Monday, January 5, 2009

Uganda on UN Security Council

Uganda begins a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council this year, and it signals perhaps a new emphasis on African issues for the UN and the world at large.

Uganda’s new position will give it a stronger voice than ever on African affairs as the UN’s leadership councils faced increasingly complex East African issues: Somalia, Darfur, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as Uganda's lingering problems with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

Uganda's presence on the council may prompt more active involvement of the UN in the on-going hunt for the LRA's leader, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium, Joseph Kony.

To date, however, the UN has only served a support role in this military action, which began Dec. 14 with a Ugandan air force strike on Kony's camps in and around the DRC's Garamba National Park.

Kony's scattered forces, thought to be moving to an even more remote and lawless region of the Central African Republic, responded to the attack by killing more than 400 civilians in the region.

Although the hunt for Kony includes Congolese and South Sudanese forces, the fact that the LRA escaped with unknown casualties and can still commit grievous atrocities, shows that these forces need help.

According the East African newspaper, the Uganda's UN ambassador, Francis Butagira, made it clear that Uganda supports international intervention in Somalia, where it has already stationed troops, but curiously wants the UN to leave Zimbabwe alone.

One can speculate here that President Yoweri Museveni, who in 2005 forced the Ugandan parliament to change the constitution, allowing him to be president for life, has his own interests at heart.

If the world steps in to remove Robert Mugabe from control of Zimbabwe, it might set a precedent that Museveni fears. After all, his election in 2006 to a third term was not by a huge margin.

And, it is well known that Museveni maintains a firm grasp on Uganda, which also explains why he discounts any talk of "power-sharing" in African countries, even though this would be a good solution for Zimbabwe, fearing that such will be proposed for Uganda.

The issue of Zimbabwe does not have an international security dimension and thus “does not warrant intervention by the Security Council,” Butagira told UN radio.

Butagira also indicated he supported a delay in International Criminal Court’s pending charges of genocide against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, but added that this should not be viewed as “a blanket endorsement” of Sudan’s policies.

This of course begs the question: how do you solve the on-going genocide in Darfur if you don't pressure the Sudan leadership?

Uganda is not fond of clear answers or firm, decisive action. Regardless, it should be interesting to see how Uganda plays its new role in the UN.

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