Menu
Share
Share this story
Close X
 
Switch to Desktop Site

Africa's peace seekers: Betty Bigombe

Next Previous

Page 5 of 9

About these ads

As one Western diplomat in Kampala puts it, the LRA represents "a different order of magnitude of evil" than most African rebels.

Bigombe has seen the LRA's brutality first-hand. In 1995, when she was a government minister, she was the first outsider on the scene of one of its bloodiest massacres. Rebels attacked a town and captured about 220 men, women, and children. The villagers were marched several miles to a riverbank and all methodically executed.

Yet sometimes Bigombe sees glimmers of humanity, too. Once, one LRA commander grew pensive during a conversation. He wondered how his fellow northerners would perceive him after all the terrible things the LRA has done. He asked plaintively, "Can I ever go home again?"

* * *

"Do you want to pamper these killers?" shouted Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. It was 6 a.m., the time he often calls Bigombe. On this November morning he was seething.

"Hello, Mr. President," she answered in her gravelly voice.

The tirade continued. Mr. Museveni had declared a unilateral cease-fire to give rebels time to move toward peace. But his patience was wearing thin. Bigombe wanted an extension. He implied he was ready to end the cease-fire and loose the military on the rebels.

At first, Bigombe responded quietly, trying to soothe: "Do you want the killing to stop?"

But he continued, ending with: "Don't you ever ask me again for an extension" of the cease-fire.

So she just remained silent. Bigombe spends hours every day talking on her two cellphones - coaxing, encouraging, and scolding the Army commanders, President Museveni, and rebels. But sometimes one of her most powerful tools is not talking at all. In the ego-heavy circle of guerrilla commanders, Ugandan military officers, and heads of state, she says, silence works wonders.

Next Previous

Page 5 of 9


Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.

Loading...