Northern Uganda

This started as the on-line journal of Africa Anonymous while she was an Graduate Fellow researching and working in Northern Uganda. You gotta be good. You gotta be strong. You gotta be 2,000 places at once.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Back to Rwanda

Hello everybody,

Thank you for those you continue to click on this site from time to time. I left Uganda at the end of September for my Chadian odyssey,, and have now been thriving for a few months in London. I will continue to keep up this site as I can, though I am returning to my very first blog,, as I will again be returning to my first African love next month.

Best to everybody,

Monday, April 03, 2006

Nothing new

Always talk, talk, talk. I've heard this all before, thus not optimistic much will come from it. How many times does poor Egeland have to declare Northern Uganda one of the worst forgotten humanitarian situations before something happens? It's the same story elsewhere, most obviously Darfur. I want something to change!

Egeland asks for UN intervention in Uganda
Juba, Sudan - United Nations humanitarian relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland on Sunday urged the UN Security Council to act to end a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda that has threatened to destabilise the region."I am urging the council to take any action possible to avoid humanitarian operations from being paralysed not only in northern Uganda but Equatoria (state) in southern Sudan," Egeland told reporters in southern Sudan's capital Juba.For the past 20 years, northern Uganda has been the scene of conflict between government forces and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which has terrorised civilians and is blamed for forcing millions of people from their homes and accused of abducting children for combat and to act as sex slaves.He said the violence had increased insecurity in the region, further threatening the fragile stability in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)."We want to see an end to this violence as soon as possible, but it is in the co-operation of the three countries that we can do so," he added."We cannot now have a generation of aspirations for peace being destroyed (in southern Sudan) by the Lord's Resistance Army coming in from northern Uganda and from other ethnic militias in southern Sudan," Egeland said.Last week, Egeland held talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and discussed the possible appointment of a UN special envoy to northern Uganda as well as a peace mission there.The talks also covered a possible UN role in the country's national reconciliation and the demilitarisation of the police and justice systems in the northern region.Ugandan troops have failed to defeat the LRA insurgents, who took over over a two-year-old rebellion in northern Uganda in 1988 to complain against alleged marginalisation.The conflict has displaced at least two million people in northern Uganda.This week, humanitarian groups said the rate of violent deaths resulting from the conflict in northern Uganda is three times higher than that in Iraq since the 2003 United States-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. - Sapa-AFP

Monday, March 13, 2006

Latest from the Post

In Uganda, a Fresh Start For Former Child FightersCenter Helps Those Who Escaped Rebels Face Their Traumas
By Emily WaxWashington Post Foreign ServiceMonday, March 13, 2006; A09

GULU, Uganda -- The afternoon bell rang at the Children of War Rehabilitation Center, and a column of former child fighters filed stoically across a dusty yard, past blooming bougainvillea vines.
In silence, the children entered a thatch-roofed hut and sat on straw mats. Colorful murals on the walls depicted scenes from their lives in Africa's longest-running war: being captured by rebel fighters, training for warfare, escaping and finally reuniting with parents and beginning therapy.
"Tell us about when you were abducted and forced to walk for miles through the forest and under the hot sun," Christine Oroma, a honey-voiced counselor, gently instructed the children. "Or we can talk about how much you were hurting the first time you missed your parents, or when the rebel commanders forced you to kill or be killed."
The children nodded. Bloodshot eyes hinted at their suffering. When tears streaked down their cheeks, Oroma offered them a piece of cloth.
"When I'm here, I'm paining less over my terrible acts," said Richard Odong, 15, a slight boy with almond-shaped eyes who was abducted from his home five years ago and taught to fire an AK-47 assault rifle.
The children are victims of a 20-year insurgency waged by the Lord's Resistance Army, a shadowy rebel group that wants to overthrow the government and install the Ten Commandments as law. Since it was founded in the 1980s, the group has kidnapped an estimated 20,000 children to serve as fighters, porters and sex slaves.
Thousands of the children have escaped. When they return home, many suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, having witnessed brutal killings -- sometimes of a parent or sibling -- or having been raped, beaten, deprived of water and food or forced to kill, according to a study published in the Lancet medical journal in March 2004.
Therapy is a vital step in the children's readjustment to regular life, community leaders and counselors here say. Through projects such as the Children of War Rehabilitation Center, the boys with bullet and machete wounds and girls swollen with unwanted pregnancies feel less raw, less alone.
"It's very unusual for us quiet Africans to talk about everything so much," said Oroma, a former nurse who saw the need for therapy in northern Uganda and was trained for the job in Kampala, the capital. "But what are we to do? We have suffered for so many years now. How come no one helps us?"
Ugandans and human rights workers say the war in northern Uganda has received little international attention despite an estimated death toll of 200,000 from fighting and abysmal sanitation and health conditions, the displacement of nearly 2 million people and the abduction of thousands of children.
"The U.N.'s Kofi Annan went to Darfur," the conflict-torn region of western Sudan where the numbers of dead and displaced are largely the same as in northern Uganda, said the Rev. Carlos Rodriguez, executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission, an international body backed by religious groups.
Part of the reason for the lack of attention, Rodriguez and other experts on the conflict say, is that the region has no significant resources, despite its location along the border with oil-rich Sudan. It is also part of a country generally hailed as an African success story.
"The thing to remember is that there are two Ugandas," Rodriguez said. "One of relative peace, and then one where children suffer more than in any country on Earth."
The country boasts a lush and serene capital, and international tourism campaigns lure visitors with slogans such as "Uganda, Gifted by Nature." But in northern Uganda, most residents survive on food aid and live in congested camps for people displaced by the fighting; government troops patrol the desolate countryside.
The war was rarely mentioned during campaigning for elections last month in which President Yoweri Museveni secured a third term, said Philip Lutara, Gulu coordinator for the Concerned Parents Association, which was started after rebels abducted 139 young girls from a Catholic school in 1996.
The rebel movement is commanded by Joseph Kony, an elusive figure who has said in radio broadcasts that he has cut off the lips and ears of people who do not acknowledge him as a divine leader.
Children fill the ranks of his ragged army. Parents across this region are so terrified that the rebels will snatch their offspring from their beds that thousands of children are sent to special shelters each night.
The Sudanese government, which long backed Kony, recently allowed Ugandan troops to cross the border to pursue him. But Kony fled into lawless eastern Congo, and his army still sporadically launches attacks in northern Uganda. The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued warrants for Kony and his top commanders last year, but no arrests have been made.
"Here we are months later, and not a single arrest has been made," Lutara said. "There are still more than 5,000 missing children. Their parents are still distraught."
The Children of War Rehabilitation Center was started after a young girl escaped from Kony's army. She returned home but eventually killed her mother, thinking she was being attacked during the night, Oroma said. After that incident, community leaders realized that former child fighters were in dire need of help, she said.
World Vision International, a Christian charity, helps fund the project, which takes in about 100 children a month and provides them with medical care, fresh clothing and counseling sessions.
In the center's healing hut, Richard Odong said he hoped to see his family again. The center frequently makes radio announcements listing the names of children who have returned from combat, but no one has shown up for Richard. The counselors worry that his parents are dead.
When the therapy sessions end, the children play cards or kick an old soccer ball around.
Pamela Amena, 23, who also escaped from the rebels and completed counseling sessions years ago, frequently returns to the center to help younger Ugandans such as Richard.
"At first, Richard, I felt so short-tempered, and I wanted to hit someone," she told him, explaining that she had been raped by the rebels. She escaped, but learned that her father had been killed in the conflict.
"I would nap and cry in my mother's dark, hot hut all day," she said.
Then she began receiving therapy. The counselors told her to draw, talk, exercise or even sing when she felt angry. "Now when I lie in my bed, I sing quietly to myself nice songs I wrote," she said. "These small therapies help."
The two sat in silence, watching a soccer game and picking at the purple flowers that had fallen from the trees.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Uganda Election Season!

Ugandan Campaign: Politics as Soap Opera
By Emily WaxWashington Post Foreign ServiceThursday, February 23, 2006; A16
KAMPALA, Uganda, Feb. 22 --

Ugandans joke that the campaign leading up to their first multiparty election in 25 years has had all the plot twists and heated emotions of the melodramatic Nigerian soap operas that are beloved across Africa.
Ex-lovers, former friends, wives, a dictator's widow and a goat specialist are among the colorful characters vying for power in presidential and parliamentary elections Thursday.
The top opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, has been squeezing in campaigning between court dates. He was arrested and jailed in November on treason, terrorism, rape and weapons charges but is out on bail. He and foreign diplomats say the charges were politically motivated, instigated by President Yoweri Museveni, his former comrade in arms and now his nemesis.
Museveni, a populist leader once feted by rock stars and American presidents, has become the target of human rights groups and is accused of trying to cling to power indefinitely. "Our president is acting like a needy boyfriend who can't take a hint," said Lydia Musis, 24, a computer science student.
Another contender for the top job is Abed Bwanika, a goat doctor. As head of the Ugandan Goat Society, he insists that his countrymen can climb out of poverty by raising livestock, specifically goats. He's way behind in the polls.
Then, there's a trio of women affectionately called "the three big mamas."
One of the women is a housewife who promised her dying husband that she would keep his political party alive. With her flowing skirts and stylish Afro, Miria Obote, 70, concedes that she has little interest in politics but is running for president anyway.
Obote has spent the past few days atoning for the sins of her husband, Milton Obote, who ruled the country most recently from 1980 to 1985 and is still despised by many Ugandans for his violent repression of dissent, which left an estimated 100,000 Ugandans dead, human rights groups say.
Obote and her husband left the country when Museveni launched a guerrilla war to oust his government. This campaign season has been the longest she's been on Ugandan soil in years.
"I would like to apologize to those who were hurt in our previous governments," she said in a press statement. "I regret what happened and would like to appeal to all of you to forget the past as we start afresh."
Then there's the current first lady, Janet Museveni, a born-again Christian who has said she is running for a seat in parliament because God told her to serve.
Janet Museveni spent much of last year promoting parties for virgins in order to push abstinence over Uganda's old HIV prevention policy, which supported condoms as an option.
The first lady, who with serious eyes and bifocals has the appearance of a high school principal, used to be chatty with journalists of all stripes. But now even the plugged-in Ugandan press says she's not giving interviews.
One woman who is talking is Winnie Byanyima, Besigye's wife, who happens to have been Museveni's girlfriend during the guerrilla war.
She's not on the ballot. But when Museveni threw Byanyima's husband in jail last year just weeks after he returned from exile to run for president, she called her old boyfriend a "coward who fears even his own shadow." She ended up spending Christmas alone.
For her devotion to her husband, many here call her the Hillary Clinton of Uganda.
With Besigye in and out of court on various allegations, Byanyima recently threatened to fire back and "bring documentary evidence to show what a traitor Museveni is to his family and the whole nation."
"All politicians are failed soap stars, but Museveni is acting like a typical African dictator, and I have to protect my husband from the mudslinging," she said in an interview.
Many Ugandans like her tough talk in the typically male-dominated sphere of politics in Africa.
These days, women are stepping out of the shadow of their husbands. But that doesn't mean the campaign is any less fierce.
"It's just the usual politics. Anyway, they are from my tribe: the women's tribe," sang out an exuberant Doreen Turinawe, 20, who was sitting under a sun umbrella selling yellow T-shirts with Janet Museveni's face on them. "We want Big Men out and Big Women in."

Friday, October 28, 2005

Former Colleagues Attacked in NU

I'm settling into Chad, but feel compelled to post about the recent attacks in Northern Uganda, especially as two organizations I have worked for have been attacked. Please read and keep those in the hospital in your thoughts.

UGANDA: Two aid workers killed in the north by suspected LRA rebels
KAMPALA, 27 October (IRIN) - The United Nations has condemned the attacks on humanitarian vehicles in northern Uganda this week in which two aid workers were killed by suspected rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)."This is a tragedy for those who have been killed, for their families and their organisations. It is unconscionable that the LRA is carrying out these vicious attacks on unarmed humanitarian workers," the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, said in a statement."The people of northern Uganda are heavily dependent on humanitarian aid and access to them is already precarious. These attacks threaten the provision of life-saving assistance to nearly 1.7 million people," he added.Three separate attacks on aid workers in the region resulted in the death of the two individuals on Wednesday and the injury of four others, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.OCHA said one of the dead was a staff member from the NGO Caritas. He was shot dead in an ambush as he rode on a motor with a colleague about 8 km north of Kitgum town.The second was killed in neighbouring Pader District when suspected LRA rebels ambushed aid workers from the Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD), killing one and critically injuring two."The rebels attacked a vehicle visibly marked with the agency's emblem," OCHA noted in a statement.On Tuesday, a vehicle belonging to the Christian Children's Fund (CCF) had been attacked in Okwango, Lira District. Two CCF staff were injured in that attack - one of whom was in intensive care. "The vehicle, which carried CCF-Uganda identification, was reportedly sprayed with bullets," OCHA added.Mohammed Siryon, head of the OCHA office in Kitgum, some 440 km north of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, said all the victims of the ambushes were Ugandan nationals.The spate of attacks followed the issue earlier this month by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of arrest warrants for five top LRA leaders, in a bid to intensify efforts to hunt down the group. CCF, in a statement, said the attack on its vehicle near Lira, some 360 km north of Kampala, had left one employee seriously injured with a chest wound and the other with minor foot injuries. Reacting to the attacks, the British charity Oxfam expressed deep concern that the warrants might actually prolong the conflict in which the LRA claims to be fighting Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's government. "For two decades it has been impossible to apprehend the rebel leaders," said Emma Naylor, Oxfam's country programme manager in Uganda. "The communities that we work with are already asking how the [ICC] arrest warrants will be served. "There is a lot of confusion and it's fast turning to fear," she said in a statement. The Hague-based ICC, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, confirmed on 14 October that it had issued its maiden arrest warrants for the five men who are accused of leading the rebellion which is notorious for brutalising civilians. That news, greeted with dismay by mediators seeking to negotiate an end to the LRA's nearly 20-year insurgency, came as the government of Sudan agreed to allow the Ugandan military freer rein to pursue the rebels in southern Sudan. "We know from bitter experience that the LRA can retaliate with extreme violence when they want to prove they are still a credible force. The government of Uganda must take urgent action to protect the population against possible attacks," Naylor said. "There are nearly two million people made homeless by this conflict and who are dependent on aid handouts. Already 1000 extra deaths a week occur as a result of people being in camps. If we can't get aid through, even more people will die," she added. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and close to 1.5 million driven out of their homes in northern Uganda since the rebellion against the Ugandan government started 20 years ago. The LRA leader, Joseph Kony and his forces have been accused by human rights groups of massive abuses in the region including the abduction of at least 20,000 children who are used as porters, fighters and sex slaves for LRA commanders

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Next stop: Chad

Greetings all. I shall try to do my best to maintain this site and keep updates on the Northern Uganda peace process, however now I am relocating to Eastern Chad to work with Darfur refugees fleeing Sudan, so I may get a little distracted, not to mention the poor state of Chadian communications. If you are interested in my Chad experiences, please check out my new blog:

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

LRA in DR Congo - potential to inflame regional animosities, AGAIN

DRC is right to be sensitive about Ugandan rebels crossing into its frontiers, especially after the Ugandan army's behavior in the DRC conflict, often referred to as Africa's world war, where seven African countries had rebels/armies at any given time. DRC is quite the strategic choice for the LRA...more to come on that thought.

Ugandan rebels force DRC army's hand
By David LewisKinshasa -

The Democratic Republic of Congo's army said on Sunday it would forcibly disarm 400 Ugandan rebels who have crossed into the northeast of the country and are refusing to lay down their weapons.A regional military commander, General Padiri Bulenda, said he would have to disarm the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in order to prevent thousands of Ugandan soldiers from crossing the border into the Congo to hunt them down.Bulenda said he visited the heavily armed rebels on Sunday. The Congo government initially denied any knowledge of the rebels' presence in its territory."There are 400 of these Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels in Congo and they are armed to the teeth," Bulenda, commander of the 9th military region, said in a telephonic interview after returning from his reconnaissance mission."I am seeking permission to get two battalions (1 400 men) to disarm the rebels, and the UN has said they will provide us with air support."He said the rebels had heavy machine guns and sophisticated communications equipment.United Nations peacekeepers also visited the town of Aba, which lies on Congo's remote northeast border with Uganda and Sudan, and said they had confirmed the presence of at least 300 LRA rebels who were refusing to disarm.Uganda's armed forces have said LRA deputy leader Vincent Otti sought political asylum in Democratic Republic of Congo last week after fleeing hideouts in southern Sudan with about 50 fighters accompanied by women and children.General Bulenda said on Sunday: "The rebels are refusing to disarm, this is not something we can accept. There are three brigades (over 10 000 men) of Ugandan soldiers just over the border in Sudan. Unless we disarm the rebels, the Ugandans will come in and chase them."Under a 2002 deal with Khartoum, Ugandan troops can pursue the rebels about 100km inside Sudan.Congo is struggling to organise elections after a string of peace deals ended a five-year war that sucked in six neighbouring countries and killed nearly 4-million people, mostly from hunger and disease.All foreign armies have been officially withdrawn. But the Democratic Republic of Congo accuses Uganda and Rwanda of continuing to meddle in its territory, where armed groups attack civilians and plunder the country's natural resources.For 19 years the LRA has terrorised isolated communities on both sides of Uganda's border with Sudan, uprooting 1,6-million people in northern Uganda alone.The group has no clear political goals but is notorious for massacring civilians, mutilating victims and abducting thousands of children as fighters, porters and sex slaves.Diplomats in Kinshasa said the LRA rebels should be disarmed but stressed the international community would not accept any intervention in Congo by the Ugandan army, which fought alongside Congolese rebels during the five-year war.UN peacekeepers frequently conduct joint operations with the Congolese army against armed groups operating in Congo two years after the war officially ended.But a UN spokesperson would not give any details on the support the mission could provide to deal with the LRA rebels.Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has repeatedly warned Congo's fragile transitional government that he would take action against Ugandan rebels in Congo if he felt they were a threat to his country.A source close to Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila called the presence of Ugandan soldiers on Congo's border "a distraction from pressure being applied on Museveni because of his meddling in Congo and attempts to prolong his presidency at home".