In northern Uganda, more than 20 years of war displaced about two million people. Now, with good prospects for peace, efforts are underway to help the displaced who’ve been living in camps.
One of the groups involved is the International Rescue Committee, which has sent what it calls a senior level delegation to northern Uganda. The delegation includes former US senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards.
Edwards, who is in Kampala Monday, spoke with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about his visits to Kitgum and Lira. He says the refugees are living under very difficult conditions in camps.
“They were extraordinary people. They greeted us with lots of fanfare, lots of singing and demonstrations in support of us. It was really very inspirational, but their living conditions are extraordinarily harsh. High HIV/AIDS rates. Children, many, many children who are orphans as a result of their parents either dying of HIV/AIDS or being killed by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army rebels). And so they’re in a very, very hard place. And a lot of them have been in these camps from anywhere from 10 to 20 years, because this war has been going on for a couple of decades now,” he says.
The former senator says, “There’s so much work that can and should be done. This is a great moment for America to show some real leadership and show that we actually care about humanity and the rest of the world, which is important not just to the world but important to us. Because then America is seen as the natural leader in the world.”
Edwards says he’ll report back to the US Congress, the Bush administration and the American people about what he saw in northern Uganda. He says, “We should rally both our government and our donor community to make sure that we’re supporting the peace process in every way we can, as aggressively as we can.”
The IRC delegation met with Ugandan President Museveni about northern Uganda. Edwards describes northern Uganda as “probably the most severe humanitarian crisis on the planet that gets very little attention.” He says that Darfur is getting a lot of media attention, but northern Uganda is not.