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URI Leads Non-Violent Elections Campaign In Uganda

San Francisco, CA (Vocus/PRWEB) February 11, 2011

On January 4th in a hotel conference room in Kampala, Uganda, youth political leaders and leaders of Uganda’s security forces came face to face for a highly unusual meeting: a national consultation to avoid violence in the upcoming elections on February 18.

In previous years, elections have been marred by deadly clashes in between youth and security forces, resulting in mutual distrust and well-known disaffection with the electoral method. Complicating matters this year is the formation of ad hoc youth “security” forces that have no clear purpose or uniform code of conduct.

This breakthrough meeting in Kampala was part of an ongoing campaign by the Wonderful Lakes Regional workplace of United Religions Initiative (URI) —a global grassroots interfaith organization based in San Francisco, California—with support from the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa. It capped a series of neighborhood district meetings aimed at developing trust and locating ways for the two groups to work together.

Speaking before their interfaith hosts and the chair of the country’s electoral commission, every single group aired its grievances: Youth felt sidelined, targeted and treated unfairly the police and army saw the youth as pawns of politicians, forceful, unpredictable and provocative.

“Allowing the groups to be heard by 1 one more was a very large step in clearing up misconceptions and overcoming prejudices,” said URI Regional Coordinator Despina Namwembe.

And by the time the meeting was more than, the two groups had come to an agreement, committing to disbanding the youth brigades and other associated militia groups promoting balanced media coverage instituting community policing and educating the public about the role of security agencies.

In the final weeks ahead of the election, URI Fantastic Lakes is stepping up the campaign, sending peace ambassadors—youth, police and religious leaders—to violence-prone places reaching out by way of the radio and other media with messages of peace and spreading hope that February 18 will begin a new era of civility.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please get in touch with Julian Foley at jfoley@uri.org.

About URI
URI is a global network of 500 grassroots organizations, known as Cooperation Circles, dedicated to peace and justice by way of interfaith and cross-cultural cooperation. Its almost half a million members are overcoming distrust and hostility each and every day for the excellent of their communities—mediating religiously motivated conflict constructing schools, orphanages and health clinics campaigning for citizenship rights and far more in 78 countries. They touch the lives of an estimated 2.5 million individuals. The network is led by Executive Director Charles Gibbs, President William E. Swing, and Yoland Trevino, chair of an elected 29-member Global Council of Trustees from 19 nations.

Pay a visit to http://www.uri.org for further info on URI’s projects in:
Latin America and the Caribbean
Middle East and North Africa
Southeast Asia and the Pacific
North America