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Bad Moon Rising Over Northern Uganda

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Just a few weeks ago, a peace deal between the brutal Lords Resistance Army and the government of Uganda was as close as ever to being sealed. The peace process failed, though, when LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to attend the signing ceremony. Now, according to the invaluable Institute for War and Peace Reporting, the Lords Resistance Army is once again gearing up for another fight.

IWPR reports that over the last few weeks, the Lord’s Resistance Army has kidnapped hundreds of children in the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan and transported them to military training facilities in lawless eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The LRA, is it seems, is once again committed to war, not peace. To make matters worse, the article suggests (and I’ve heard experts speculate as well) that the government of Sudan is backing the LRA in an effort to destabilize Southern Sudan, which holds a referendum on independence in 2009.

In an interview with The East African Enough analyst Julia Spiegel — who just spent a month observing the peace talks in the small border town of Ri-Kwangba — explains what can be done to reign in Kony. The interview is not available online, but a portion is extracted after the jump. What do you think should be done to Kony in order to salvage the talks?

First, a concerted effort must be made by the Ugandan government and key international players to press Kony to make a choice about his future. He can either sign the peace deal and begin assembling his LRA forces in Ri-Kwangba; agree to a third country asylum arrangement representing exile or banishment
from northern Uganda as a consequence for his crimes, thus removing himself from the battlefield and giving peace a real chance; or walk away from the agreement and formalize his status as a regional warlord, which will trigger a regional manhunt that will leave him on the run for the rest of his life.

But ultimately, he must feel a cost for his failure to meet deadlines and uphold agreements; he has continually rejected carrots and has faced no real sticks. As a result, Kony has been able to gain time, money and medicine out of these peace efforts without making any real commitments or deliverables. Now Kony must be forced to make a choice. But this requires an effective communication channel to be made between the government, the international community and Kony himself. If he rejects these negotiation attempts in the next few months, then it will be clear that all peaceful options for resolving this conflict will have been exhausted, and thus the international community should, with regional states and UN peacekeeping missions in neighboring countries, rapidly develop a containment and apprehension strategy focused on capturing Kony and the other LRA leader’s indicted by the International Criminal Court.

(Image viaDismal World)

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Judged by the Company We Keep?

We all know that the U.S. is by far the largest debtor to the United Nations. In fact, the U.S. represents 94% of all debt to the U.N. regular budget. This means that 6% of the debt to the UN regular budget comes from other countries.

Often people will respond by saying, “Of course the U.S. has the largest debt, since they are the largest contributors.” This is certainly a valid point. The U.S. is expected to pay 22% of the UN’s regular budget–more than anyone else in the world. Obviously then, if we miss any payment at all, it will represent a large percentage of the debt. The question then, is this:

How does the U.S. proportion of the debt stack up to others when compared to the amount they are expected to pay?

I crunched these numbers, and I found out something interesting. There are two countries that stand out when you compare their percentage of the debt and their expected payment: the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Both of these countries have a percentage of the total debt to the UN regular budget that is 426% of what they are expected to pay annually. For comparison, Japan’s debt stands at just over 5% of what they are expected to pay each year.

This statistic says a lot about comparative attitudes toward the UN and engagement with the rest of the world. If this is the preferred measure of those who would withhold funding from the UN, it should give them pause to realize the company they keep by doing so.

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Judged by the Company We Keep?

We all know that the U.S. is by far the largest debtor to the United Nations. In fact, the U.S. represents 94% of all debt to the U.N. regular budget. This means that 6% of the debt to the UN regular budget comes from other countries.

Often people will respond by saying, “Of course the U.S. has the largest debt, since they are the largest contributors.” This is certainly a valid point. The U.S. is expected to pay 22% of the UN’s regular budget–more than anyone else in the world. Obviously then, if we miss any payment at all, it will represent a large percentage of the debt. The question then, is this:

How does the U.S. proportion of the debt stack up to others when compared to the amount they are expected to pay?

I crunched these numbers, and I found out something interesting. There are two countries that stand out when you compare their percentage of the debt and their expected payment: the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Both of these countries have a percentage of the total debt to the UN regular budget that is 426% of what they are expected to pay annually. For comparison, Japan’s debt stands at just over 5% of what they are expected to pay each year.

This statistic says a lot about comparative attitudes toward the UN and engagement with the rest of the world. If this is the preferred measure of those who would withhold funding from the UN, it should give them pause to realize the company they keep by doing so.

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Thursday Morning Coffee

Top Stories

>>North Korea – Seven months after a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria was destroyed by Israel, the U.S. government has said that it will make public video evidence of North Koreans working on the reactor. Analysts say that the reactor was molded on the one that North Korea used to obtain fuel for its nuclear weapons. Some question the timing of the release; A senior administration official said, to the New York Times, “Making public the pictures is likely to inflame the North Koreans. And that’s just what opponents of this whole arrangement want, because they think the North Koreans will stalk off.”

>>United States – General David Petraeus and Lt. General Raymond Odierno, two commanders most closely associated with President Bush’s strategy in Iraq, have been promoted. Petraeus will become commander of CentCom, covering East Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East; Odierno, formerly Petraeus’s deputy, will take his spot as the senior commander in Iraq. Petraeus’ promotion could jumpstart a renewed focus on Afghanistan, which he has said could stand some more American troops.

>>Pakistan – Bailtullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander said to have ordered the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, has ordered his followers to cease attacks. Mehsud operates mainly in the Southern Waziristan area of Pakistan. On Monday night, Pakistan’s government set free Maulana Sufi Mohammad, the founder of an outlawed Islamist group that has fought in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mehsud’s spokesman said in an interview that his release was part of a new peace deal.

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Thursday Morning Coffee

Top Stories

>>North Korea – Seven months after a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria was destroyed by Israel, the U.S. government has said that it will make public video evidence of North Koreans working on the reactor. Analysts say that the reactor was molded on the one that North Korea used to obtain fuel for its nuclear weapons. Some question the timing of the release; A senior administration official said, to the New York Times, “Making public the pictures is likely to inflame the North Koreans. And that’s just what opponents of this whole arrangement want, because they think the North Koreans will stalk off.”

>>United States – General David Petraeus and Lt. General Raymond Odierno, two commanders most closely associated with President Bush’s strategy in Iraq, have been promoted. Petraeus will become commander of CentCom, covering East Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East; Odierno, formerly Petraeus’s deputy, will take his spot as the senior commander in Iraq. Petraeus’ promotion could jumpstart a renewed focus on Afghanistan, which he has said could stand some more American troops.

>>Pakistan – Bailtullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander said to have ordered the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, has ordered his followers to cease attacks. Mehsud operates mainly in the Southern Waziristan area of Pakistan. On Monday night, Pakistan’s government set free Maulana Sufi Mohammad, the founder of an outlawed Islamist group that has fought in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mehsud’s spokesman said in an interview that his release was part of a new peace deal.

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Not Good for Anyone

The head of the United Nations relief agency in Gaza warned that food aid to 650,000 people and sewage and garbage collection will have to be suspended today if the Israeli fuel blockade is not lifted. A Libyan diplomat in the Security Council did not help matters when he compared Gaza to a Nazi death camp, prompting the walkout of the entire western contingent. In typical diplomatic understatement, a British official said afterwards, “A number of Council members were dismayed by the approach taken by Libya and do not believe that such language helps advance the peace process.”

Meanwhile, prior to the walkout, Assistant Secretary General Angela Kane had this to say to the Security Council. From the BBC

“[The UN relief agency] Unrwa’s fuel supplies will be exhausted on 24 April, and in an effort to save fuel, Unrwa has prioritised food distribution, solid waste removal, and sewage projects…

“Unless petrol is allowed in, Unrwa will discontinue its food assistance to 650,000 refugees, as well as its garbage collection services, which benefit half a million Gazans,”

“Another 500,000 Gazans are already living in 12 municipalities without any solid waste management capacity – largely due to the lack of fuel.”

Hospitals and clinics will also run out of fuel within a week, she warned.

Public transport has been severely curtailed by the shortage of vehicle fuel, meaning that children cannot get to school and adults to work. Some car owners have converted their engines to run on cooking oil.

The fuel restrictions are an Israeli response to a Hamas attack on a fuel depot, which killed two Israeli soldiers.

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