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Bush, UN prosecuted in mock Ugand-CAN trial

Ryan Sydlik | Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Members of the Uganda Conflict Action Network urged students to work to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda as part of the Uganda-CAN mock trial Tuesday.

The event, sponsored by the Africa Faith and Justice Network and the Center for Social Concerns, placed Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, U.S. President George W. Bush, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Notre Dame community on trial for failing to take responsibility for the people of northern Uganda, and found them guilty of abandoning their duties to help northern Uganda.

“Today we gather here to call our leaders to accountability,” senior Peter Quaranto said.

He called the civil war in Uganda and its resulting secondary effects the world’s worst unacknowledged humanitarian crisis.

“More than 30,000 children have been abducted by this war and 1.7 million have been displaced,” he said.

The 1,000 deaths occurring weekly in northern Uganda make it one of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

The first defendant was Ugandan President Museveni whose case was read by junior Stephen Murray. Museveni failed to deal with the realities of the conflict and ignored dealing with the ongoing violence, the prosecution argued.

“Nearly two million people live in internal displacement camps which are cesspools of disease and violence,” Murray said.

Murray then said that 41 percent of those who perish are under five years of age and that the death rate from the conflict is three times higher than the death rate in Iraq.

Murray accused Museveni of banning relief agencies not associated with the government from doing work and of withdrawing military escorts to humanitarian aid workers for their protection against the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Murray also addressed the fact that Museveni has attacked the institution of democracy in his country.

“He had his primary opponent arrested on bogus charges of treason. And as the world stands by, Museveni is allowing democracy to slip by,” he said.

“Museveni is failing to uphold the most important role of his office, ignoring the protection of the Ugandan people,” Murray said.

“I urge you to find President Museveni guilty,” he said.

The case against UN secretary General Kofi Annan was presented by sophomore Shannon Reabe.

“The Conflict in northern Uganda represents a categorical failure of the UN’s mission. The UN has deliberately avoided taking responsibility resulting in continuing unrest,” she said.

Reabe then said that the UN has never passed a resolution to address Uganda’s 20-year war and that Annan never declared northern Uganda a humanitarian crisis zone.

“We must find him guilty of wanton neglect and unresponsiveness. It is only by realizing shared culpability of the world body, we can address the crisis,” she said.

Junior Nicole Steele read the case against President Bush.

“President Bush has abdicated his responsibility as a world leader,” she said.

“He has never pushed for a UN Security Council revolution and he has never made it a priority,” she said.

Steele said that Bush has not condemned Museveni for his gross mismanagement of the crisis and has instead largely endorsed Museveni’s policies.

“President Bush has shown ignorance on the subject, referring to the Lord’s Resistance Army as the Lord’s group,” she said. “We cannot allow complacency and complicity to deny people the aid that they so desperately need. … It our responsibility to urge President Bush to take responsibility for the crisis in northern Uganda.”

Finally, Quaranto addressed the responsibility of the Notre Dame campus in failing to do all that it can.

“We thought about President Museveni, Kofi Annan and President Bush. But then we said, you know, we cannot excuse ourselves, ways that we haven’t taken responsibility as an ND family and as individuals,” he said.

Quaranto cited Notre Dame’s Catholic mission as set forth by the University.

“Have we lived up to this mission of solidarity and justice, particularly regarding our solidarity with brothers and sisters in northern Uganda?” he said.

Notre Dame is one of the most active campuses in the world for northern Uganda, Quaranto said, and many of the key actors involved in the peace process have visited in the last year. He said that Notre Dame should be proud of what it has done.

“Yet we have to admit that we have failed to do more,” he said.

“Our administration, our leaders and ourselves have failed to stand in solidarity with the people of northern Uganda,” he said.

Quaranto suggested that making phone calls and writing letters to those in the U.S. government is one way to make a difference. He also mentioned reading the 10 things you can help the people of northern Uganda, which is posted at http://www.ugandacan.org/. He also encouraged students to pray and fast for Uganda.

Quaranto ended the event saying that students must do what they can to end the conflict.

“Take the responsibility to protect life wherever it might be under threat,” he said. “Take the steps to make 2006 the historical year as the last for the crisis in northern Uganda.”