Monday, May 28, 2001

KAMPALA, Uganda — U.S. officials yesterday welcomed a promise by President Yoweri Museveni to remove most of Ugandas forces from neighboring Congo, a major step toward resolution of what has been called Africas first world war.
Mr. Museveni, Secretary of State Colin Powells host on the fourth stop of an African tour, promised earlier to begin withdrawing the bulk of his countrys 8,000 troops from “the whole of northwestern Congo” in the next three weeks, helping to clear the way for the deployment of a U.N.-approved peacekeeping force.
“We obviously welcome any withdrawal,” said an official traveling with Mr. Powell, who added the United States hopes Mr. Museveni will also pull out some 1,500 troops who are scheduled to remain at three sites in Congo near the Uganda border.
Both Uganda and Rwanda have sent troops into Congo in support of rebels seeking the overthrow of the government based in Kinshasa. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia have sent forces in support of the government, threatening to turn the civil war into a continent-wide conflict.
Mr. Powell also promised 40,000 tons of food aid to help head off a famine in Sudan and dispatched a top aide to conduct talks in Nairobi, Kenya, with officials on both sides of the long-running civil war tearing at Sudan, another of Ugandas neighbors.
He praised Uganda for its success in fighting AIDS and promised $50 million to help that country fight what he called the most deadly scourge facing the earth.
“Even though theres a crisis in the Middle East, even though people are dying in conflicts around the world, there is no war causing more death and destruction on the face of the earth right now … than the war we see in sub-Saharan Africa against HIV/AIDS,” Mr. Powell said.
The secretary of state and his wife, Alma, had just heard a weeping, HIV-positive woman tell of the slow, horrible deaths of her husband and small boy to AIDS.
The food aid for Sudan will go to the north of the country, power base of the Islamist government that is considered by the State Department to be an important sponsor of terrorism. Despite obstruction from the government, limited food assistance has long been reaching the south, base of mainly Christian and animist black rebels who have been at war with the north for 17 years.
A new political initiative will accompany the famine relief. Mr. Powell said the new administrator of the Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios, would travel to Nairobi today to meet with Sudan Peoples Liberation Army chief John Garang and with the Sudanese governments ambassador to Kenya.
“I hope that as we move forward we can find a way to bring a cease-fire into effect and then move toward peaceful reconciliation of this long-standing conflict, which has caused so much distress in the region,” Mr. Powell said in signaling a new U.S. effort to end the intractable war.
Mr. Powell said he would watch closely to see whether the Khartoum government carries out a pledge made last week to stop bombing the south. But as he has done throughout his five-day tour through four African states, Mr. Powell focused on AIDS, which has infected more than 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.
“I knew a lot of academic words such as pandemic and crisis, but until you see how it destroys a family and see a little girl who has the disease” it doesnt hit home, Mr. Powell said yesterday at an AIDS center in Kampalas Mulago neighborhood.
“I hope in some small way to be able to convey to President Bush the passion of what I have seen.”
Agnes Nyamayarwe, 49, wept as she told Mr. Powell and his wife of her grief when she and her husband learned they both were infected with HIV.
“We had to watch [my husband] die because we could not afford the drugs” she said, as the Powells watched spellbound.
In 1993, one of Mrs. Nyamayarwes sons ran away over his shame at the familys illness. “I have never seen him again,” said the woman, weeping. Her youngest son later died of AIDS at age 6.
“It was difficult to see the young boy dying. Instead of giving my child life, I gave him HIV. I live with this guilt.”
Mr. Powell, his wife and U.S. aid and political officials then held hands with Mrs. Nyamayarwe and other HIV-positive people as they sang, “Together we stand and fight until we reach the end.”
Mr. Powell announced $50 million in aid over five years to help Ugandans fight AIDS and care for some of the 1.7 million orphans in Uganda.
He credited Mr. Museveni for cutting Ugandas HIV/AIDS infection rate in half since 1992 by openly telling his people they needed to change their sexual behavior, and called on other African heads to state to follow his example.
Other leaders have been reluctant to confront the epidemic, however. Last week inSouthAfrica,which now has the worlds highest caseload of HIV/AIDS patients, the issue was not discussed in any detail during a meeting withPresident Thabo Mbeki.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide