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Uganda & Kenya

By Jimmy Carter

This trip was made possible by the generosity of Richard Blum, who offered his G-4 for transportation. After refueling stops in the Azores and Marakesh, we arrived in Uganda to assess our Guinea worm eradication efforts, river blindness treatments, agriculture projects, and the peace process between Uganda and Sudan.

We spent Wednesday June 6 inspecting Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000) agriculture plots, mostly eastward from Kampala. Four other busloads went in different directions. Our one agricultural expert in the country, Michael Foster, has trained 300 extension workers who are supervising about 5,000 Uganda farm families in the production of maize, rice, peanuts, sorghum, and millet. About 70 percent of the farming operations are headed by women. Using the best seeds, contour rows, a moderate amount of fertilizer, and strict weed control, most of their yields have tripled compared to traditional farming methods.

About 17 percent of the families prepare the land using plows pulled by two small oxen. After rudimentary veterinary training, the animal owners are able to handle about seven acres, including their own land and what they hire out to till for their neighbors.

In the three-day conference, experts discussed the broad issues of food security in Africa. This included reports from the 12 nations in which the SG2000 program is presently operating. The program was begun in 1986, following planning sessions the previous year by Ryoichi Sasakawa, Norman Borlaug, and me. We originally decided to begin in Ghana and Sudan north of the equator and Tanzania and Zambia to the south, and the effort has now encompassed several million farmers, including those who have observed and emulated the improved practices of their neighbors who received SG2000 training. For an entire nation, often 20,000 or more farm families, our average cost is only $600,000 per year.

After the opening session of SG2000 experts and participants, addressed by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, Yohei Sasakawa, and me, I met with the president privately to discuss implementation of the Nairobi peace agreement between Uganda and Sudan, which we negotiated in December 1999. He and I clarified some existing questions. Under the direction of The Carter Center's Ben Hoffman, we have continued our efforts to implement all facets of the agreement, including Sudan's withholding military and economic support to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group headed by Joseph Kony that has perpetrated continuing raids across the border into Uganda, including the abduction of children.

This was to be followed by establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Museveni acknowledged to me that the Sudanese have ceased assistance to the LRA, as pledged, and he now expressed his willingness to exchange diplomats at the Charge' d'Affairs level, to be announced "today or tomorrow." He authorized me to inform Egyptian President Mubarak and others about this commitment, and I sent such notices to Mubarak, Bashir, and Khadafi.

Another task has been to arrange the return of Ugandan children kidnapped by the LRA, and now increasing numbers are escaping and making their way home. We also helped arrange for meetings between leaders of the LRA and Ugandan officers this week, which seem to be going well. President Museveni joined in expressing hope that almost all LRA members will return to Uganda under a recently passed amnesty law.

President Museveni said that he supports a new U.S. policy toward Sudan as explained to him by Secretary Colin Powell on his recent visit to the area. This involves increased American interrelationships with the government of Sudan, including humanitarian aid, but adherence in peace negotiations to general principles already agreed under an "IGAD" formula. He also promised to issue visas to Sudanese who wish to visit refugee camps in Uganda, if the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees approves the visits.

At a recent meeting in Nairobi, Egypt and Libya agreed to Uganda's proposal for them to furnish an observation team inside Uganda to assure Sudan that military supplies are not delivered from Uganda to the Sudan People's Liberation Army, who have been fighting against Khartoum for 18 years. Museveni reconfirmed to me his commitment to this arrangement.

Before leaving Kampala I met with the Libyan ambassador to express thanks for the very constructive role they have played, along with Egypt, in helping to implement the Nairobi agreement and restoring peace between Sudan and Uganda. (Khadafi had stopped in Khartoum to carry Sudanese President Bashir to Museveni's recent inauguration.)

I then met with Uganda's national Guinea worm eradication director, Dr. Rwakimari, to congratulate him on his superb performance. We found 126,000 cases in Uganda in 1992, mostly in the northern regions heavily impacted by conflict. People get the disease by drinking contaminated water. With good assistance from the government and a number of NGOs, we reduced this to only 92 cases last year, and from November 2000 through April 2001 we had only two cases reported.

A group of local Lions Club members came with Mr. Moses Katabarwa, the country director of our river blindness program, to report on efforts in Uganda to deliver Mectizan to those affected by this disease, which is caused by the bite of blackflies. A total of 903,000 people were treated last year, and we are ahead of schedule in increasing this to 945,000 in 2001. They all expressed hope that we could begin treating trachoma, the world's leading cause of preventable blindness, in the near future.

Richard Blum and Carter Center Executive Director John Hardman departed for Ethiopia to review our Carter Center projects in that country, one of which helps with developing curricula for five public health schools around the country, and our family proceeded to Kenya.

In Nairobi, I joined Ben Hoffman and Tom Crick in their meeting with SPLA leaders and then talked by telephone with John Garang, who was in Asmara. As we have since 1986, he and I went over premises for a possible peace agreement with the government of Sudan. There are a number of issues, but the basic question is still whether the nation will be under Shari'a law with regions able to vote otherwise or whether there is a national secular law with regions voting to apply Shari'a. Another important factor is the still-undetermined role to be played by the United States.

The SPLA leaders in Nairobi reported that sleeping sickness has become a real problem in some areas. They suggested that The Carter Center might be of some assistance. I discussed this with Dr. Garang and asked him if he would permit a limited humanitarian cease-fire in SPLA-controlled areas, so we could work on Guinea worm, river blindness, and trachoma, and complete polio immunizations. Garang responded that he could not agree at this time.

He did offer his support to our current project to distribute 9 million Guinea worm pipe filters throughout Sudan, told me he was wearing his own pipe filter around his neck while in the bush, and said that we should continue to discuss other health activities.

We then flew to Little Governor's camp in the Masai Mara with six other members of our family, and had a wonderful time observing the animals and birds. We returned home on June 12, 2001.

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