Cablegate: Uganda: Roundup On Staffdel Smith and Kuiken Visit

Published: Tue 17 Jul 2007 05:26 AM
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1. (SBU) Summary: Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate
Armed Services Committee Professional staff members Shannon Smith
and Michael Kuiken visited Uganda from July 4-7, 2007 to gain
further understanding on both bilateral and military relations. The
team examined the ongoing peace process in northern Uganda, health
and development issues, the President's Emergency Plans for AIDS
Relief (PEPFAR), counterterrorism and special operations efforts,
and the establishment of Africa Command (AFRICOM). The staff
delegation visited USAID and PEPFAR programs in Kampala and Gulu.
They met with the civil-military affairs team in Gulu and held
consultations with several key NGO and UN partners as well as with
Ugandan Government officials. End Summary.
The Juba Peace Process
2. (SBU) On July 4, the staff delegation was briefed by Henry
Okello Oryem, Minister of State for International Affairs and Deputy
Lead Negotiator for the Government of Uganda (GOU), on recent
developments in the Juba Peace Talks. He outlined the events
leading to the signing of the third agenda item on the principles
and mechanisms of accountability. Oryem noted the current recess in
talks will be used to consult with religious leaders in the North
and legal representatives in Kampala to flesh out an alternative
justice mechanism acceptable to Ugandans and the international
community. He recognized the key role the U.S. plays in northern
Uganda and behind-the-scenes on the Juba talks. However, Oryem
stressed that sending a special U.S. envoy to the talks would
disrupt the peace process and invite unwanted propaganda and
accusations from the Khartoum government. Oryem expressed the GOU's
fear that increased U.S. involvement would prompt Khartoum to step
up its assistance to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which could
scuttle progress made to date.
3. (SBU) The staff delegation raised the peace process during
meetings in Gulu with several Northern religious and political
leaders. The Juba Peace Process, transitional justice, and
prospects for internally displaced persons (IDP) returns dominated
conversations. Kitara McMat, the Deputy District Chairman for Gulu
highlighted improved regional security and increasing number of IDP
returns but cautioned that some IDPs would not go home until the LRA
leadership accepted peace. To promote peace, religious and political
leaders advocated for alternative justice mechanisms, such as Mato
Oput, in the final peace agreement. Although such mechanisms have
never been used before for crimes of this magnitude, the community
leaders argued that "Western" justice would be insufficient to
compensate the hundreds of thousands of victims and to promote
sustainable peace.
4. (SBU) Northern religious and political leaders were especially
ardent in their arguments for a more visible U.S. presence in the
North, including the appointment of a US special envoy to Juba.
Resident District Commissioner Colonel Walter Ochora argued that
while the talks have made significant progress, neither Government
of Southern Sudan (GOSS) mediator Riek Machar nor UN envoy Joaquim
Chissano had control over the LRA to prevent the talks from
collapsing as they have in past iterations. According to Ochora, a
U.S. envoy to Juba would boost the confidence of the northern Uganda
population and provide an authoritative voice to keep both parties
committed to the talks.
IDP Returns
5. (SBU) The staff delegation met with village representatives at
Monroc IDP decongestion site outside of Gulu, home to approximately
4,672 displaced persons who resettled to Monroc from larger camps.
The IDPs expressed frustration over the lack of government
assurances of safety and services, fears of unexploded ordinances or
land mines, and an inability to cultivate enough food in the camp
due to insufficient seeds and tools. The camp leader speculated that
within a year, most of the residents at Monroc would be able to
cultivate enough food to start returning all the way home.
Following the camp visit, the staff delegation witnessed a World
Food Program (WFP) food distribution in Keyo for approximately 5,000
6. (SBU) In Kampala, the staff delegation had the opportunity to
consult with several UN and NGO partners to discuss the challenges
in transitioning from relief to development in the LRA-affected
areas of northern Uganda. According to UN OCHA representative Tim
Pitt, far fewer people have returned home than previously believed,
spreading humanitarian agencies thinly across the original camps and
close to 380 resettlement sites. The lack of government services in
many of the resettlement sites is leading to higher malnutrition
rates and necessitating both emergency relief and recovery in some
areas. The partners bemoaned the lack of a clear government policy
on returns and hoped that the Government's Peace, Recovery, and
Development Plan, currently in draft form and expected to dedicate
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$350 million to northern Uganda over the next three years, would
bolster local government.
7. (SBU) The delegation visited two PEPFAR-supported comprehensive
HIV/AIDS care and treatment facilities, Reach Out Mbuya in Kampala
and The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) in Gulu, where they
witnessed testimonies from clients and accompanied staff on a
Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) home visit. Reach Out Mbuya cares for
more than 2,500 HIV positive clients and families and provides ART
to over 1,500 clients. The program is supported by a network of
community volunteers, 70 percent of whom are also HIV-infected. The
TASO center in Gulu is one of eleven branches throughout Uganda and
supports more than 7,350 clients. In 2004, TASO was allocated
initial PEPFAR funds to expand their care and counseling services to
include the provision of ART using their innovative strategy of
delivering home-based ART by motorcycle. With additional PEPFAR
funds in 2005, TASO was able to expand their home-based counseling
and testing for ART patients and families.
8. (SBU) On July 7, Representatives from the NGO community, Center
for Disease Control (CDC), PEPFAR, and USAID met with staff member
Smith to discuss health and HIV/AIDS issues for the upcoming PEPFAR
reauthorization bill. The group primarily discussed earmarks as a
limitation to prevention programs. Although some earmarks help
guide programming, for example the earmark for orphans and
vulnerable children (OVC), most inhibit the response to local
epidemics. The prevention earmarks focus on behavioral
interventions and make it difficult to include biomedical ones, such
as male circumcision and family planning for HIV positive people,
particularly HIV positive mothers in Prevention of Mother to Child
Transmission (PMTCT) programs; and do not provide the flexibility to
incorporate other evidence based biomedical interventions as they
become available. The discussion also highlighted other
difficulties in the health sector including recruitment and
retention of staff in rural and hard to reach areas despite many
unemployed recent nursing and medical graduates, the need for
nutritional supplementation, and challenges with supply chain
management of essential HIV/AIDS commodities.
Military Relations
9. (SBU) The staff delegation visited a Combined Joint Task Force -
Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) training facility in Kasenyi in order to
observe first-hand military to military relations and
counterterrorism training. The delegation witnessed a training
exercise in which Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF) soldiers
trained how to properly search a building occupied by terrorists.
10. (SBU) On July 7, Chief of Defense Forces Aronda Nyakairima,
Commander for Land Forces Lieutenant General Katumba Wamala, and
Chief of Military Intelligence Leopold Kyanda briefed the delegation
on military issues. Aronda remains uncertain whether the situation
in Mogadishu has improved since the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)
began. He argued against any "hybrid" AU-UN peacekeeping mission in
Somalia, explaining such a mission will only encourage the Union of
Islamic Courts to keep the security situation chaotic, judging the
UN as unlikely to get involved under such circumstances. He
stressed that Uganda and the UPDF stand ready to actively work with
the U.S. as partners against terrorism. Wamala indicated the UPDF
does not intend to rotate its next contingent into Mogadishu until
November or December 2007, instead of this August or September,
ostensibly because highly motivated UPDF troops "want" to remain.
Wamala also signaled that the force is to replace, not augment, the
current battle group. However, he indicated that a successful
conclusion of peace talks with the LRA would free up UPDF
commitments in northern Uganda and allow an expansion of Uganda's
AMISOM contingent, which Wamala signaled the UPDF was amenable to
doing. Finally, he identified improvised explosive devices (IEDs)
as the UPDF's biggest challenge in Mogadishu for the foreseeable
future and, therefore, regards force protection as a top priority.
11. (SBU) The Ugandan military officials stated the U.S. brokered
Tripartite plus process continues to help build confidence between
the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, and Rwanda. Kyanda
said the People's Redemption Army (PRA) remains an outstanding issue
between Rwanda and Uganda. Rwanda is demanding that Uganda produce
a PRA organizational chart before it will take action against
alleged PRA in Rwanda. Wamala stated that DRC has been more willing
to discuss the LRA presence in Garamba, but has yet to take concrete
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12. (SBU) The staff delegation covered a wide range of issues while
in Uganda. Smith was particularly interested in gaining post's
perspective on PEPFAR before the re-authorization bill is
considered. Both staff members gained a deeper appreciation for
conditions in northern Uganda, particularly that there have been
very few LRA activities in Uganda in over a year and that many of
the IDPs have already returned home and many more are on their way
home. At the conclusion of the trip neither raised the issue of a
special U.S. envoy for the LRA talks, perhaps mindful of Okello
Oryem's concerns that Khartoum would react negatively to increased
U.S. involvement and possibly jeopardize the talks. The staff
members were also impressed by the level of interaction and
involvement by the embassy officers in Kampala and Juba with the
parties and mediation team at the talks. It is clear to post that
the briefings provided by advocacy NGOs to the Hill are not giving
sufficient weight to positive developments in the north at the Juba
talks. We look forward to CODELS Lowey and Feingold next month and
hope to be able to provide them a more accurate picture of northern
Uganda and the positive role the U.S. is playing at Juba.
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