In Uganda, justice, or just a publicity stunt?
Uganda's recent attacks on the LRA are misguided.
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Sometimes, however, maintaining a good image is more difficult than creating a good image in the first place.Skip to next paragraph
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With a new US administration that places an emphasis on human rights, it's probably a good idea to seem proactive.
East Africans have high hopes for the priority President Obama will give them, based on his ethnic heritage. And with a seat on the Security Council, it might be wise for Uganda to clean up its own backyard in order not to lose any of its good standing. Because its backyard includes Congo and south Sudan, it makes sense for the offensive to have been a unified endeavor, despite the historic rivalries in this Great Lakes region.
Of course, positive PR can't hurt any of those countries – Congo with its troubles in the southeast and Sudan with its hands full, as well. Sudanese Vice President Salva Kiir was able to exploit some of this positive PR in his meeting earlier this month with President Bush.
Sadly, the ambush was inadequately executed and poorly planned. And it's for this reason that – as far as we can tell – the LRA seems to have gotten away fairly unscathed, in spite of the alleged capture and surrender of approximately 40 rebels.
US-based advocacy groups have long cautioned against this kind of ambush for that very reason. Rather than ending anything, its most immediate impact has been to trigger a new wave of LRA atrocities in the Congo – murdering, abducting, and displacing hundreds.
For the Ugandan government to prove its commitment to peace efforts in the region and maintain its good stead in the international community, it must focus on the welfare of its people and attempt to halt the conflict. The joint forces should stop their offensive, keeping troops on the ground to receive any escapees – child soldiers and other abducted individuals who were forced into the rebel ranks.
With the continued coordination of Uganda's neighbors, peace negotiations should resume. The Ugandan government must renew the Peace, Recovery, and Development Plan with uncompromising dedication in order to assist the people of Northern Uganda in their recovery.
The international community can affirm this effort by supporting peace negotiations, critically evaluating the most effective way to punish LRA leaders, and pressuring Uganda to uphold its responsibility to its citizens in the North. The victims of the LRA don't need a publicity stunt; they need a concerted attempt to resolve the conflict.
[Editor's note: The original subhead mischaracterized where the attacks took place. They took place at the LRA's base in the Democratic Republic of Congo.]