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Uganda & Sudan in the news

Here’s an update on significant news surrounding the crises in Darfur and northern Uganda. Regarding Uganda, a March 17 Reuters press release reports:

The U.N., donors and the government have failed 1.6 million people uprooted by two decades of civil war in northern Uganda, but a new initiative provides a glimmer of hope, a U.N. aid official said on Friday.

Dennis McNamara, the United Nations special adviser on internal displacement, said some members of the Security Council remained reluctant to put the conflict on its agenda. But he said meetings next week among the U.N., Uganda and donors would aim to forge a plan to end the suffering.

"There is a very intense international effort, which has not happened before," McNamara told reporters in Kampala. He gave no further details.

Northern Uganda's people live in scores of squalid camps, sheltering from fighting between government troops and rebels from the cult-like Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) -- notorious for kidnapping at least 25,000 children.

"They are over-crowded, unacceptable slums where people do not get services and they are unprotected," McNamara said.

Living conditions are worsened because "the government is not protecting them properly... They are violated and abused with impunity by many sides, not just the LRA."

Aid workers say the north ranks among the world's most neglected humanitarian disasters. Death rates are higher than they were a year ago, the U.N. says, and twice as high as those in neighbouring Sudan's conflict-ridden Darfur region.

As mentioned before on this blog, you can help raise awareness about this issue (which will prompt action) by helping to request a Senate hearing on the Uganda crisis.

Darfur was in the news quite a bit towards the end of the week. Nancy Pelosi’s call for a U.S. special envoy came on Thursday, covered most recently in the Washington Times:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday said the warring in the Darfur region of Sudan demands immediate attention, a day after privately urging President Bush to appoint a special envoy to help end what the White House calls a genocide.

"President Bush and I don't agree ... well we disagree on almost everything, but on this we do, and he has told us 'not on his watch' and I believe him," Mrs. Pelosi said after a speech to the Center for National Policy.

Mrs. Pelosi and congressional Democrats, who last month visited Darfur, told Mr. Bush in a meeting Thursday that an envoy would signal that peace in Sudan is important to the U.S.

"To do this we must stop the violence, bring the parties to the negotiating table and get humanitarian relief to the people who need it," the California Democrat said in her address.

The war between rebels and government forces and Arab militias has killed an estimated 180,000 people and displaced 2 million more.

Coalition for Darfur carries more excerpts from her speech:

We have seen variations of this 'problem from hell' before. Most recently in Rwanda - and we promised, 'never again.'

The situation in Darfur is a humanitarian disaster that challenges the conscience of the world. It is the systematic destruction of a people - it is genocide.

While we were in Sudan, back at home President Bush reaffirmed that this is indeed 'genocide.' Yesterday, members of our delegation met with the President at the White House to thank him for his leadership and report on our trip. During that meeting, we strongly endorsed the appointment of a U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan. This Special Envoy would signal that bringing peace and stability to Sudan is a priority for the United States.

To do this, we must: stop the violence, bring the parties to the negotiating table, and get humanitarian relief to the people who need it.

We need to keep up on what's going on in that part of the world. God hates injustice and calls us to do something about it. We must pray fervently for God to intercede, and we must also raise our own and others' awareness, advocate for action and support organizations who are helping the over two million displaced people in the area. Check out Coalition for Darfur or Invisible Children or any of the following organizations: Doctors Without Borders, World Vision, Far Reaching Ministries, or Mennonite Central Committee. Also, you can locate your congressman here, and write a letter (see World Vision's Uganda advocacy section for a sample).

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