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Uganda Peace Talks: The US Must Act

A group of non-governmental and faith-based organizations is calling on the United States and international donor countries to act quickly to prevent the Ugandan peace talks from completely collapsing. The Lord’s Resistance Army rebels have reportedly withdrawn from the talks, accusing the Ugandan army of surrounding LRA fighters who have gathered in camps designated under last month’s ceasefire agreement. Michael Poffenberger is associate director of the Washington-based Africa Faith and Justice Network. He explains to VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty why he says the US must end its position of silence.

“What’s really important is that they’re going to need third party observers; they’re going to need international community representatives to be present at the talks, to be deploying to the ceasefire zone, to be extra voices of trust-building and accountability and confidence building for all the parties. The U.S., the UK and United Nations representatives can play absolutely crucial role in ensuring that there are no Ugandan forces deployed in the ceasefire zone, in calling the LRA delegation back to the table and in calling the LRA forces that have left the ceasefire zone to return so that negotiations restart and an end to this 20-year nightmare will finally be found.”

Poffenberger welcomes the mediation role of Southern Sudan Vice President Riek Machar, but he says the international community can play a supportive role in using their influence to make sure that all parties are holding to the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

Poffenberger says the obstacle to the US playing a major role in the Uganda peace talks has been one of apathy.

“I think that the State Department is distracted by the crisis in the Middle East and currently by the break down in Darfur. I think that they preferred providing military support to the Ugandan military for the last 10 years of this conflict, and I think that they are distrusting the LRA in these peace negotiations. But I think that those concerns are the result of not paying close enough attention to the way that this process has gone. I think that every body watching this knows that it is the best chance we’ve had in the history of this conflict to bring about a comprehensive end to 20 years of violence. So we really hope that the State Department will take heed of the progress that has been made, will take this opportunity for a negotiated settlement and follow suit.”