(At the request of Mr. Reid, the following statement was ordered to be printed in the Record.) -- (Senate - October 30, 2007)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, today President Bush is scheduled to meet with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. These heads of state have met before, but today's meeting comes at a pivotal time in Uganda's history.
After more than 20 years of conflict in northern Uganda in which well over a million people have been displaced and tens of thousands of children abducted and terrorized, peace appears to be within reach. Talks between the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army, LRA, have led to genuine improvements on the ground. However, there is still much more work to be done to ensure a lasting peace. The United States must become a more active peace partner with Uganda as it negotiates with the Lord's Resistance Army.
The constructive mediation efforts of U.N. Special Envoy and former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano deserve sustained, high-level U.S. diplomatic support. Two issues will be particularly difficult. First, Ugandans themselves will have to balance the imperative to make peace with the clear need to hold accountable those responsible for the horrifying abuses of the past. Second, leaders need to keep a spotlight on the vast development needs of the traumatized north. Paper plans and grand announcements will not be enough--the Government of Uganda must be committed to the north's development, and the donor community, including the United States, must be prepared to offer real resources to help.
Sadly, as negotiations to end the threat posed by the LRA continue, a different source of instability--- that of lawless militias in Karamoja, and the Ugandan military's often counter-productive, abusive response to them has prevented a more complete consolidation of security in the country. The Ugandan people can never achieve their full potential when they feel targeted by both their own military and marauding criminals.
This visit to the White House follows by days a meeting between President Bush and President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I hope President Bush uses both meetings to reassert U.S. support for regional dialogue and stabilization efforts. Uganda has an important part to play in ongoing efforts to bring lasting stability to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly through participation in the Tripartite Plus mechanism. The U.S. should continue to foster dialogue through that process.
Uganda is a major contributor to the African Union's peacekeeping efforts in Somalia. But the undermanned AU peacekeeping contingent cannot succeed in the absence of a broader political and economic strategy to stabilize Somalia. Right now, the Ugandan peacekeepers are in the hot seat, and the rest of the world is failing to advance the peace process and deliver the support that they need. The United States has a responsibility to lead effectively on this issue. I hope that the two Presidents have a frank discussion about what needs to be done to advance peace in Somalia.
Of course, Uganda is deservedly admired around the world for its early efforts to speak frankly and act effectively to fight HIV/AIDS, and I have no doubt that the ongoing fight against the pandemic as well as global efforts to combat malaria will be on the agenda for President Museveni's meeting. Recent reports have found that a disturbingly high percentage of Uganda's young people do not have accurate information about AIDS and about how to protect themselves. Because of its renown, Uganda has a special leadership role to play in this struggle. Frank talk is needed today more than ever.
Finally, I hope that President Bush will convey to President Museveni the sincere sympathies of the people of the United States for those affected by the recent severe floods in Uganda. As Americans cope with the terrible wildfires in California, we are all especially sensitive to the devastating human consequences of natural disasters wherever they occur.
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