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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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!

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.

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