2003 07 15
Followup on Yesterday

For anyone who doubted the utter idiocy of Bush’s recent remarks in Uganda, the following will either clear the matter up or confirm their own idiocy. By the way, the point here isn’t that Bush was mallicious or anything like that. The point is that if you’re going to be an idiot, the least you can do is get someone smart to write your speeches.

Uganda: Sharp Decline in Human Rights

(Kampala, July 15, 2003) – Abductions, torture, recruitment
of child soldiers, and other abuses have sharply increased
in the past year in northern Uganda due to renewed fighting
between Ugandan government forces and rebels, a coalition of
national and international organizations said in a report
released today.

The 73-page report, “Abducted and Abused: Renewed War in
Northern Uganda,” details how a slew of human rights abuses
have resulted in a humanitarian crisis. Since June 2002, the
rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has abducted nearly 8,400
children and thousands more adults, a sharp rise from 2001.
The LRA has also escalated the seventeen-year war against
northern Uganda’s civilians by targeting religious leaders,
aid providers, and those living in internally displaced
persons (IDP) camps.

“Child abduction, murder, and mutilation are the signatures
of the LRA in this war,” said Lloyd Axworthy, former
Canadian minister for external affairs. “This is a war that
has been fought primarily against the children and people of
northern Uganda.” Axworthy is CEO and executive director of
the Liu Institute for Global Issues in Vancouver, which
issued the report together with the Peace and Human Rights
Center in Kampala, Human Rights Focus in Gulu, and Human
Rights Watch in New York, of which Axworthy is a board

The seventeen-year conflict between the LRA and the Ugandan
government intensified in March 2002, when the government
army, the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), launched a
military offensive, “Operation Iron Fist,” against LRA bases
in southern Sudan. The offensive failed to accomplish its
aim of destroying the LRA, which evaded the UPDF and in June
2002 returned to northern Uganda. The renewed conflict is
taking its highest toll ever:

– Since June 2002, the LRA abducted 8,400 children, the
highest rate of abductions ever in seventeen years of war.
– Fear of LRA abduction has driven approximately 20,000
children to escape nightly into Gulu and other towns. These
children sleep on verandas, on church grounds and at local
hospitals, returning home each morning, becoming locally
known as “night commuters.”
– An estimated 800,000 northern Ugandans are internally
displaced due to LRA attacks and government orders-
approximately 70 percent of the entire population of the
three war-affected districts in northern Uganda.
– Respective Mortality Rate (for three months in 2003)
for children under five in two IDP camps near Gulu was
5.67/1,000, where 4/1,000 is considered an emergency. This
rate was the highest recorded in five years, yet it was not
caused by any outbreak of disease, leading the agency
conducting the survey to raise the possibility that the
children had simply “died of hunger.”
– Although overall HIV prevalence in Uganda has
reportedly declined substantially in recent years, there is
lingering high prevalence in the north: Gulu reportedly has
the second highest rate of HIV prevalence after Kampala,
attributed among other things to the higher rate of HIV
among combatants. Among expectant mothers tested at one of
two hospitals in Gulu, the rates of HIV prevalence were 11-
12 percent, where 5 percent is the national rate.

The report draws on interviews with recently abducted
children who escaped from the LRA. It gives voice to
internally displaced persons living in the IDP camps that
have been attacked by the LRA, and the aid workers
attempting to reach these victims despite frequent LRA
ambushes on relief convoys.

While the Ugandan government is obligated to intervene to
stop these violations, its own forces have committed gross
abuses, including torture, rape, underage recruitment, and
arbitrary detention. The government has also increased the
suffering of northern Uganda’s population through the forced
displacement of civilians into IDP camps, which have little
or no protection. But UPDF soldiers and other government
forces accused by civilians of serious crimes such as
murder, torture, or rape often escape trial or sanction,
creating the public perception of impunity.

“Not only has the Ugandan government failed to protect its
citizens adequately,” said Samuel B. Tindifa, director of
the Human Rights and Peace Centre. “They have also actively
violated their rights, detained them for long periods
without showing cause, and recruited children into the army
and home guards.”

The UPDF in northern Uganda arrests civilians on suspicion
of rebel collaboration with little or no evidence, often
holding them for rough interrogation or torture before
turning them over to the police for prosecution. The
prosecutors then charge the suspects with treason or
terrorism, which allows the government to hold them for up
to 360 days without bail and without having to present any

“The United Nations and members of the international
community need to take a more active role to end this
desperate state of affairs in northern Uganda,” said Jemera
Rone, counsel for the Africa division of Human Rights Watch.
“The government and LRA peace talks have ended and the war
is continuing at a heightened pace, with worse impact than
ever on the entire population of Acholiland.”

The organizations urged the U.N. Secretary-General to
appoint a special representative for northern Uganda to
secure the release of abducted children by conducting
“shuttle diplomacy” between the LRA and the Ugandan
government. They also called upon the Sudanese government to
end its support of the LRA and upon donor countries to
monitor military assistance to Uganda to ensure that the
government observes human rights standards.

The four organizations called on the LRA to end its attacks
on civilians, to stop abducting children and adults, and to
release the abductees. The organizations also urged the
government of Uganda to:
– End impunity for human rights violations by government
security and armed forces;
– Review all cases of treason and terrorism suspects to
ensure that sufficient evidence exists to justify detention;
– Cease using treason or terrorism charges as a holding
charge for those arbitrarily detained in areas in which
rebels are active;
– Take effective measures to protect civilians; and
– Permit those living in internally displaced persons
camps to move wherever they wish, except for extreme
circumstances of insecurity.

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2003 07 14
An extraordinary omission

Here’s the final graf in a recent WaPo piece on Bush in Uganda:

[Bush] also praised President Yoweri Museveni for using his “prestige and . . . position to help solve [regional] disputes.” His choice of words surprised human rights leaders and Ugandan journalists who were hoping that Bush would use tough language about Uganda’s involvement in the five-year civil war in neighboring Congo. The president made no mention of the political crisis brewing in Uganda as Museveni moves to change the constitution and clear way for a possible third term

This is absurd. Uganda has done an extraordinary amount of damage in The DRC. Everyone’s talking these days about who vetted Bush’s State of the Union speech. I think someone oughta ask Ari who vetted this speech (by the way, Condi Rice accompanied Bush on the trip). Find this person, and then fire her (or him, if it’s not Rice).

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