Blog Posts for 2008
US President George Bush has invited President Museveni for a meeting at the end of this month. An October 12 press release from the White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said Museveni is expected on October 30 to discuss a number of issues. “[Mr Bush] and President Museveni will discuss Uganda’s leadership in Somalia, the LRA, and Mr Museveni’s development plan for northern Uganda, as well as their strong partnership to combat malaria and HIV/AIDS in Uganda,” Perino said. On the LRA, Museveni will brief the US government about the progress of the peace talks that have been ongoing in Juba for over a year. Read more at The Monitor.
Ugandan President Museveni today pledged to rebuild the war-ravaged north with a $600-million aid package for roads, education and small-scale industry. “The goal of the present plan (is) to consolidate peace, recovery and rehabilitation,” Museveni said at the launch of the Northern Uganda Peace, Recovery & Development Plan (PRDP). Museveni said the reconstruction plan aimed to help the north catch up with the more prosperous south and move away from subsistence farming to a cash economy. He also pledged to help internal refugees return home, repair roads, build a further power station on the Nile to power the region and fund processing plants for farm products. Read more at Reuters.
Here we go with another weekly roundup of the news in and around northern Uganda. As you can see, we’ve continued to use the prism of ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ to sort through the week’s stories. We hope it gives you a quick and easy way each week to stay up-to-date with the latest conflict developments.
The Bad: We start with ‘the bad’ this week because continuing military buildup and tensions in the wider region are threatening the fragile ceasefire in northern Uganda. Just yesterday, southern Sudan’s main party (the SPLM) suspended its involvement in Sudan’s national unity government until its northern partners uphold their agreements under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005. After weeks of growing tension, the future of the CPA is uncertain. A return to war would be catastrophic for the region, not least northern Uganda. At the same time, to Uganda’s west, the eastern region of DR Congo is home to intensifying violence. The UN humanitarian coordinator says that sexual violence there is “the worst in the world.” Meanwhile, northern Ugandans’ hope, the Juba peace talks, remain stalled and are now threatened by growing military rhetoric. The ICC prosecutor, for one, called this week for intensified military efforts to arrest LRA leaders. This follows military threats against the LRA over recent weeks by Western and Ugandan officials. We look closer at this military buildup in the next section.
The Ugly: In an Op/Ed published today, we argue that the current military threats by Western officials run a high risk of providing the LRA or Ugandan government with convenient cover to withdraw from peace talks and return to war. Military plans, as well intentioned as they might be, are more likely to have catastrophic consequences on the region than effectively dealing with the insecurity. With every proclaimed “military solution” in the past, northerners have suffered more severe attacks and displacement. Why take the risk now when there is a viable opportunity ongoing (the Juba peace talks) that has a better chance to end the LRA security threat and begin addressing deeper grievances? This message was echoed last week by U.S. Senator Russ Feingold who called for diplomacy, not supporting “military solutions.” Finally, a report released this week shows that “military solutions” to the conflict have cost Uganda $1.7 billion over two decades, with little to show for such efforts.
The Good: Still, in the midst of such gloom, there is still hope. The Juba negotiations are still ongoing and the chief mediator believes they will resume soon. The Uganda army, while making threats, has also said it is ready to “reconcile” with former combatants if a peace agreement is signed. Though torturously slow, the Juba negotiations deserve to have a complete chance to succeed. War-affected communities have made overwhelming clear their preference for the peace talks, not military operations. This is a message we in the Western world need to take to our capitals and officials.
Thanks for reading and signing up for the weekly roundup every Friday. Be sure to check out our Uganda Conflict Watch blog for daily updates and analysis.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) has suspended its involvement in the national unity government in Khartoum until its northern partners meet a long list of demands. The SPLM has accused Khartoum of failing to implement parts of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the 21-year civil war. These especially include boundary demarcations and the redeployment of northern troops from the south. South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir warned recently there could be a return to war if the deal was not respected. Last week, U.S. envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, said that North-South relations had deteriorated into a “poisonous” political atmosphere. The Bush Administration had once hailed the CPA as one of its greatest achievements. This development, especially if the CPA collapses, could have devastating consequences for northern Uganda. Read more at The Monitor.
Meanwhile, today the International Crisis Group released a new report on southern Sudan, urging the international community to re-engage on implementation of the CPA. They write, Mounting tensions in the oil-rich Abyei region are the most dangerous threat to reignite that war…The ruling National Congress Party is violating the CPA by refusing the ‘final and binding’ ruling of the Abyei Boundary Commission, leaving an administrative and political vacuum.” Read the full report here.
Uganda has reportedly blocked a move by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to include on the Agenda of the UN General Assembly a report on the human rights situation in northern Uganda. Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Francis Butagira, successfully put up a fight that resulted in leaving the report out of the Agenda. He said adopting the report would amount to, “political interference in Uganda’s internal affairs.” “The report may poison the progress so far achieved in the Juba Peace Talks,” Butagira said. He added that the report could be the work of politicians “fighting the regime and working to tarnish the image of the country.” Read more at The Monitor.
Our senior researcher & conflict analyst, Peter Quaranto, has written an Op/Ed printed in today’s New Vision and Sudan Tribune. The article, titled “The Military Threat to Peace in Northern Uganda,” argues that the current military buildup provides both the LRA and Ugandan government convenient cover to withdraw from the ongoing Juba peace talks. Here is the full text:
For almost three years, I have been part of the growing movement to press Western governments to respond to the crisis in northern Uganda. International neglect, while aid poured into Kampala, has allowed the war to persist for two decades. Today that silence is history; world leaders from Washington to London to Brussels are speaking about the urgency of resolving the conflict. Yet, priority does not guarantee prudence. In fact, many Western officials have begun making reckless military threats that threaten to undermine the ongoing peace process. It leaves activists like myself wondering: have our efforts been counterproductive?
The last month has seen a surge of military rhetoric against the LRA rebels. In early September, the top U.S. official for Africa urged a timeline for the negotiations and said that Washington would support military action to
Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, has insisted that the ICC will continue to urge regional governments and UN peacekeepers to arrest 4 LRA commanders indicted by the court in 2005. Ocampo said,
Here is our Wednesday look at a few key stories from northern Uganda’s neighbors – southern Sudan and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This week the stories speak for themselves.
“US envoy sounds alarm over danger of renewed north-south Sudan civil war” (International Herald Tribune) – On a 10-day tour of Sudan, U.S. special envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios warned that the country could fall back into civil war if the peace deal between the government and former southern rebels is not properly implemented soon. The most serious danger is the heavy militarization of the contested areas around Sudan’s oil fields, where neither the government nor southerners have followed their pledges to pull out troops, he said.
“UN chief says ‘rape epidemic’ in eastern DR Congo is worst in the world” (New York Times) – “Eastern Congo is going through another one of its convulsions of violence, and this time it seems that women are being systematically attacked on a scale never before seen here. According to the United Nations, 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, and that may be just a fraction of the total number across the country.”
“UNHCR Sees Military Buildup in Eastern Congo” (Voice of America) – The United Nations refugee agency says there are worrying signs that fighting could erupt again among government forces, renegade troops and rebels in the DR Congo’s North Kivu province.
“Elders visit south Sudan to support peace” (Reuters) – South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Tuesday urged a group of “elders” statesmen to pressure the northern government to implement key parts of the north-south peace deal. The “elders” including anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, veteran peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, and women and children’s rights activist Graca Machel travelled to southern Sudan to hear what was stalling the peace process since the deal signed in January 2005.
“Congo Rebels Seize Gorillas Habitat” (Associated Press) – Rebels have seized an area in eastern Congo that serves as a wildlife habitat for endangered mountain gorillas, threatening one of the last known populations of the animals
Speaking on Voice of America, the chief mediator at the Juba peace talks, Dr. Riek Machar, is hopeful that negotiations can resume soon. Machar said the groundwork is set for the LRA to begin their consultations. Machar further reported, “We also decided that it may be best if the LRA is accompanied by some of the AU (African Union) observers to the peace talks.” Machar said he is confident the rebels would finish their consultation in time for the recommencement of the next round of peace talks. There is hope that will be the end of October.