Vlaardingen, The Netherlands – The former Minister for the Pacification of Northern Uganda, Betty Bigombe, has been honored with the Dutch Resistance Peace Prize (Geuzenpenning) for spearheading talks between the government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army.
The ceremony took place in the city of Vlaardingen, The Netherlands. The Director for International Cooperation in the Dutch Foreign Ministry, Ms Yoka Brandt, who had served as ambassador to Eritrea and Uganda, handed Bigombe her prize.
Harry Borghouts, the president of the Board of The Geuzen Resistance Foundation, said that Bigombe, the 1994 Ugandan Woman of the Year, was given the peace award for her relentless role in seeking peace negotiations between the government and the LRA.
She was commended for leading two attempts at peace negotiations in 1993-1994 when she was a minister, and again in 2004 when she was out of government. The award committee also lauded her for continuing to seek an end to the LRA insurgency in subsequent years.
The Geuzen Peace Award is given every year to individuals or organisations that fight for human rights, dignity and oppose dictatorship and segregation. The award has been given out since 1987.
Previous winners include former Czech President, Vaclav Havel; former President of Finland and Nobel peace prize winner, Martti Ahtisaari; former Colombian presidential candidate and renowned hostage Ingrid Betancourt.
Organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and The International Campaign for Tibet have also won the award in the past. This year’s award ceremony coincides with the annual memorial events to honour members of the Dutch Resistance to Nazi occupation of The Netherlands from 1940 to 1945.
The Geuzen Foundation was founded by former Dutch Resistance fighters who were active during the Second World War. The foundation is based in the city of Vlaardingen, which was considered the epicentre of the Dutch resistance to German occupation.
Bigombe, who attended a prior remembrance ceremony at the war memorial cemetery in the city, also answered questions from school children who asked her about her role as mediator and the state of children in conflict situations.
Accepting the award, Bigombe said she had been overwhelmed. She dedicated it to the survivors of the war in Northern Uganda who have been trying to rebuild their lives. She called on the international community to always work towards preventing armed conflicts which she said is cheaper than stopping war.
Yoka Brandt said that when she worked in Uganda, she always felt that Bigombe was the most deserving winner of the award and added that it goes to show that local other than foreign interventions and initiatives can best deal with attempts to stop or prevent conflict.