World Vision: Continue talks to "win the peace" in northern Uganda
Ugandan government, international community, must invest in reconstruction, ethnic reconciliation
July 2, 2008—Two months after rebel leader Joseph Kony refused to sign a peace agreement to end his 22-year rebellion against the Ugandan government, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) emerged last week and called for additional peace talks. The Ugandan government responded by ruling out further negotiations, stating that a treaty has already been agreed to and is simply awaiting Kony’s signature.
While the peace the agreement itself is all-but finalized, the Ugandan government is too hasty to throw out negotiations altogether and draw lines in the sand.
In fact, there are still productive steps that the government — as well as the United States and the international community — can, and must, take for peace to truly take hold in northern Uganda and the surrounding region.
First and foremost, the government of Uganda must invest in reconciliation and rehabilitation in the north. While the LRA’s methods have been criminal in their brutality, the northern population’s grievances against the government hold some legitimacy. Uganda’s history is rife with inter-ethnic division. In fact, the current conflict was triggered when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a southerner, ousted northerner Basilio Okello from power in a 1986 coup.
If Museveni is genuinely interested in seeing a peaceful end to the northern conflict, his government must work to ease the ethnic tensions that underlie this conflict. Bold, assertive action must be taken now to bring ethnic reconciliation to Uganda. Favoritism and discrimination must end.
In addition, the Ugandan government must invest in reconstruction and development in the north. About half of the nearly 2 million people displaced by the conflict have left squalid, overcrowded camps and have either relocated to transitional camps or have returned to their home villages. But their villages have been abandoned for a decade or more. And the government has provided them with nothing: no money, no food, no seeds to plant, no tools, no infrastructure — no resources to help ignite rehabilitation efforts.
The Ugandan government must help jump-start development in the north by resourcing schools, health clinics, roads, agricultural and business development and supplies to help families survive in the short-term.
Currently, the Ugandan government has developed only a broad plan to help people transition to their villages and rebuild their lives. And the resources behind this plan — those committed by both the Ugandan government and the international community — are shamefully inadequate.
This puny financial investment reflects a lack of commitment to peace itself — by all parties.
The Ugandan government must lead the way with a genuine investment in reconstruction if its calls for peace are to be taken seriously.
The United States government and the international community should help with reconstruction as well. At nearly every opportunity, the United States has been slow to respond to the Ugandan conflict. Peace negotiations were in progress for a year before the United States appointed an advisor to address the conflict. To date, very little has been appropriated by Congress to fund reconstruction of the northern region. This kind of snail’s-pace response will have devastating results for the people of northern Uganda if it continues.
There is still hope for peace in Uganda. As long as Kony is willing to talk, he isn’t fighting. As long as peace is on the table, there need not be more bloodshed. But every party must invest in genuine peace with a view to the long-term. The Ugandan government must lead this investment with support from the U.S. and the international community.
The following World Vision staff are available for interviews:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press.
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World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice..
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