from my youth tonight and after he asked me, "How was Africa?," he proceeded to talk about how "those people" use "machetes because they are cheaper to kill with than guns." I was overwhelmed thinking back to my experiences in Rwanda and northern Uganda, but moreso overwhelmed by how we in the West have dehumanized and demonized "Africa" as a land of massacre, slaughter and unexplainable horror.

"Northern Disaster Worse than Tsunami, Says WFP"
Monitor, 1 June 2005

The humanitarian situation in the war-torn northern region is worse than the Tsumani disaster that affected millions of people in South Asia, the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Representative, Mr Ken Davies, has said.

The Lord's Resisitance Army rebellion under Joseph Kony has displaced about 1.6 million people in the last 19 years.

"The response of the international community to the Tsunami disaster was great.

"But in northern Uganda we have a situation that has affected a lot more people than the Tsunami," Davies, told journalists yesterday.

The Tsunami earthquake hit South Asia in December last year leaving almost 2.5 million in need of relief assistance. The disaster evoked frantic emergency relief efforts world-wide, leading to donations amounting to billions of dollars.

Davies said more than three million people in northern Uganda desperately need WFP food relief soon, ahead of the start of the dry season next month. He said if emergency food supplies are not made available to over 1.4 million people in over 135 Internally Displaced People's camps (IDPs), "we are going to see an already horrible situation get a lot worse."

Davies was speaking at WFP headquarters in Kampala to announce the "Fight Hunger: Walk the World" charity walk due on June 12. The body aims to raise $2.5 million world-wide from the walk, enough to feed 50,000 children for a year. The walk will take place simultaneously in over 90 countries.

Davies said the walk organised in collaboration with TNT, a local courier company is also intended to raise international awareness about hunger.

The TNT Coordinator in Uganda, Mr Tony Ssenabulya, attended the press conference.
Last year alone, WFP fed over 2.8 million people with relief food worth $92 million.

However, WFP now faces a shortfall of more than 90,000 tonnes of food with a funding gap of $49 million needed to continue providing relief food to internally displaced people and refugees through to December 2005.

"We need more donor support urgently or we will run out of food in June.

"I am appealing to everyone to do something urgently," Davies said.

He said despite the ongoing peace efforts being facilitated by Ms Betty Bigombe, there is still widespread insecurity in most of northern region, making it impossible for the people to plant food crops during the short rainy season.

He said a looming food crisis culminating in sky-high rates of infant malnutrition and death, are inevitable unless emergency food relief is made available as soon as possible.

He said malnutrition rates skyrocketed last year when a similar shortage of food hit the region.


Davies said in addition to the IDPs, WFP is targeting to feed over 400,000 school children, half a million drought affected people in Karamoja and almost 0.2 million refugees.

WFP is providing daily meals to children in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Arua, Katakwi, Moyo, Soroti, Bundibugyo Adjumani and several others. Current WFP food relief needs are estimated at about 220,000 metric tonnes, more than half of which would go to internally displaced people in northern Uganda.

1.6.05

Stephen Okello's Analysis on his Homeland

Cheers. Unfortunately, I have not been able to write the last week. Fortunately, the reason is that I spent five days first with my amazing girlfriend, Jess, and then three days with my two best friends, Jamie and Michael. A much needed vacation of sorts.

Now I am officially kicking-off my full-time work this summer as Director of Uganda Conflict Action Network. Things are really moving and we should have our first website up tomorrow at www.ugandacan.org. During the summer, I will try to post some different things as the campaign commences and starts to take shape.

I wanted to post two small pieces that my friend, Stephen Okello wrote about the war in northern Uganda, a war that he was born into and lived through for many years. Stephen is now working as a programme assistant for the Center for Conflict Resolution in Kampala. He will be doing lots of work with Uganda-CAN in the coming months.

“We Have to Save the Next Generation”
By Stephen Okello

It has been called one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world, but few people realize the magnitude of devastation cause by the 19 year-armed conflict in northern Uganda.

Some years ago, many Ugandan politicians argued that the war in northern Uganda was an Acholi issue, thereby leaving it for the Acholi to find the solutions to the crisis. This blatant neglect led to suffering for the people in northern Uganda as the conflict persisted. By the end of this year the war will be in its 20th year.

The painful truth is that the people of northern Uganda have only been playing survival games caught between the UPDF government forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army. The result – untold suffering, skyrocketing poverty and gross insecurity punctuated with rampant death. There is nowhere to hide.

The conflict in northern Uganda has been characterized by brutal attacks on helpless villages, abductions of innocent children to create child soldiers, maiming and killing of innocent civilians and the gross internal displacement of almost ninety percent of the region. The war in northern Uganda is a forgotten one; a war deliberately against children.

The displacement of the population has excluded large numbers of children from learning in schools. More than 23% of school-age children (6-12 year olds) are not in school, and more than 50% of the 1,200 primary schools in the five northern districts have been displaced. Displacement and destruction of school facilities has led to overcrowding, poor health and awful sanitation. The classroom to pupil ratio ranges between 1:150 and 1:200. About 80% of children in Pader District study under trees if they are lucky to study at all.

Beyond the educational crisis, the over 1.6 million people displaced have little to no access to health service. Malnutrition is rampant, and the war situation has rapidly increased HIV/AIDS rates. Many in the camps fear that the entire next generation will be wiped out by disease and starvation.

The recent peace talks that just collapsed only paint a darker future for the Acholi peasants, prompting many questions that need to be answered. The situation continues to worsen, while the government just pumps money into its defence budget.

Our people are suffering. Any sober human being cannot accept such suffering to continue under normal circumstances. We have to save the next generation.

Embedding Peace through Negotiations
By: Stephen Okello

The problem of conflict is “the greatest unresoveled riddle” in politics today. It is the great curse on society, the endemic disease lurking in the background of politics.

Human history is full of the gloomy records of war and conflict. It suggests that war and not peace is the normal condition of “civilized human society.” It is arguable that recent history is the story of wars, the preparations for wars and the consequences of war.

The most unfortunate thing about war is that it accomplishes nothing. All the efforts that go into it are wasted. I deeply wish our leaders would reflect on this before plunging our country into wars that never resolve the issues involved. Norman Angell says war is “a great illusion that pays,” yet that great illusion has very unfortunate human costs.

The conflict in the northern Uganda has turned uglier recently with the death toll rising to an alarming level, leaving the suffering of so many people. I do not want to imagine how many resources have been wasted on this war, while our people have undergone so much suffering.

However, our hope today lies in the fact that more and more people are realizing that war is too dangerous to employ and that it no longer secures the traditional objectives of human security and economic advantage. It has become clear that war cannot be used to end war; peace comes rather through wise diplomacy.

Successfully ending the divisions that lead to war, healing the social wounds created by war and creating a society where the differences among social groups are resolved through compromise rather than violently. Peace agreements provide a framework for ending hostilities and the initial guide to post-conflict reforms to embed peace.

In northern Uganda, the government cannot just contain this war anymore; they must use real peace negotiations to end hostilities, and even more, to address the real grievances held by the people of the north.