Tuesday, April 26, 2005

America Doubts Military Option to End LRA Rebellion

Copy of a report at The Monitor (Kampala) April 27, 2005 - Badru D. Mulumba, Kampala - via AllAfrica:

The United States justified increased military aid to Uganda, but cast doubt on the military option to end the 19-year-old rebellion in the north.

The US non-lethal military assistance to buy vehicles, spare parts and radios for the Ugandan military was $4.9 million in the 2004/5 budget up from $1.7 million in the 2002/3 budget, the State Department says.

But the officials say the military pressure through the issuance of non-lethal US military assistance has helped to reduce the crisis.

Mr Donald Yamamoto, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of state for African affairs, made the remarks as he appeared before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on northern Uganda's 19-year old crisis.

Yamamoto's testimony was given to Congress on April 14, according to the April 22 issue of the State Department publication, The Washington File.

"There cannot be a military solution to this issue," he warned.

"It has to be a comprehensive approach" that includes the reconciliation between the government of Uganda and the Acholi people of northern Uganda.

Yamamoto said President Museveni and the Ugandan government should "initiate reconciliation with the Acholi people as a top priority.

While the Acholi fear Kony, they equally distrust the Ugandan government."

He said, "Only through greater confidence and support ... will there be better cooperation in the ongoing peace efforts with the Acholi people."

The US blue print for peace in northern Uganda unveiled before the House of Representatives, encompasses diplomatic and political will, military pressure and humanitarian efforts linked to Uganda's search for peace.

The US is backing this combination to end the 'insanity', restore peace, and rebuild the lives torn by the conflict and bring reconciliation between the government and the Acholi.

No one element of this approach can be successful, Yamamoto reportedly said. "A comprehensive effort must be mounted."

He pointed to the abduction of 25,000 children, brutal murders of 12,000 civilians - many of them children - and the displacement of more than 1.8 million people in the region.

Yamamoto said they were familiar with the grim facts of the rebellion.

But the US is optimistic that the recent peace agreement in the Sudan would weaken the rebellion.

"We are hopeful the recent peace agreements between the SPLM (Sudan People's Liberation Movement) and the Sudanese government will encourage the government to actively deny Kony refuge in Sudan," he said.

Yamamoto appreciated Ms Betty Bigombe's relentless efforts to bring peace to northern Uganda.

Bigombe is the chief government negotiator with the LRA.

"Her efforts have yielded some results, and towards this end, we encourage and support these efforts," he said.

The USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, Mr Leonard Rogers accompanied Yamamoto. According to Rogers, there are plans to do at least as much in 2005.

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