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Dispatch from Uganda

The tenuous peace talks in Juba, Sudan, between the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) continue for a third month, with each side accusing the other of non-compliance with the cessation of hostilities agreement. However, complete breakdown of the talks was averted when the Government of Southern Sudan said it was not the LRA, but rather Arabic speaking northern Sudanese militants, who killed 38 civilians in a village near Juba.

Also, the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni briefly traveled to Juba to take part in the peace talks. Ugandan blogger Ngorom remains skeptical of the President's involvement:

Considering the international interest in Sudan as a whole, Museveni is on a mission that has nothing to do with peace talks going on in Juba. The fact that he has been reported to have met the LRA delegation and berated and merely abused them is indicative that his main aim is not peace negotiations. Museveni is searching for some “buttons” to push in order to torpedo the talks and achieve his aims in southern Sudan.

Meanwhile, In An African Minute reports on discussions in Kampala on long term peace and reconciliation. He notes that the Government and civil society have left these crucial questions unanswered:

(i) Is there political will to make national truth and reconciliation a reality? The answer lies only with Museveni. There is reason to be hopeful. He is increasingly interested in his legacy, especially relating to East African unity. He must know that this cannot happen unless his own house is in order. There are also economic reasons. Stability of Southern Sudan, with Juba as its capital, makes for enormous economic opportunity. Anything material going to Juba will surely come from the Mombasa Port via Kampala and Gulu. Uganda loses much needed income if the north is unstable. Even political adversaries like Gulu LC V Chairman Norbert Mao have acknowledged that Museveni has become significantly more open-minded about resolving the northern question. However, it will take a heroic effort for him to transcend the political culture of neo-patrimonialism that has pervaded Uganda.

(ii) What would a national truth and reconciliation process look like? The details of this plan are beyond the scope of this post, but the process should be served by the careful balancing of two disparate principles. First, all parties should recognize that the process of ‘acknowledgement’ is central to the Ugandan sense of justice. While punitive justice would be a Sisyphisean task considered the twenty-two armed conflicts in the last twenty years, public acknowledgement of wrongs would go a long way towards reconciliation. Second is Rosiland Shaw's concept of ‘social forgetting.’ Shaw is a Tufts University anthropologist whose work in Sierra Leone showed that truth commissions, which are the international norm in transitional justice, are not always therapeutic. Shaw showed that religious or traditional based approaches to dealing with the past can often be more appropriate and effective.

In Kampala, the First Lady Janet Museveni, backed by USAID, launched a birth control system called Moon Beads, designed to help women track their menstrual cycle, and thus avoid sex when fertile. Several bloggers, including Jackfruity, criticized this controversial program:

Though Mrs. Museveni’s plan recognizes the need for better family planning in Uganda, it is sorely misguided. The natural family planning method is intended for monogamous couples and requires the women to carefully observe her periods for three to six months before implementing the system (the Moon Beads are intended to be used immediately and do not account for varying menstrual cycles). Even then, the method is only 75-90% effective, as compared to 95-99% for oral contraceptives and 86-98% for condoms.

In another post, Jackfruity provides insight into Aga Khan, the man whose portrait is displayed around Kampala as prominently as President Museveni's:

As for Uganda and why Aggie's countenance smiles down upon me wherever I go, that question is still unanswered. I choose to view him as a benevolent Big Brother figure, trusting that whatever happens — whether I come up against a massive natural disaster or find myself in need of a $2500/night suite in Mombasa — the Aga Khan will be there for me, cheerfully helping me make the world a better place.

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