It was a CNN "breaking news" flash that first caught her eye.
On the chilly morning of Feb. 22, 2004, Betty Bigombe was racing around her cozy condo in Chevy Chase, Md. She was focused on paying bills, packing for a business trip, and hoping to squeeze in a workout.
Walking past her bedroom TV, she suddenly froze. In her native Uganda, the anchor said, the Lord's Resistance Army had just massacred more than 200 villagers. They had forced entire families to stay inside huts - then set the houses alight, shooting anyone who ran out. Ms. Bigombe remembers whispering, "Oh, my God, I can't believe it's still happening."
Her own picture appeared on the screen. The reporter explained that Bigombe, a former government minister in Uganda, was the one person who'd ever gotten the rebels and the government close to peace. But that was back in 1994.
Now the ongoing barbarity in her homeland filled her with shame. Standing there in her nightgown, she was deeply torn. Should she go back to Uganda to help? Could she afford to lose her well-paying job at the World Bank? Could she stand to leave her college-age daughter alone in the US? After hours of pondering, she concluded, "Maybe ... maybe I can give it another try."
Read full story at csmonitor.com by Abraham McLaughlin, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, September 13, 2005.
Photo: Betty Bigombe with Lord's Resistance Army negotiators. (James Akena/Reuters/CS Monitor)
Betty Bigombe biography
1954 Born in northern Uganda
1981-84 Became corporate secretary of the Uganda Mining Corporation
1986 Elected to parliament
1988 Appointed minister of state for pacification of northern Uganda
1993 Named Uganda's 'Woman of the Year' for her peace efforts
1997 Received master's degree from Harvard
1997 Appointed senior social scientist at postconflict department of the World Bank
Children: Pauline and Emmanuel
Photo: FREED: Betty Bigombe (center) with two Ugandan women who were kidnapped as girls and raped by LRA commanders. Recently, the women and their children escaped their captors. (Courtesy of Joyce NEU/Joan B Kroc Institute for Justice & Peace/CS Monitor)
Click here to see at a glance Uganda's fitful path toward peace under Museveni.
Pictured above is President Meseveni Inking his thumb after casting a ballot in the 1996 elections. (Tomoaki Nakano/AP/CS Monitor)
Photo: FLEEING After rebel attacks, villagers jump in Army trucks. (Karel Prinsloo/AP/CS Monitor)