Saturday, September 07, 2019

Ugandan wants pigeon sport extended to South Sudan

Article from Daily Monitor Uganda
By Denis Bbosa
Dated Saturday 07 September 2019
Kidega finds gold in pigeons for sport
Photo: Denis Kidega is rearing pigeons in the hope of entering them in international sporting events for cash prizes. PHOTO | DENNIS BBOSA 

In Summary
Unimaginable as it looks, Denis Kidega’s burgeoning pigeon rearing project geared towards competing on the international stage is taking giants steps towards implementation. Denis Bbosa was in Mpigi at Nsimbe Estate to evaluate Kidega’s daring move towards producing domesticated birds that can fetch him millions of shillings.

A dove or pigeon is mostly referred to as a sign of peace by Christians worldwide, but Denis Kidega, a poultry and horticulture farmer at Nsimbe Estates, has turned that belief into a business venture. 

Unlike in poultry, you need to have passion, care and patience to venture into the pigeon rearing business lest you risk reaping losses.

Put succinctly, Kidega says he and his partner at Fiduga (a flower cuttings exporting company in Mpigi District) Jos Melsburg, take rearing the pigeons as a hobby which they believe will transform into a lucrative venture in the near future.

Starting out
Kidega’s first attempt to keep pigeons started on a sad note as a 12-year-old in Gulu District.

As the family was returning to Gulu from Kitgum, he lost his pigeons because he lacked the knowledge, at the time, of training the birds to return to their loft.

As fate would have it, when he was employed at Fiduga as the technical manager, his boss brought pigeons and had vast knowledge about them.

“This is the fourth year that we are rearing these pigeons. We started with a mother stock of 12, which we do not release because they came from far and I can assure you this is the best breed you can have (from South Africa),” he says with pride and satisfaction. 

With good furniture, wire lining, entrance and exit channels and located in a leafy and serene environment, their five segment loft (pigeon house) shows the class and commitment Kidega and his colleagues have invested in the project, not reserved for the faint hearted. 

Training the pigeons
In chicken rearing, the more birds you have, the higher the rewards that await a farmer. In this case, however, all that matters is the quality of the pigeon and how well-trained it is. 

Their mission is a strategic one that leans on hope and persistence plus the willingness of potential farmers and concerned government bodies to come on board and support a new project laden with potential of reaping millions in revenue. 

Kidega envisages a day when he would take some of his well-trained pigeons to compete in international races such as the recent one in South Africa that weighed about Shs385m.

The technique in pigeon race is simple. The birds are carried far away from their loft in cages and then liberated at ago – usually at a distance of more than 500 kilometres - to observe which one relocates and enters its loft faster to win the prize money.

If it does not enter and the ring is not detected by the clocking machine at the entrance, it has not won.

In South Africa, 2,627 pigeons were liberated in the early morning of February 3, 2018 in Colesburg and were expected to make their way back to their loft in Sasolburg. But two weeks later, only 1,569 pigeons had returned, which means that 40 per cent were still missing. 

That points to the extra training Kidega and his colleagues have to give their birds if they are to ever take part in such money minting but challenging events.

Kidega maintains that their target for now is internal competition, limited within their stable among workers. 

He urges more Ugandans to embrace pigeon raring for sports so that they can make it national and later dare the international stage that has heavyweight participants like China, US and South Africa.

“At the moment, we train them from a distance from here to Gulu and Nimule. At a speed of 1.2km per minute, the pigeon takes three hours to fly back from Nimule to Mpigi,” Kidega reveals. 

To measure up to the international distance of about 550 kilometres, Kidega has engaged the South Sudan Embassy to allow them extend to their territory, but works with their Wildlife Authority and Ministry of Agriculture is still in progress. 

“If more Ugandans can get interested in taking on the venture, we can form a club of farmers that will make international participation easier.”

Breeding quality pigeons
Kidega, says they expertly pair the female and male pigeons, depending on their speed rates.

“Most of the mother stock pigeons are now eight years old. We pair them for eggs after getting the one that came fastest in our international competition and the young ones are a good breed. We incubate the eggs (it lays only two) and after 21 days, we get young ones that we release within four months,” he adds.

The pigeon is first oriented around the loft, then started on a two kilometre journey, then four, before it upgrades to 20 and after two months of training, the bird is ready for longer distances.

The pigeons used for racing are bred in captivity and spend their lives in the care of humans making them completely dependent on humans to survive. 

They are not aware of predators and do not know how to protect themselves from the elements or even how to hunt for themselves.

“It is a little bit expensive. It can take you Shs1.5m to get about 45 birds, excluding the veterinary services,” Kidega warns prospective farmers.

It is advisable to get one clean person attend to the loft to avoid the smell. Interestingly, you can eat the poor performers.

Kidega feeds the pigeons on grass, groundnuts, broken rice, sea rolls and soya and feed them regularly to maintain their high performance. But he also spends Shs100,500 on grade II flour, which he cooks into ugali (posho) for the birds.

“The birds are comfortable with me in a way that I can hand pick them without a struggle and closely observe the state of their health,” said Kidega.

He vaccinates them against Newcastle disease, one of the most dangerous infections with a 100 per cent mortality rate in birds, once a year.

Value for money
Kidega sells each bird at Shs300,000. He hopes to increase the amount to Shs800,000 or Shs1m, depending on the level of training and condition.

“Because we spend a lot on them, the birds are expensive. We sell a pair at Shs600,000,” Kidega says. 

He believes the government can reap big if they added pigeon rearing to a list of tourism entities – because pigeons are such fascinating birds that can get tourists pouring in to interact with them. 

Of course having many pigeons calls for high maintenance and that is why after four years, Kidega has 28 birds of which 12 are female. 

Then again it is a costly venture if one was to take several birds for competitions to countries such as Germany, China and South Africa.

The lack of competition at the moment is equally frustrating for Kidega and colleagues at the moment as they are limited to internal challenges. 

It would also require anyone willing to start up the venture to save about Shs1m - Shs3m to set up a standard loft.

Kidega is concerned by the perception of his neighbours that he practices witchcraft because he rears pigeons. He hopes they will grow to understand the beauty of rearing these special species.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Canada sending plane to Uganda to help UN peacekeeping mission in Congo and S.Sudan

THE UN Security Council extended the mandate of the more than 18,000-strong peacekeeping mission in Congo — the UN's biggest and most expensive, with a budget over US$1.1 billion — until Dec. 20 with a priority mandate of protecting civilians and supporting "the stabilization and strengthening of state institutions."  Read more:

Article from The Canadian Press
Dated 15 August 2019 - 12:16 PM
Canada sending plane to Uganda to help with peacekeeping in Africa

Photo: Minister of National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, April 8, 2019. Sajjan is to announce today that a Canadian Forces Hercules transport plane will be sent to Uganda to take part in a United Nations peacekeeping mission. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

VANCOUVER - A Canadian Forces Hercules plane will be sent to Uganda to take part in a United Nations peacekeeping mission during the next 12 months, transporting troops, equipment and supplies to Congo and South Sudan.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the aircraft will be supported by as many as 25 Canadian Armed Forces personnel and it will be used up to five days a month to help the UN mission operating from Entebbe.

In late 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the UN that Canada would send the plane.

It was one of three promises he made when Canada hosted a major peacekeeping summit in Vancouver.

Only one of the promises had been fulfilled, and that was the deployment of a unit of helicopters and military personnel to help with medical evacuations in Mali.

Trudeau also promised the UN a 200-strong "quick reaction force," but Canada has yet to register it in a UN database, which means it has not been formally offered.

In making the announcement on Thursday, Sajjan said Canada committed to a time frame of five years to deploy military resources to support UN peacekeeping missions.

Sajjan said in a statement the plane "will play an important role in helping supply military and police personnel on UN peace operations in the region, with critical resources."

The federal Liberals campaigned in the last election on a promise to renew Canada's commitment and role in peacekeeping in a major way, but have since been accused of not living up to the spirit of that pledge.

The government insists it is committed to peacekeeping, as evidenced by its decision to extend the mission in Mali by one month, which came after pressure from the UN and some of Canada's allies.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said adding a plane to the UN mission in Entebbe "is an excellent example of the smart pledges that Canada will continue to support so we can fill critical gaps in UN peacekeeping."

The Security Council extended the mandate of the more than 18,000-strong peacekeeping mission in Congo — the UN's biggest and most expensive, with a budget over US$1.1 billion — until Dec. 20 with a priority mandate of protecting civilians and supporting "the stabilization and strengthening of state institutions."

Earlier this year, President Felix Tshisekedi succeeded Joseph Kabila, who governed the largely impoverished but mineral-rich central African country for 18 years.

A fact sheet released last month by the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project said there have been nearly 790 "organized political violence events" in more than 420 locations since Tshisekedi's inauguration on Jan. 24. There were nearly 1,900 conflict-related fatalities reported in these events, including over 760 deaths from violence targeting civilians, it said.

The peacekeeping mission to a disputed area of Sudan and South Sudan dates to 2011. Both Sudan and South Sudan claim ownership of the oil-rich Abyei area.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Sudan, S. Sudan: Ugandan war survivors partnered with therapy dogs

Note from Uganda Watch Editor:  Please stop and watch this short powerful BBC film about Ugandan war survivors being partnered with comfort dogs. 

I have spent a lifetime seeking and promoting practical ways to help people suffering poverty, homelessness and trauma.  More here below.  Here is the film.

Ugandan war survivors partnered with therapy dogs

'If it wasn't for him, I'd be dead'

A scheme in Uganda partner dogs with war survivors to help them overcome trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Filda was abducted as a child and forced into the LRA rebel army in Uganda, where she witnessed terrible atrocities.  

As part of a scheme called The Comfort Dog Project, Filda has been partnered with a dog who was abandoned as a puppy.

The two are now helping each other heal, along with many others like them.

A film by Amelia Martyn-Hemphill for 100 Women.

Uganda’s Comfort Dog Project
  • The Comfort Dog Project, an NGO, helps transform the region's stray and unwanted dogs into healing therapy animals for former child soldiers and survivors of war struggling with PTSD, trauma and depression
  • A dog that has suffered should be able to help someone who has gone through trauma
  • Dogs can help people rehabilitate their psychological condition
  • So that they have the company, gain confidence and also overcome depression
  • Francis, the founder of the project trained as a psychologist and set up The Comfort Dog Project in 2015 to help people recover from mental health conditions
  • During the 5 month therapy programme the Comfort Dog Guardians learn to train and care for their dogs
  • The group also undergoes extensive trauma counselling to help them process their past experiences
  • But it is still a challenge for the project to gain acceptance
  • In Northern Uganda people use dogs for hunting, guarding homes and also they look at dogs as useless 
  • Even though Uganda's Ministry of Health estimates about 70% of people in Northern Uganda have been traumatically affected by the war there's still stigma around mental health services
  • People think the moment you go to mental health you are already mentally disorientated, you cannot be helped
  • But attitudes in the community are starting to change, as part of her recovery Filda is with veterinary outreach and educates people on dog training, animal rights and welfare 

Note from Uganda Watch Editor:  In addition to being a lifelong anti-poverty campaigner, I have spent the past 20 years researching cannabinoid therapy to help people, particularly peacekeepers, military personnel, former child soldiers and other survivors of war struggling with PTSD, trauma and depression.

Certain cannabinoids could help people with PTSD. Better still, such a therapy could be partnered with comfort dogs.  If anyone reading this can think of the best ways I could help Sudanese and Ugandan people with PTSD to be partnered with a therapy dog please contact me at  Thanks.

Give a War Trauma Survivor a Comfort Dog
$500 sponsors a dog placement
$25 sponsors a weekly training class for the Comfort Dog Project


Dogs have a profound effect on our ability to heal from emotional trauma.  The Comfort Dog Project pairs formerly homeless/neglected dogs with war survivors suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Psycho-social counseling is coupled with dog companionship and training to create a supportive bond.  For $500, you can help to rehabilitate a dog, place that dog with a war survivor, and enable them to go through our 5 month training program to receive certification as a Comfort Dog.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

South Sudan billions excite Uganda traders - Fight erupts as `Super 10’ run off with monies

Article from The Independent Uganda
Dated 05 August 2019 
South Sudan billions excite Uganda traders

But fight erupts as `Super 10’ run off with compensation monies
Minister of State for Finance David Bahati (R) appearing before the select parliamentary committee on the payment of claims by the Uganda South Sudan traders.

Kampala, Uganda - Muhammad Abdullah Besimira first went to South Sudan in 2007 on a job with his company, BMA Constructions and Fabrications Ltd. He says he got a deal to construct government buildings and ministries in Jonglei State in the Greater Upper Nile Province. At the time, South Sudan was still part of Sudan.

By 2010 Besimira’s company had accumulated payment arrears pending with the government but he kept slogging away, hoping he would be paid. At the time, many Ugandan business people were in the same spot. They had payment pending from the South Sudan government.

But then in 2011 South Sudan broke away from Sudan and in 2013 civil war broke out between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his former deputy Riek Machar. Besimira and most of the business people fled back to Uganda.

“After the war, I was called back by the State Minister of Finance (South Sudan),” Besimira says. He resumed work and continued demanding payment. But he says he was always told the money the central government would send money to Jonglei would not be enough to enable him to be paid. Then in 2016 war erupted again. Besimira says he and thousands of other Ugandan traders were evacuated in trucks by Ugandan Army soldiers.

“That time, we were just picked and you could not leave with anything,” he says.

He never returned to Sudan. Instead, he and other Uganda business people have resorted to seeking compensation for money they lost.

He is part of an organisation called the Joint Action Redemption of Ugandan Traders in South Sudan. Its members did a range of services from construction to petty trade in South Sudan. This group includes those who were injured during the clashes and those who lost their loved ones.

Formed in 2008, it says the government of South Sudan owes them over $200 million (Approx.Shs740 billion). But in a major twist, they are now not asking for the money from the government of South Sudan but from the government of Uganda.

The arrangement is a result of an agreement signed on December 22, 2016 between the governments of Uganda and South Sudan.  In the agreement, the government of Uganda agreed to pay a group of Uganda traders, now called the Super 10, US$41 million (Approx.Shs150 billion) that South Sudan agreed to reimburse. It was also agreed that a joint verification team consisting of officials from both Uganda and South Sudan would be formed to verify or confirm all other claims for subsequent settlement.

Parliament, as required by law, adopted the agreement on April 03, 2018. 

But it added an addendum to the agreement that included another “additional verified 23 Uganda -South Sudan traders”.  It also added that the joint verification exercise by the government of South Sudan and Uganda “continues until all claims are conclusively handled”. That appeared to have left the door open for new claimants to enter and might explain the many lists of claimants.

The matter became heated after Parliament in May approved payment of Shs947 billion to 82 Ugandan companies that supplied goods and services to South Sudan.  Apparently, the government of South Sudan has approved payment of Shs778 billion to 40 companies and Shs169 billion to another 42 companies.

The super 10 and the rest

It is a complicated process with many twists and turns and allegations of corruption. It appears there are business people who deserve payment but are not paid and others that do not deserve payment but are paid.  It has sparked a faceoff between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Trade, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), and Parliament. There is even talk of the `Super 10’, a list of claimants that gets paid over and over.

The ‘Super Ten’ is a group of companies run by well-connected businesspeople who have received compensation in two batches. It includes Rubya Investments, Kibungo Enterprises, Aponye (U) Limited, Afro Kai Ltd, Swift Commodities Establishment Ltd, Sunrise Commodities, Ms Sophie Omari, Apo General Agencies, Ropani International and K.K Transporters.

Some reports indicate that some of the companies share directors while others; like Swift Commodities Ltd are reportedly out of business.

Apollo Nyegamehe, commonly known as Aponye, who is the leader of the group told The Independent that their demands are legitimate.

According to him, their claims stem from grain supplies they made to the government of South Sudan. Unlike some of the other claimants, they were dealing directly with the top brass of the southern part of Sudan led by then vice president Salva Kiir.

“We got paid $14.8 million (Approx.Shs55 billion) in December 2011 and we received another Shs40 billion (Approx. $10 million) in April 2019,” Nyegamehe says.

Meanwhile others like Besimira keep waiting.

“We have made endless trips to the ministries of Finance and Trade of Uganda in search of compensation but all in vain,” Besimira told The Independent.

He says the government of South Sudan owes his company US$279,445 (Approx.Shs1 billion).

On February 27, 2017 he submitted compensation claim documents to both ministry of Trade and Finance.  Since then he has been on a rollercoaster trying to get a penny.

In October 2018, he and fellow traders met Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde but the meeting bore no fruit in spite of her promising the lot that all would be well by February this year.

“They keep saying verification,” he says, “When they talk about verification, they are sending us back five years,” Besimira says of the process.

“They are asking us for too many documents, some banks like Liberty Bank in South Sudan closed and we have already spent way too much in the process of gathering all these documents.”

Some of the claims for compensation go back over 10 years, many lack proper documentation and the claimants are in many groups and their lists keeps changing. The list that had the Super 10 had 33 claimants in total.  But an initial list, compiled in 2011 by the Ministry of Trade had 84 claims. And the latest list, compiled by the Parliamentary Select Committee and officials of the South Sudan government has 38 companies. Then the South Sudan government approved 82 companies.

The Minister of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives, Amelia Kyambadde, fueled speculation of corruption when she told the verification select committee led by Kyankwanzi District Woman MP, Ann Maria Nankabirwa, that her ministry verified 36 businesses and not the 23 traders that the Ministry of Finance submitted to Parliament.

“The list we have is what we verified; if anyone has a different list, then they manipulated it. We submitted the list to the Ministry of Finance, which never got back to us. It is Finance that submitted the list to Parliament, so they should account for the list they submitted,” Kyambadde said.

But Nankabirwa told The Independent that they zeroed on 38 companies that were entitled to be compensated. Her committee travelled to South Sudan and Kenya to verify their claims and she now blames the Ministry of Finance; especially Muhakanizi, for failing to pay the traders.

“Our traders have suffered. They have gone to the bank and borrowed money, others have mortgaged their assets,” she said, “Ernst and Young is working for who? Ministry of Finance has taken these people in circles for ten years.”

To verify or not

Faced with the accusations of corruption and many contradicting compensation claims, the Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi who must authorise the payment, is demanding verification.

He is specifically pushing for Ernst and Young; the international accounting firm, to verify claims. But his insistence is opposed by almost everyone, including Minister of State for Finance David Bahati, some of the traders and MPs.

When The Independent asked Muhakanizi why he is insistent on Ernst and Young doing the verification when a select parliamentary committee formed on March 6 had verified the claims of traders, he said “they did a good job on verification of domestic arrears”.

But some MPs and the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, say the Ministry of Finance should not be insisting on re-verification of compensation claimants when, in their view, this exercise was considered closed after a joint committee of parliament and officials from the government of South Sudan carried out verification.

In a plenary session, Kadaga asked Minister Bahati: “How long are Ugandans going to suffer because of our inefficiency and corruption? When shall they be paid,” Kadaga asked in a recent plenary session.

She said parliament budgeted for the compensation money based on the verification it did.

“So what is he looking for?” she asked Bahati, “We cannot go on like this.”

Kadaga was at the time referring to Muhakanizi’s deputy, Patrick Ocailap, who put out an advert in the newspapers announcing verification of traders’ claims when Muhakanizi was on sick leave early this year.

Kadaga insisted on the traders being paid as soon as possible because parliament appropriated Shs76 billion but it has proved difficult to get it from the coffers of the Ministry of Finance.

But Bahati has been accused of pursuing personal interest. He reportedly has three companies; Kaimat Enterprises, Jan Jang Company Limited, Nile Site Company seeking compensation from South Sudan.  On March 23 he was asked by the parliament’s Select Committee handling the compensation to refute the allegation but he did not.

“Even if I owned a company in South Sudan, I wouldn’t accept to be part of the on-going compensation process,” he told the committee, “So I would really request madam chair that those who are crying for me should leave me.”

Rashid Manafwa, the chairman of the Joint Action Redemption group says the contentious issue of verification started when Amelia Kyambadde, Minister of Trade, commissioned a Trade Arbitration Dispute Committee in August 2011. The seven member team was headed by businessman Omar Kassim who passed on in 2017.

Then the committee received 84 claims and according to some minutes seen by The Independent, the claims had clear documentation in form of contracts and other relevant support documents. But from the time of the Kassim committee, the traders have dealt with roadblock after roadblock.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Betty Bigombe the woman who befriended LRA's brutal warlord Joseph Kony

Article from
Dated 08 August 2019
The woman who befriended a brutal warlord
© Reuters Betty Bigombe with LRA negotiator Brig Sam Kolo (right)

When Betty Bigombe was growing up in northern Uganda in the late 1950s, she walked four miles a day to go to school. She knew getting an education was the only way she could change her life and make a contribution to her community.

Thirty years later her "contribution" would be to carry the fate of her region on her shoulders as she attempted to negotiate piece with Joseph Kony, the notorious leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

Bigombe was the eighth of 11 children and grew up in a society where polygamy is still practised today.

"Without education, I probably would be having 20 children in some rural area, carrying out the daily chores of going to the field to dig, harvest, one baby on your back and another one is crawling - one of the many wives," she says.

Her family received financial and moral support from the church as she continued to study throughout her teens, and ultimately that led to the offer of a fellowship from Harvard University.

In the early 1980s, she returned home as a married women with two children. Her country was in the middle of a war that pitted President Milton Obote's forces against the guerrilla movement of Yoweri Museveni.

"At that time, I was hiding some people who were supporting President Museveni. I worked with a German woman who was with the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) and we smuggled people whose lives were in danger to Kenya. With a UN flag, it was OK. We could go through road blocks and get them to safety. So, that's really what triggered off fighting injustices."

In 1986, Museveni became president, a position he still holds to this day. He rewarded Bigombe by making her a government minister.

"I was very disappointed when I was appointed, because it was just men. All they did was ask me to sit and read papers, so I went and told president that I wanted to resign because I could not do crossword puzzles in the office, I could not take a novel to the office to read. I wanted work. He was shocked that I would want to resign. African ministers don't resign, especially a woman," she says.

So Betty came up with a proposal. War had broken out in the north of the country and she volunteered to go and find out where the rebels were and where they kept their weapons.

Museveni came back with a counter proposal. He agreed to send Bigombe to northern Uganda on condition she negotiated with the factions to stop the fighting.

Her friends and family thought this was a suicide mission.

"A lot of people told me, 'Resign, he wants you dead.' Friends came and said, 'This is not a woman's job. Why does he give it to you? You have no experience.'"

Certainly, nobody else was brave enough to try to negotiate with Joseph Kony, the leader of the brutal Lord's Resistance Army. Kony was a former altar boy who now claimed he was God's messenger. He told members of his messianic cult to abduct and rape girls, and he trained boys and girls to kill.

The Lord's Resistance Army sent Bigombe a letter saying Museveni had insulted them by sending a woman to negotiate. They threatened to kill her but she stayed - determined to end the war. Then they sent a victim of Kony's violence to deliver a second letter in person.

"This guy showed up. I don't know how he didn't die. There was no tetanus injection, nothing. Lips cut off, limbs cut off, drenched in blood. The so-called letter that was addressed to me was all very bloody. Of course, I couldn't even touch it."
© Getty Images Joseph Kony in 2006

Not deterred, Bigombe decided to write back to Kony. She referred to him as "my son" and used religion as a way of connecting with him.

Eventually Kony agreed to meet. She feared he would have her tortured and resolved to kill herself rather than be captured by him.

Deep in the jungle they met for the first time.

"He was guarded, there was church music, some men were dressed as nuns and had guns. They were singing hymns and falling down, [saying] that the demon was coming out of them. The scene was just incredible. He was wearing military uniform. He definitely came ready to intimidate."

In the next 18 months, during several face-to-face meetings, Kony started called Betty "Mummy Bigombe". Eventually he agreed to come out of the jungle for peace talks with President Museveni.

Bigombe went to the president and told him they needed to establish the conditions for the peace talks. 

Instead Museveni went to a public rally and threatened Kony - telling him to come out immediately or face the wrath of government troops.

Kony and his forces responded by massacring 300 people in a trading centre on the border with Sudan.

Bigombe resigned and left for the US.

"I was very devastated. I had a breakdown on the plane. It was a very painful defeat, but it wasn't about me - it was the suffering of the people," she says.

She again studied at Harvard and then got a job at the World Bank in Washington, working in its post-conflict unit. Then one morning in 2004 she turned on the TV and everything changed. There was breaking news on CNN - the Lord's Resistance Army had entered a camp and killed more than 300 people.

"And then, inset, there was suddenly my picture - the only person who almost ended the war, the only person who has met this rebel leader. So I thought that was a calling."

Bigombe returned to Uganda and tried to arrange a fresh meeting with Kony. She felt accepting Ugandan government funding would compromise her impartiality so she used her own money. She spent the cash she'd saved for her daughter's tuition to pay her satellite phone bill.
© Reuters Talks with the LRA in northern Uganda, in December 2004

By this time the International Criminal Court had indicted Kony for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bigombe's work laid the foundation for peace talks in South Sudan in 2006, though these collapsed at the 11th hour, when Kony refused to sign a peace deal.

Kony and the remnants of the Lord's Resistance Army have maintained a low profile since then. He now is reportedly in ill health and his forces have shrunk to less than 100.

Today Bigombe is the Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank. She travels the world training mediators and shares the lessons she learned in the jungle. Kony had a huge impact on her life and she on his.

"Not too long ago I met one of his fighters. They look for me. It's strange, but they do. A couple of months ago one of them got in touch with me and said, 'This time Kony is very serious, he wants to come.' And I said, 'Stop playing games, show me proof, let him call me. I know his voice.'"