Surviving a devastating decade-long war in his hometown of Arua in the West Nile region of Uganda, Africa, has led California State University, Dominguez Hills alumnus Mike Bugason (Class of ’09, M.A., negotiation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding) to a career of helping those affected to heal from the wounds of conflict.
“The negotiation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding (NCRP) degree greatly shaped my outlook on conflict, with the Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding (NCR 541) course particularly inspiring me to join global efforts aimed at healing the wounds of conflict associated with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA),” Bugason stated.
Based in Bangui in the Central African Republic at the Secretariat of the Joint Coordination Mechanism for the elimination of the LRA, Bugason serves as an advisor to the African Union (AU) Special Envoy on the issue concerning the LRA, a terrorist group led by Joseph Kony, who received heightened worldwide attention with the documentary video “Kony 2012,” which, as a result of going viral online, sparked a global outcry for his arrest.
As a Special Envoy advisor, Bugason analyzes information and produces reports with recommendations for effective interventions, coordination of regional efforts, and the mobilization of international support against the LRA–which has spread across north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), south-eastern Central African Republic, and parts of south Sudan, where Kony is accused of heading the abduction of as many as 100,000 children and turning them into killer soldiers and using them as part of his army to charge brutal attacks on remote villages. Bugason also writes speeches, statements, diplomatic correspondences, reports, talking points, strategy documents and work plans for the Special Envoy, in addition to performing chief-of-staff duties at the Joint Coordination Mechanism Secretariat.
Bugason participated as part of the AU delegation in the Global Summit on the LRA hosted by Invisible Children, in Washington, D.C., in November 2012. Thousands of activists and leaders held discussions on shaping a global policy toward the elimination of LRA. In addition to having crafted a speech that the Special Envoy delivered at the Summit, Bugason participated alongside him in a meeting with top officials from the EU and the U.S Department of the State, and networked with various stakeholders to enhance our collaboration and information sharing on the LRA.
“The summit galvanized international efforts and enhanced the global momentum against the LRA, and therefore made us more optimistic than ever about the real possibility of eliminating the LRA,” Bugason said.
It was his own experience that led Bugason to become an advocate for helping to rebuild the lives of innocent children who bore the brunt of the LRA atrocities.
Having survived a pre-LRA protracted insurgency that lasted from 1979 to 1986 in his home region of West Nile, but left in a state of desolation and misery, and with a sense of hopelessness Bugason, as a 16-year-old student at St. Joseph’s College Ombaci, turned to fellow students, teachers, members of his church, and caring relatives outside the war theatre for support.
“These [people] collectively played a significant role in ‘rescuing’ my future through reversing my fears of a life turned upside-down. This indeed was the situation of the majority of fellow students at the time. So we got ‘inner healing’ as individuals as well as a community,” Bugason recalled.
He concentrated on his education and emerged among the top candidates from his class of 1985 at St. Joseph’s College Ombaci, which was rated the best secondary school in Uganda that year.
While serving as the Charge d’Affaires of Uganda’s embassy in Kinshasa, DRC, Bugason went on to pursue online training in Intractable Conflicts at the Conflict Research Consortium of Colorado University in Boulder. Interested in a career in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, he next sought an online master’s degree program. He found the perfect program, NCRP offered by CSU, Dominguez Hills, and it turned out to be the ideal training for real-world assignments.
After earning his master’s in NCRP in 2009, and with the synchronous completion as Charge d’Affaires of Uganda Embassy in the DRC, the Uganda government assigned Bugason to serve on the Presidential Committee for Dialoguing with the Somali community in Uganda to win over their cooperation in containing the threat of Al Shabaab terrorism against Uganda. The government concurrently appointed Bugason onto its seven-member Task Force to discuss with DRC counterparts the implementation of the December 2005 ruling of the International Court of Justice in the case of DRC vs. Uganda, particularly concerning the payment of reparations by either party to the other.
In his current assignment at the AU, Bugason and his colleagues contend with contrasting approaches to managing the post-negotiation LRA issue. He said there are diverse views on the way forward, ranging from fully-fledged military options, to resumption of negotiations, prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity, to general amnesty and reconciliation instead of criminal prosecution.
“It keeps rekindling the unending debate of peace or justice, which should come first or are they inseparable?” he asked in a rhetorical question. “Nonetheless, I feel gratified to be coordinating AU efforts to eliminate the LRA and help build peace in Central Africa.
Working toward conflict resolution and peace on so many fronts in a land so stricken is no small feat, however with a hopeful outlook and armed with conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills, Bugason seems to be up to the task.
For more information about NCRP at CSU Dominguez Hills, visit cah.csudh.edu/ncrp/.