More than 700 activists from 40 U-S states will join legislators and Africa specialists in Washington today at the US Congress to press for a resolution of the conflict in Northern Uganda. Participants will visit offices of their elected representatives to lobby for US support of peace talks taking place in Juba, Southern Sudan between Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and for funding of reconstruction and reconciliation efforts to end a brutal 20-year war. Today’s so-called Uganda Lobby Day is being sponsored by the Africa Faith and Justice Network, which is urging the Bush Administration to speak out against the injustice that has resulted in 200-thousand deaths and the displacement of two million residents of Northern Uganda. Media Coordinator Caroline Green tells VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that while the international community has a vital role to play in keeping the on-again, off-again negotiations on track, she believes that US influence is indispensable to stop the talks from collapsing.
“These talks in Southern Sudan are at a critical stage right now. Last week, we saw the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) threatening to move out, due to some problems with the cessation of hostilities. We’ve seen basically no international will whatsoever behind these peace talks. And there’s a feeling that unless the international community pushes both sides to remain at the negotiating table, then these talks might be in danger of collapsing,” she said.
The Africa Faith and Justice Network has been holding Washington symposiums on the Northern Uganda situation this week, featuring former chief peace mediator Betty Bigombe, Paramount Chief Acana, who leads one million Acholi people in Northern Uganda, and a former child soldier, Grace Akallo. Akallo was abducted ten years ago at the age of 15, abused by the LRA, and forced to commit atrocities against civilians and her fellow captives.
Caroline Green says that the participants all agree that “US support would be vital to get them to stay at the negotiating table. And we’ve heard them really ask and plea for the American government that a statement of support for the Juba peace talks would go a long way to motivate and build more confidence in the peace process.”
Green says several US legislators are actively working to strengthen the negotiations. “I think we’ve got a few very active Senators and Representatives. We’ve got Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana hosting our press conference and supporting the event. We’ve got Representatives Donald Payne of New Jersey and Frank Wolfe of Virginia, and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, and House Africa Subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith of New Jersey. All have been very involved in the issue. However, we have heard pretty much silence from the US Administration. The US government is doing some quite large development and donor programs, but what we actually need is for them to support this historic opportunity for peace in Northern Uganda,” says Green.
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