Calling to mind a forgotten war

Author: Michael O. Garvey


Historians of the future will no doubt find it remarkable that in the early years of this century, the plight of Michael Jackson and the unsavory rumors about his behavior were able to mesmerize the developed world while the violent deaths of at least 100,000 Ugandans, the abduction of more than 20,000 children for cannon fodder and sexual slavery, the dispossession of more than 1.6 million people, the predations of a murderous army and the two-decade-long civil war that generated these miseries were not.

Two undergraduate students of Notre Dame want to do something about that.Michael Poffenberger fromEdgewood,Wash., who was graduated in May, and Peter Quaranto, a senior fromFranklin,Mass., have established the Uganda Conflict Action Network (Uganda-CAN)to advocate, lobby and act for an end to the unnecessary human suffering of the 19-year-old war in northern Uganda.

Poffenberger and Quaranto became deeply interested in the marginalized people of Africa after meeting Nobel laureate and retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu ofCapetown,South Africa, when he visited Notre Dame in the fall of 2003.They were made aware of and passionate about the horrors which routinely afflict the people of northern Uganda during an academic study abroad program in Uganda, sponsored by the School for International Training in Kampala.Supported by Notre Dames Center for Social Concerns and Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Poffenberger spent the spring semester of 2004 in the region followed by Quaranto in the spring of 2005.

As I sat there listening to people in refugee camps telling me their stories,Quaranto said,I just kept thinking to myself: how can this be happening?How can thishave happened for 19 years?

Uganda-CAN already has attracted more than 25 volunteers and launched a web site (at ) to supply news about the war, research reports and action alerts. The staff and volunteers of the fledgling organization hope to form relationships with policymakers in Washington, both in Congress and non governmental organizations, and with numerous Ugandan groups.By August, they hope to have organized a nationwide tour to enhance awareness of the suffering in northernUgandaand to advocate policy to assist its victims.

Together, we have a real opportunity to push for action that could contribute to an end to this war,Quaranto said.There is no more pressing or opportune moment to demand global governance that hears and answers to the suffering of the most poor and vulnerable of our world.

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