Peace talks, quietly stalling, get attention back home

Posted: February 1, 2008 in Blog

It is interesting to see the Northern Uganda peace talks getting attention back home.

This issue– finding a permanent solution to the rebel fighting that plagued northern Uganda for two decades– deserves more attention. It’s not as sexy a news story as it was when tens of thousands of children were being abducted and forced to fight in the rebel armies, or when even more, known as ‘night commuters’, would walk into larger towns at night to sleep on porches and in alleyways to escape the nighttime raids by rebel fighters.

But the stakes of failed peace talks are serious enough that international attention, as the column argues, should not wander away just yet. The fighting has stopped, but Uganda’s president is threatening to invade northeastern Congo (where the rebels are established) if a peace agreement is not agreed upon soon (a deadline of March has been talked about, but so was an end-of-January deadline earlier) and internal problems within the rebel fighters has led to fears that a group may break away and renew violence.

If that is not motivation enough, the prospect of Uganda fighting a war in the Congo when Kenya is descending into chaos should be enough to fire up the entire East African Community (of which Uganda’s president is currently the chair) to keep the peace process moving.

Meanwhile, on the ground in northern Uganda, rehabilitation is in full swing. International agencies are rebuilding health centres and schools and the evacuation of camps– where as many as two million lived at the height of hostilities– is in full swing. Though on my tour of camps it seemed clear that many have stayed behind because they are not yet convinced that the current peace is permanent.

I have spoken with some members of the humanitarian community here who say the end is in sight for the massive influx of aid for northern Uganda because, they say, it is falling off the radar compared to earlier this decade when it was called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Some aid agencies here are starting up programs in the northeastern Uganda region of Karamoja (not affected by the rebel fighting but a region with immense challenges and violence that has gone mostly unnoticed by the international community) as a way to keep the world’s attention on northern Uganda.

What will it all mean? Who knows. But one gets the feeling that months of missed deadlines, intangible progress and a steady parade of new faces at the negotiating table suggests that the current trend will not produce a permanent solution meaning the writers of the Globe column may well be right in saying people need to step in before it is too late.

  1. Evan says:

    I’d be curious for your thoughts about Maxime Bernier’s letter to the editor responding to that column.

  2. cmason2 says:

    Hey Evan, thanks for posting that letter. The link won’t let me see the whole letter, but I’ll dig around, find it elsewhere and send you an e-mail. Cheers.

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