In Search For Uganda's Lost Youth,9171,465806,00.html,9171,465806,00.html

An excerpt from TIMES Magazine Article

In Search of Uganda's Lost Youth

By Jeff Chu

July 20, 2003

[Uganda's troubled 40-year history provides some idea why, despite the LRA's atrocities, they don't. The country was a colonial creation, the lumping together of ethnic groups that "are very different people," says one government official. "We are like strangers in the same country." To others, the differences — or stereotypes — run deeper. "The Banyankole, the tribe of Museveni, used to be our servants. We, the Acholi, would employ them to look after our cattle," says Macleord Baker Ochola, the retired Anglican Bishop of Kitgum, who lost his wife and daughter in the war and is now vice chairman of the Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ARLPI). Northerners are skeptical of Museveni; some say that many in his regime want revenge for what past leaders, including the infamous Amin, did to the whole country. The military has not helped government p.r. Some youths who escaped from the LRA said that, while being debriefed by soldiers, "the army tried to recruit them," says James Otto of the local NGO Human Rights Focus, which also accuses the army of rape and torture. Many people think Iron Fist has only enraged, not weakened, the LRA. Deprived of bases where they grew food, rebels now attack villages and steal food aid needed by terrorized communities that have had to let their fertile fields lie fallow. As marauding rebels are most active at night, families send their children to sleep in the relative safety of bus stations in Kitgum and Gulu, the region's biggest town, or in churches and schools.

No matter whose fault the mess may be, "we have had enough," says Kitgum district commissioner Santo Okot-Lapolo. "The people have become tired of this senseless and useless war." Father Carlos Rodríguez, a Spanish missionary working with the ARLPI who has mediated several rounds of peace talks since 1997, notes that army leaders "say they are making a lot of progress, but there is no improvement in the security situation. The government is always waiting for some equipment to deal the decisive blow."

Many Ugandans feel that only outside diplomatic intervention can end this war. "We need all the help we can get," says an official who doesn't think the military solution will work. Kampala and the ARLPI both claim Sudan still supports the LRA — Khartoum denies it — and say this is an international problem. Three weeks ago, during Bush's brief Uganda visit, Ochola and other religious leaders — Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Muslim — sent the U.S. President a letter asking him to push for action at the U.N. level. "We are concerned that the international community remains silent," they wrote, "when children are dying." Rodríguez, for one, expects the silence to continue. Uganda has little to attract the interest of a powerful mediator. "If there were a wealth of minerals here," he says, "I think this would have been dealt with long ago."]

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