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International court's intervention could block peace in
Uganda: film
by Jacqueline Swartz

TORONTO, May 9, 2006 (AFP) - Intervention by the International Criminal Court in The
Hague could complicate a peace process in Uganda and thwart local efforts to end the
conflict, according to a new documentary film.

  Acholi tribal elders of northern Uganda are concerned the court's October 2005
warrants for rebel leaders may disrupt their efforts to lure children away from a brutal
children's army and reintegrate them into society, it shows.

  "If this intervention is going to be at the cost of a possible resolution of the conflict,
then let justice wait. We want peace first," chief negotiator and former government
minister Betty Bigombe says in the film, "Uganda Rising".

  The documentary made its international debut at the Hot Docs festival last week in
Toronto. It depicts the life and death struggles of the northern Acholi people, caught
between the notoriously brutal Lord's Resistance Army and Ugandan government forces.

  The charges against LRA leader Joseph Kony, known for using children as target
practice for other children, are not disputed in the film.

  Kony and his deputy Vincent Otti are among five top LRA commanders believed to be
on the run in neighboring southern Sudan or the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kampala says it has killed one of the five, Dominic Ongwen.

  But, the ICC action has triggered concern about the possibility of additional warrants
for LRA soldiers, most of whom are kidnapped children and adolescents.

  "Will 30,000 children be considered victims or terrorists?" remarked Marina Percy, a
spokeswoman for the film. In 2001, the LRA was labelled a terrorist group by the United
States.

  Acholi leaders had been attempting to lure the children back and reintegrate them into
society. Faced with the reality of the ICC warrants, Bigombe is currently trying to salvage
the peace and reconciliation process by isolating the indicted leaders, according to
Percy.
  "The ICC warrants should be used as leverage to isolate the rebel leaders from the
other troops," Bigombe said. "The others should be dealt with in traditional ways."
  These include amnesty, as well as rituals like stepping on an egg, symbolizing a break
from the past and the start of a new life.

  War has ravaged the people of northern Uganda for nearly 20 years, yet it has gone
largely unnoticed, overshadowed by the catastrophes in Rwanda and Darfur, the film's
producer said.

  "Conditions in the displaced persons camps are worsening; there are now one and a
half million people there, with a thousand people dying every week from lack of food and
medical attention," Alison Lawton told AFP.

  Lawton made the film as part of the campaign, Act For Stolen Children in Uganda,
which began last October with a press conference at the United Nations. It is directed by
Jesse James Miller and Peter McCormack.

  The campaign has drawn support from a long list of human rights and aid
organizations including UNICEF, OXFAM and Save the Children.

  The film follows blank-eyed adolescents who have escaped from Kony's gruesome cult
and live in camps established by President Yoweri Museveni. Some have no living
parents and are responsible for caring for younger siblings.

  In the morning, they head off to school, gathering faded books and notepads and
donning blue and pink uniforms.

  Afterwards, there is another journey. About 40,000 children -- afraid of being abducted
by Kony's LRA gang, 80 percent if it children -- make a haunting afternoon trek to the
relative security of nearby towns. There the "night commuters", as they are called, sleep
in empty schools, churches, shelters or even bus stops. In the morning, they return to
the camp.

 "When there is peace then we will stop walking," one child says.

				
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