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.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Me with my boda boda drivers, Jimmy and Godfrey up on the hill overlooking Kampala where they pick me up. There is a bit of competition between the two, but they are both good guys (despite that Jimmy rammed into the back of one too many cars for my liking).
You can see that despite being in swinging London, my heart may have been elsewhere...
This is intended to gross you out. This is what happens when we would leave glasses out with any sort of liquid - a bath of ants. Neat, I know.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Disaster, also known as Kelly

Bet you thought I was gone, huh? Good to see/hear that people are still out there paying attention, though I admit it is embarrassing now that more of my Uganda friends are aware of what I am writing.

So about a week ago, after a very bittersweet goodbye that involved blindfolds and drives through Kampala, I boarded my plane for London. Oh, and I caused a little scene at the airport when I went through security with a walking stick Lina had given me. The security people hounded me about the stick, asking if I knew what was in it. My mind immediately flashes to those teeny bopper movies where the American teenagers are imprisoned in Thailand for unknowingly smuggling drugs out of the country. I plead ignorance, explaining that the stick was a gift. The guard proceeds to pull the handle off the stick, and to my astonishment and his amusement, emerges a HUGE knife! And I was going to carry it on!

Many of you out there are aware of my love-hate affair with my knees, namely that they like to leave my sockets, namely when dancing is involved. Well, in lovely London, while casually ascending some stairs, I lost a knee again. Try as I might to work the whole ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away routine, I ended up taking myself to a London ER. While I appreciate the free health care and set of crutches that the good old United Kingdom afforded me, I did not require the digression from a cocky young doctor about the pitfalls of American medicine – especially as I later found out he misdiagnosed me. Whatcha gonna do? At the very least, crutches equals disability discount at the theater and special airplane boarding privileges…

Fast forward. London was fabulous, stairs aside, and I even had a quick trip to Geneva, which was equally wonderful after I managed to forget my passport and my flight. Is this all an allergy to the Western World? I arrived back in Colorado just in time for Blizzard 2005 (no, not the frozen treats from Dairy Queen). I love it.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Latest...

"End This African Horror Story"
John Prendergast in the Washington Post
7 April 2005
The Washington Post

GULU, Uganda -- Sitting in the main town in war-riddled northern Uganda, you get the feeling you are not in the middle of a conventional peace process -- not when two local women have just been abducted by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and had their hands chopped off in the name of divine retribution. You know something evil lurks just out of sight when you see thousands of children streaming into town every evening seeking refuge from abduction by the LRA.
And yet you are sure that history is somehow being made when the lead mediator in the process turns out to be a dynamic Ugandan woman who is shunning her comfortable office at the World Bank headquarters and risking her life to bring peace to the long-suffering people of northern Uganda. Her name is Betty Bigombe, and she will probably have to play a major role in the coming month if there is to be any hope of ending the madness.
This country may have its best chance for peace in 18 years -- a period marked by brutal warfare that has displaced 1.6 million people and sparked the first investigation into crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC). But the peace process is in trouble and needs a high-risk, high-reward gamble to move it forward.
The actions of the LRA's leader, Joseph Kony, will be crucial. My discussions with LRA commanders paint a portrait of a man rooted in a grotesquely distorted view of the Old Testament. Kony seeks revenge for past transgressions the government committed against northerners -- literally an eye for an eye. He likens himself to Moses bringing the Ten Commandments to a people who are largely deaf to his message. He attacks civilian targets within his reach because he believes he is instructed by God to punish anyone who collaborates with the government.
For all the havoc Kony has wrought, his insurgency is on the ropes. The Ugandan military has become more effective, and the government of Sudan, after years of providing support, has cut most of its links to the LRA. Robbed of its camps and supply lines, the LRA has gone into survival mode, stealing food and abducting children to replace those killed, captured or surrendered. But the LRA has a track record of coming back from near oblivion, and premature pronouncements of its defeat could prove deadly. Massacres over the past couple of weeks, in which hoes and machetes have been the sadistic tools of death, are reminiscent of the tactics used in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
To be sure, if Kony is killed or captured, the LRA will unravel just as rebellions did in Angola and Sierra Leone. But pursuing this "one bullet" solution could end up killing thousands more abducted child soldiers and LRA dependents, while costing more than the alternatives and making reconciliation more difficult. Those hard-core commanders remaining in the bush would continue to terrorize civilians.
In a country whose post-colonial history has been marred by extreme sectarian violence and some of the most murderous dictators in Africa, including the psychotic Idi Amin, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has demonstrated ways to bring conflict to an end other than through violence alone. Negotiations would isolate hard-liners, make it more difficult to oppose a final agreement and provide an exit strategy for the LRA, or, as Museveni put it to me, a "soft landing."
The window of opportunity for a peace settlement will not be open long. The U.S. role is crucial. Its support for Ugandan military efforts has led many Ugandans to believe that the United States does not support a peaceful resolution. As one LRA commander told me, "The U.S. is too quiet. The LRA can't hear that the U.S. supports peace." Assigning a senior diplomat from Washington to support the peace effort would provide a boost to the negotiating process, giving the LRA commanders confidence that if they did lay down their weapons they wouldn't walk straight into an ambush.
The next month will be decisive and requires a major diplomatic gambit. Bigombe, as lead mediator, must go to the source in neighboring southern Sudan and meet with LRA leader Kony. Once there, she should present a comprehensive settlement, rather than the current cease-fire proposal, for which the necessary levels of good faith and confidence simply do not exist. The settlement involves security and livelihood guarantees for the LRA. Getting the meeting requires the direct help of the Sudanese regime, which has provided a lifeline to Kony for the past decade. The United States and others would need to lean hard on Sudan to influence it to act.
Without such a diplomatic gambit and increased international support, the process could crumble. This would unleash a new round of conflict and leave military defeat and ICC prosecution as the only means by which the war might be ended, a path that would be much longer and bloodier than that afforded by a peace deal.
The writer is special adviser to the president of the International Crisis Group. He has worked at the State Department and the National Security Council.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I can't help but include this photo of some of the children at Labuje camp in Kitgum. I especially have a sweet spot for that little girl in the middle! Sadly this camp is incredibly insecure and even this last week there have been several attacks and abductions - especially when the women go to collect the firewood. Two months ago I was optimisitc the conflict was winding down, now I am not so sure...
Kelly Innocent: she just turned 3 months old and already traveled with her Mom to Mozambique for work. She kind of looks like me, eh?
This one is in Labuje IDP camp in Kitgum. This was where the health
center used to stand that was erected by UNICEF. The wind blew it over, so now the 17,000 people of this camp have no health facilities - just some mobile units.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Just a quick check-in. Another hectic week in the north. Even after all these months, I find I can still get so fired up about what is going on here. On Friday morning we met briefly with four girls who had escaped the LRA after being abducted. One of them, a young girl, is herself a mother. The girls are all members of a local women's organization that provides training in tailoring. But when you ask the girls about the training they are receiving, it completely doesn't fit their needs. They go through this training for about four months and then are pushed back out into the world without the means to sustain their skills (no sewing machines, no business skills, not to mention the stigma attached to getting clothes made by girls who used to be in the bush). Further, most of these girls don't even have an interest in tailoring - they just engage because it gives them a place to go and a purpose for a few months. What we devised is that these girls are essentially being used as a cover for the bigger women in the organization. The big people can pass off that they are assisting formerly abducted girls without giving voice to the girls they claim to help. I don't know what it was (especially as I am no stranger to these scenarios), but I was just so upset by how these girls were being treated and it triggered a sadness about leaving these girls behind that I am still unable to shake. I am just continually impressed by the challenges facing these children once they return from the bush - as if they haven't already been through enough...