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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Monday, March 28, 2005

A killer monkey that tried to attack me over the weekend. Or at least he tried to attack our BBQ.
Moses and Rose, who take care of us in Makindye. Two of the sweetest people.

My colleague and I at Pabbo Internally Displaced Persons Camp.
This is me with two German Steffis on the road to Lake Nabugabo, checking out the grass loin skirts at a roadside store by the equator. I was the only one who actually purchased one of these designer skirts.

Spring Break 2005: Wazungu Women Gone Wild


Day One:
We (three German Steffis plus me) road-trip across the equator, past Masaka, and down the road to Lake Nabugabo. No electricity, not much water coming out of the faucets, and what was coming out was brown. Did some swimming, bird and monkey-watching.
I experienced my first German campfire, which means we roasted sausages and had David Hasselhoff sing-alongs. I kid you not.

Day Two:
Rain, drizzle, fog, sprinkle, rain, drizzle, sprinkle, rain, fog, drizzle. That was the day. Just me and the three German Steffis, dressed head to toe, our swimsuits left behind, starring out at the lake with our heads in our hands.
By the time the sun is setting, Steffi #1 decides that it is high time I learn to drive a manual, as my immediate family has forsaken me in this endeavor. That took all of 10 minutes. Ok, and I was only able to get into second gear, considering my test course was a campsite. Open another bottle of wine.

Day Three, Easter Sunday:
Wake up to rain, drizzle, fog. Decide we just don’t want another 24 hours of this – not to mention that none of us have showered (aside from swimming in the lake). Back in the car after Steffi #1 hides a few small chocolates for us to find (really, this is how bored we were getting – and did I even mention how many sing-alongs we had? Steffi #1 and I took to creating many renditions of the Ugandan national anthem). So back across the equator to Kampala where the sun is amazingly brilliant. We enjoy the pool before heading to a very Lebanese Easter dinner. You just have to go away to appreciate home?

Tomorrow it is back up the road to Gulu and then flying over to Kitgum on Wednesday. This is the official last trip through the north. I am now in the acknowledgement phase, but not quite acceptance.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Rainbow House, Kampala

Traditional Acholi Dance

Murchison Falls...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Picture Bonanza

I’ve officially decided that I have been too prudent with the pictures. As long as my techmaster in Denver doesn’t object, I am going to try to get a bunch of pictures posted in the coming weeks – sort of a collection of the photos that have defined my experience. I prefer to overwhelm you with visuals rather than words. I think I will even have to abandon my overall policy of not posting pictures of myself. And watch out, because some of you out there might show up…

De-Nial Ain't Just a River In Egypt

I am not sure how many stages there are to this Uganda process, but I believe it is safe to say I have officially entered the denial phase. I avoid admitting it, but the truth is I am leaving in just a few weeks. Strange to imagine returning to that peculiar world of the West where mass-consumption and “order” are somehow a way of life. Then again, Mexican food, electricity, and wireless internet will also be there to welcome me – oh yeah and my family and friends. Really, and if I have not said it before, I do miss you all.

I’ve continually put off so many activities, always thinking there would be time later. Now I realize there isn’t enough “later” to suffice. I’m trying to take advantage of every moment – by consuming a lot of Waragi. No, but yesterday I abandoned Ugandan aerobics for an early evening swim in our little pool that overlooks Lake Victoria. And this evening I opted to forsake the boda prematurely to walk up Makindye hill, taking in the sights, smells, waving to the woman from Kitgum who sells me my bananas, and of course those young children who cry in horror when I smile at them. Makindye, if I haven’t mentioned it before, is a famous area of Idi Amin’s terror: many people were brought here for torture. The word is that President Museveni is reviving this practice as we speak to prepare for the election next year. Ok, there is a benefit to leaving. I am not sure I want to be here to witness what happens come election 2006. Tangents, I know.

I am definitely in touch with the fact that I am leaving so much unfinished, and not just with my work. Perhaps that will ensure my return.

This weekend, Easter Weekend, I will travel with not one, not two, but THREE German Steffis to Lake Nagabugo, renowned for being bilharzia free and fully equipped with contamination-free fish. Well, at least that is what the brochure says. We envision bathing in the sun, swimming, perhaps some volleyball, but in reality, I predict the rainy season will wage its rage upon us. Next week I will do one more tour du nord – Gulu and Kitgum. I was already getting sentimental last week when I was up there, so all bets pertaining to my emotional stability are off.

And to respond to Kim’s comment, I will be returning to the Kitgum Prison next week to follow-up on this woman who was supposedly released with the donation of 40,000 shillings. We have also raised the cases of these other women to many different parties and we anticipate that some action will be taken. Thank you to those who comment and I wonder why the rest of you remain so silent…

Trivia of the day: who can tell me where I procured the title to this entry?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Faces to the stories

Here are two of my Roma Hotel Ladies, Grace and Beatrice. They are
great, and Beatrice in particular has been there throughout my
experience – especially when I was laid up with the giardia last fall. They are the benefactors of the various fashion magazines that were sent to me from the States and I also try to spoil them with some goodies from time to time. On this last trip, I brought them a big package of Cadbury chocolate bars.
This picture may seem out of place, but has been such an integral part
of my Uganda life: beans and rice topped with some sauce from the stew, but not the stew itself. Nobody does the rice and beans like Roma Hotel and it is the first dish I must indulge in every time I return. I also love that posho and cassava! If you see where the cows graze in Gulu (on the trash mounds), you will most likely denounce red meat and probably go vegetarian all together.
Group photo - this was taken outside our Gulu office.
Top row: Latim, Stig (my blunt Danish boss), Sasha (the five month
younger brother I never had, AKA brother from another mother)
Middle row: Spora (based at the Gulu office), Florence (great lady
who works for Save the Children, AKA Shave the Children), Lina (who I
always talk about – my partner in crime)
Bottom plus row: Greg, Vassie, Mark (the man who says that if the
small things don't matter, try sharing your bed with a mosquito),
Martin [Vassie, Martin and Greg came up to Gulu to advise us at NUPI
on public participation in the peace process]

Monday, March 21, 2005

Regime of Terror - No, not the US, but Uganda

Regime of tyranny and torture back to haunt Uganda
By Adrian Blomfield in Kampala (Filed: 19/03/2005)

Suspected dissidents disappear after midnight visitsto their homes; chilling screams can again be heardfrom Idi Amin's infamous torture chambers, reopenedafter a quarter of a century of disuse. From the fewthat escape come tales of punishment beatings and evenmass executions.Welcome to President Yoweri Museveni's Uganda. One ofBritain's favourite African states in recent yearshas, almost unnoticed in the West, become a sinisterland where a corrupt regime uses its secret police torule through fear.The reasons for this transition are not hard tofathom. Mr Museveni has ruled Uganda since 1986, whenhis rebels marched triumphantly into the capitalKampala. Many of his countrymen believe he now wantsto recast himself as that most African of leaders: apresident for life.Signalling his intent to jettison the vestigialtrappings of democracy his government still professes,Mr Museveni has set out to remove a constitutionalprovision that prevents him from standing in electionsnext year.Not all Ugandans are keen on the idea, but thegovernment has ways of making them change their mind.Last year, Yasin, a taxi driver who occasionallychauffeured a senior opposition official around the countryside, waswoken by a loud rapping at his door a few hours before dawn. The men whohad come to arrest him were not policemen, but members of the widelyfeared Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).Yasin knew that the CMI, a shadowy spy agency directly answerable to thepresident, had no powers to arrest anybody. But he also knew better thanto question his captors.He was taken to Makindye barracks, where some of theworst atrocities of Amin's infamous State ResearchBureau, which used to force inmates to beat each otherto death with sledgehammers, took place in the 1970s."Every day for a week, they would hang me upside downand beat me with clubs," Yasin said. "They wanted toknow names of people working for the opposition. Ikept saying I didn't know any, but they wouldn'tbelieve me." On his third day, Yasin watched as afellow inmate, an elderly man accused of recruitingfor the main opposition alliance, the Forum forDemocratic Change (FDC), was killed using a methodknown as "Liverpool". The victim's head was placed ina bag that was repeatedly filled with water. Tobreathe, he had to drink it all, but the more hedrank, the more bloated his belly became until hisinnards ruptured and he died in a pool of his ownurine.The official existence of political parties was onlyallowed last year, under considerable westernpressure. Until then Mr Museveni operated what hecalled a no-party system, in which every Ugandanbelonged to an entity known as The Movement, which washeaded by the president.In theory, the philosophy was supposed to rid Ugandaof the ethnic and political divisions that helpedcause the civil wars and dictatorships thatcharacterised much of the country's history sinceindependence from Britain in 1962. In practice it hasallowed Mr Museveni to exert total control over mostof his people. The leader of the FDC, Kizza Besigye, in exile inSouth Africa, has instructed his campaigners to doleout copies of Animal Farm during party rallies.But most people are too frightened to attend. Secretpolice infiltrate the rallies, noting down those whoattend. It is usually supporters and low ranking FDCmembers who are taken to Makindye.As a means of spreading fear, it is an extremelyeffective method.Philip and his wife Juliet were picked up in January,accused of renting out their hall south of the capitalfor an opposition meeting.Like many fellow suspects, they were accused ofsupporting the People's Redemption Army (PRA), ashadowy rebel outfit the government links to the FDC.The Foreign Office Minister, Chris Mullin, says thatit is likely the PRA does not exist."Every night I was hung upside down over a pit ofsnakes while my wife was raped by army officers," saidPhilip, who was held in Room 21 of Mbale PoliceStation, another Amin torture chamber. "One time wehad to move five dead bodies into a truck. Anothertime I was made to dig my own grave." Like Yasin,Philip and Juliet were released. Their captors toldthem to report what had happened to fellow villagers,but threatened them with death if they told anyoneelse.Certainly things are not as bad as they were underAmin, who killed half-a-million people in eight yearsof bloodshed. Mr Museveni remains popular in manyquarters for bringing stability to the country.The president was long seen as an African role modelin the West for his willingness to introduce economicreforms demanded by the World Bank.But many donors are now disgusted both by therepression and by the corruption in Mr Museveni'scabinet, many of whom are relatives of the president."Museveni hoodwinked many donors for a long time andpeople wanted to see the glass as half full," adiplomat said. "We are now learning our lesson." Butthat lesson may have come too late. A gang of youngthugs, known as the Kalangala Action Plan (KAP), isallegedly preparing to disrupt the elections. Styledon the youth wing of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PFparty in Zimbabwe, the KAP was an effective tool of intimidation duringflawed 2001 elections won by Mr Museveni.With an even greater risk of defeat if elections arefree and fair, diplomats fear that the KAP could beresponsible for serious violence and compound Uganda'shuman rights reputation still further.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

International Women's Day in Gulu District

This is the entrance to Alero IDP camp, just west of Gulu town. I am told that Alero means "I tried" and is a camp that has been especially hard hit by LRA attacks. This is where Gulu district organized events for International Women's Day and it was truly an honor to be a part of all the dancing and celebrating. When I got up to dance I was sandwiched between two elder Acholi women who seemed to find it amusing to
chest-butt me. I just sort of grinned and went with it.

Image of Kitgum

I really got a kick out of having time to wander around Kitgum and getting to know the town a little better this time around. Even more so than in Gulu, it is quite out of the ordinary for a mzungu/monu to be without an SUV wandering the streets. This is a group of students who were running around the dirt field singing. They apparently found my presence quite amusing and started waving frantically with laughter.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

It's all about the ladies

Wowza. Last week was one crazy week. Lina and I took the bus up to Gulu to participate in events organized for International Women’s Day. Our conference was scheduled to be launched this week, but political meddling forced us to reschedule until next month. Such is life.

I gotta say that I love Gulu – on one corner I can buy a new battery for my watch and on the other, I can get my broken sandal repaired for 200 shillings (10 cents). And my reunion with the Roma Hotel is always great, accompanied by cassava, rice and beans.

So on Tuesday we traveled with a number of folks from Gulu town to Alero Camp (Alero in Luo means “I tried”), which is one of the hardest hit camps in northern Uganda for Women’s Day. There have been a number of attacks on the civilians in the camp, due to its geography – LRA soldiers are able to hide easily in the neighboring forest. Lina and I spent the day at the camp, fully engaging in the celebrations. I even got the chance to show off my Acholi dancing skills, though I may have been taken aback when I was attempting Larakaraka when two elder women decided to take advantage of the situation to sandwich me into a chest-butting competition to the delight of the crowds around us. One official took a moment to congratulate me on dancing “with distinction” – ah yeah! Overall, a great day, though there was a big official, who shall remain nameless, who took the opportunity to go off on political propaganda for a third term and declaring that the people in the camp should thank the UPDF for protecting them. Excuse me? Homey say what? The UPDF? The UPDF bear responsibility for a good share of the suffering in the IDP camps, including raping young girls and women, forceful labor of civilians, assault, looting. In the camps, rather than protect the civilians, the UPDF has opted to use them as human shields when the LRA attacks. If I was offended by such a declaration, imagine the people of the camp who simply want to celebrate women’s day…

On Wednesday Lina and I boarded that too small of a plane to Kitgum - with the escalation of attacks by the LRA, and especially on women, we still can’t take the road. We spent the remainder of the week on foot around Kitgum, meeting with various community groups, local government folks, and even the police. It was an incredibly productive trip but I have to say the most telling experience was our visit to the women’s ward at Kitgum Prison, as eight young women are imprisoned with their small children, and three others are very pregnant. We listened to all their stories and were appalled simply because these women are more the victims of social circumstances rather than criminals. Lina, who is a former magistrate, is trying to use her position to bring some attention to these cases and we even managed to assist in one woman’s release:

One woman, the mother of three, left her husband (who was most likely abusive) and was apparently with a new man with whom she had a child. The husband had her imprisoned on the charge of “elopement” because he wanted the dowry he paid returned, which totaled 40,000 shillings or about $25. Mind you the dowry goes to the woman’s family, not the woman, but regardless, the woman and her infant are now in prison. I could not believe that it was just this 40,000 keeping this woman and her child from freedom. My instinct was to open my wallet right then and there and provide the 40,000 but then I quickly realized I did not even have the money on me to pay, as we unexpectedly got stuck on the road longer than expected and barely had enough to get back. But just a few hours later, while preparing to head to the airstrip, we shared the story with a British photojournalist who decided to go right then and there and provide the money. It worked! I will follow-up on the case when I return to be sure, but it is exciting that we were able to share this woman’s story and secure her and her child’s release.

But really, most of these women are in for the most ridiculous of accusations and they are afforded neither legal representation nor advisement of their rights. And if you could only see the conditions to which they are subjected. Lina gave them some money to purchase soap, but they need a lot more than that!

There’s just so much more to share…

Monday, March 14, 2005

Killer Crocs of Uganda

Yes, I am indeed behind on my blogging responsibilities. To tide ya'all over, I wanted to include this article about a killer crocidile in Uganda. Just shortly before I came to Uganda, when I was crashing on Kerri's couch in DC, I stayed up late to watch a National Georgraphic program on the killer crocs of Uganda, which incited great paranoia and anxiety about choosing to come to Uganda.

Osama's rampage ends in capture
By Adrian BlomfieldLONDON SUNDAY TELEGRAPH Published March 13, 2005
LUGANGA, Uganda -- Osama the crocodile, the terror of Lake Victoria and reputedly one of the world's most prolific man-eaters, is staring blankly at the concrete wall of its new home, its _expression suggestive of deep depression. Only two weeks ago, it was feasting on the remains of a 12-year-old boy, the 83rd victim from Luganga village it had dragged to its lair on the papyrus banks of Africa's largest lake. On Monday, however, a beast once thought to be charmed, if not immortal, was finally captured by 50 local men and wildlife officials after a stakeout in southern Uganda lasting seven days and seven nights. Osama is now the property of Uganda Crocs Ltd., purveyors of fine crocodile-skin handbags destined for the followers of fashion in Italy and South Korea. Despite a fondness for human flesh, Osama, who measures 16 feet from snout to tail, and weighs 1 ton, is to be used for breeding stock. Alex Mutamba, the proprietor of Uganda Crocs, with nearly 5,000 animals in his care, was delighted when the country's wildlife authority rang him up requesting a home for Osama. Uganda is famous for its man-eating reptiles. In the 1970s, Idi Amin, then dictator, tipped 4,000 disabled citizens into the crocodile-infested headwaters of the Nile in an unusual bid to rid his country of them. Osama, who is thought to be about 60 years old, may well have been a beneficiary. Though wildlife campaigners will consider it shameful that Osama will spend its remaining days propagating handbags, Luganga locals believe it has gotten off lightly. Since 1991, it has attacked both young and old in a reign of terror, eating its way through one- tenth of the village population. After the 1998 al Qaeda attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, villagers named the croc after terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. In the end, their revenge came after the weeklong vigil, mounted by local men who lay in wait patiently, squatting on the shores of Lake Victoria. Officials from the Uganda Wildlife Authority had draped a pair of cow's lungs over the branches of a tree near Osama's favorite hiding place, known by horrified locals as "the butchery," as bait. It was villager John Mangene, father of nine and grandfather of 31, who first spotted the giant beast, its eyes barely visible above the surface of the lake, gliding toward the bait. One lunge and the crocodile, flailing furiously, hung by its jaws from the tree. A copper snare had been concealed within the cow's organs and the more Osama tried to break free, the more his teeth became entangled. Grabbing ropes attached to the snare, 50 of the village's men hauled in the furious crocodile, ending its reign of terror.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Swim with the (other) Fishes

If you can believe it, these are dolphins that appeared out of the blue waters of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Matemwe Beach, Zanzibar. They are hard buggers to catch with a camera!

Stone Town

These are boats along the shore of Stone Town, Zanzibar.
The sun setting from the resort I stayed in.