- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hopeful for Uganda

Foreign observers are hopeful that Uganda can achieve peace this year and end a brutal 18-year-old civil war that has displaced 1.6 million people and sparked an international war-crimes investigation.

However, the prospects for peace in the war-ravaged north of the East African nation require the United States to take a more active role in negotiations currently assisted by Britain, the Netherlands and Norway, according to a new report by the International Crisis Group.

“If the international community provides focused, meaningful support, then peace in northern Uganda is achievable in 2005,” said John Prendergast in the report, “Peace in Northern Uganda: Decisive Weeks Ahead.”

Without foreign help, the Ugandan government and the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army “will continue to pursue military solutions with devastating consequences for the people living there,” he said.

Mr. Prendergast praised the efforts of Ugandan government peace mediator Betty Bigombe, but said her efforts alone are not enough.

He called on President Bush to appoint a special envoy to support the peace process.

Although the government’s unilateral cease-fire expired yesterday, the progress achieved presents the “most significant prospect for peace in years,” Mr. Prendergast said.

He cited the peace deal in neighboring Sudan brokered by the African Union for relieving tension between the two countries, which also reduced Sudan’s support for the Ugandan rebels.

Uganda’s counterinsurgency efforts have “become more effective,” and the International Criminal Court’s war-crimes investigation is “putting pressure on both the [rebels] and the government,” Mr. Prendergast said.

He called on the rebels to demonstrate that they want a peaceful end to the war and to negotiate a cease-fire with the government.

Bangladesh progress

The United States is pledging help for Bangladesh’s anti-corruption campaign and recognizing efforts taken by the South Asian nation as a “good beginning,” a Bangladeshi diplomat said.

Golam Arshad, press minister at the Bangladeshi Embassy, said the Bush administration promised to open an FBI office in his country during a visit to Washington by Reaz Rahman, foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia. Mr. Rahman met last week with Christina Rocca, assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs.

The United States also pledged its help in hunting for the assassins of former Finance Minister Shah A.M.S. Kibria, who was killed in a grenade explosion Jan. 27.

“The United States said it was highly appreciative of Bangladesh’s peacekeeping efforts, and Bangladesh acknowledged the tremendous help of the United States in helping to promote democracy,” Mr. Arshad said.

Bangladesh proposal

The Bangladeshi economist who pioneered low-interest loans to make the poor into entrepreneurs has come up with a similar idea to help restore education for the children who survived the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Muhammad Yunus, who promoted the concept of microcredits in the 1970s, proposed his latest idea to Sen. Richard J. Durbin on a recent visit to Washington.

The Illinois Democrat told the Senate last week that Mr. Yunus wants to create a “tsunami scholars program” that would encourage every college and university in the world to sponsor two students from the countries hit by the Dec. 26 disaster, educate them and send them home to help rebuild their communities.

“It is so simple and so obvious,” said Mr. Durbin, who met Mr. Yunus on a trip to Bangladesh.

“The devastation of the tsunami took only a few minutes. It will take years to overcome. If we do the right things, we can rebuild those societies in the right way.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected].

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