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The Myth of U.S. Engagement In Uganda

Disengagement isn’t just the Bush administration’s strategy for the Arab-Israeli conflict. At a recent press roundtable following her visit to Northern Uganda, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer claimed that the U.S. is indeed committed to peace in Northern Uganda:

Question: Ambassador Frazer, you said in London that the Bush Administration was going to insure that the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] rebellion ends by the end of the year. How do you think that is going to happen?

Frazer: What I was saying is that is our goal — that seems to be a good time frame in which we can focus our actions and that of other international partners and countries to try to end what are clearly the atrocities of the war.

Frazer further enumerated the importance of resolving a conflict that has displaced 1.5 million, abducted 38,000 children, and whose rates of violent death are three times higher than those reported in Iraq following the 2003 invasion:

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I think that in terms of assisting the government of Uganda — President Bush has been trying to do that since 2001. I was sent here by Secretary Rice to look into the conditions in northern Uganda, so that I could come back with additional recommendations on how the president and she can assist in bringing this war to an end.

However, the State Department’s Uganda Desk Officer Barbara Yoder has confirmed that the US has no presence at potentially ground-breaking peace talks in Juba between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda. When asked who is representing the US, the officer replied:

We’re not involved. We’re watching it but we are not involved in that, in the talks themselves. That’s between the LRA and the [Government of Uganda].

Yoder offered thoughts on the peace talks suggesting her level of knowledge was less than stellar:

We’re watching everything with this, but it’s a daily changing thing, so there are a number of elements that are going into this. There is UN action and other things where we are setting the development of things. The Government of Uganda as a sovereign nation is basically taking the lead on this and we support their right to try to solve the problem. That’s really been one of our talking points for a while. It’s to the governments in the region to try and solve this problem. It’s very fluid”¦that conflict is a day-to-day thing. We have not come out on any strong position on anything other than let the process unfold and we’re watching it.

The only thing clear is that neither the President nor his administration is serious about fulfilling their pledges to help Uganda end its twenty-year war.

— Caroline Andresen and Chrissie Coxon