By Asiimwe, Agnes
New African , No. 482
Ruhakana Rugunda (pictured), Uganda's longest serving cabinet minister, took his seat at the UN Security Council in January as the latest African non-permanent member of the Council following Uganda's election at the UN General Assembly last October. Having joined the cabinet in 1986 when President Yoweri Museveni took power after a protracted guerrilla war, Rugunda has 23 years under his belt as a senior minister and diplomat.
In a unique feat, his appointment by Museveni as Uganda's man at the Security Council came at a "ministerial level"--meaning that he will continue to be a member of Uganda's cabinet. "It is a tall order but an achievable one if Rugunda can develop a capacity to think globally and serve Africa and the world, not Museveni and the NRM [Uganda's ruling party]," says Muniini Mulera, a Ugandan social critic. The other African non-permanent members of the Security Council are Libya and Burkina Faso. Rugunda was appointed because of his high diplomatic credentials. A widely respected and well-liked man, he was part of Uganda's mediation efforts in Burundi, and part of the Lusaka Peace Accord which ended the war in DRCongo. Since July 2006, Rugunda has also been negotiating for peace between the government of Uganda and the rebel group, Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony.
Rugunda's patience and balanced approach to the issues in the lengthy LRA talks have created confidence for both sides. "Some folks were of the quite reasonable view that there was no better man for that assignment than Rugunda, and that if Joseph Kony could not agree with him there had to be something fundamentally wrong with the man[Kony]," says Karooro Okurut, an MP and former press secretary to Museveni.
The last attempt to sign the "final" peace agreement between the government and the LRA failed in November 2008. Rather than talk peace, Kony, instead, humiliated the peace team that included Rugunda, Riek Machar (Southern Sudan's vice president) and Joachim Chisano (the former Mozambican president and now UN special envoy), by relieving them of their money and then refusing to meet them. As Rugunda was preparing to leave for New York to take his new Security Council position, a joint military operation against the LRA by Uganda, Southern Sudan's SPLA, and DRCongo had started in Congo's Garamba Forest to "flush out" Kony and his rebels. …