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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

NU Update: Increasing Violence, More Children Seeking Protection

UGANDA: More children sleeping on the streets in the north - UNICEF KAMPALA, 24 May (IRIN) - Renewed fighting, killings and abductions by rebels in northern Uganda has forced 10,000 more children to spend their nights on the streets of major towns in the region, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a report.The agency said the new "night commuters" - the name for the children who trek nightly to the relative safety of urban centres because of the threat of attacks and abductions by rebelf of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) - joined another 30,000 who already had been sleeping on the streets, under shop verandas and in bus parks. "Figures for late April stand at approximately 40,000 night commuters in total, up from about 30,000 in the previous month, owing to renewed LRA attacks, killings and abductions in the region," the report, issued on 18 May, stated.According to UNICEF estimates, more than 20,000 children were abducted between 1986 and December 2004, and half of them had been taken captive since June 2002. Many of the children were forced into combat and sexual slavery. Last year, some 3,500 former abductees passed through civilian reception centres in the affected districts. The number of children killed, conceived or born in LRA captivity, however, remains unknown."A political deadlock and intensified LRA attacks in recent weeks following the expiry of a ceasefire have contributed significantly to the high numbers of internally displaced persons," the report explained. In December, the mediators attempted to bring together Ugandan officials and the LRA to seek a peaceful end to the war, which has displaced over 1.4 million people and forced them to live in more than 200 camps scattered across eight conflict-affected districts, namely Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira, Apac, Soroti, Katakwi and Kaberamaido. Last-minute hitches prevented the signing of a draft ceasefire, and the government instead resumed military operations against the insurgents. On Friday, the army claimed it had killed a senior LRA commander who was a member of the rebel team that met government representatives in a bid to start peace talks.UNICEF decried the fact that children and women in northern Uganda had continued to endure the harsh consequences of a 19-year conflict that has pitted LRA rebels against the Uganda People's Defence Forces, the government army."The child-centric conflict has wrought unprecedented violence, uncertainty and poverty to a region once famed as Uganda's 'food basket', wrecking havoc and depriving the local population, mostly children and women, of their rights to access basic healthcare, safe water, education, protection and shelter," the agency said.The report said nearly a quarter (23 percent) of primary-school age children were out of school, while half (50 percent to 60 percent) of the student body at primary schools in Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira and Apac districts were still displaced. In recent months, UNICEF added, some 77 cases of cholera were recorded in the huge internally displaced persons (IDP) camp of Pabbo and the neighbouring Gengari and Parabongo camps. Despite the progress that has been made to provide access to safe water, about one-half of the IDPs in the affected districts have access to less than five litres per person per day.The shadowy LRA began fighting ostensibly to replace the government of President Yoweri Museveni with an administration based on the Biblical Ten Commandments, but not much else is known about the insurgency, as it rarely makes public statements.The group has been widely accused of abducting thousands of young boys and girls for recruitment into its ranks or to be turned into "wives" for LRA commanders. LRA fighters have often carried out attacks in several eastern districts as well.[ENDS]

Monday, May 02, 2005


I am not sure if anybody is actually following me anymore, but as I am missing Uganda and trying to transition, I thought it a good time to reflect...

1. Spicy lentil curry before engaging in Ugandan aerobics is a bad idea
2. Coercion works
3. No matter where your car breaks down or how stranded you might fear to be, somebody will always come to help you
4. Waragi goes with everything and every occasion
5. Say anything, but not the V-word
6. Germans really are obsessed with sausages

What I cannot forget:

1. My arrival at the airport and those wonderful African smells, sights, and feelings
2. Acholi woman in a Kampala Indian Restaurant who guessed that I was a Mexican national. Best compliment, no matter how outlandish.
3. My first Nile Special Beer, followed by my first Waragi.
4. Those first nights in Gulu, watching the children commute into the town to sleep at night, and those children who pursued me and shared their stories. Remember David? I have not seen him in so long and I often wonder/worry where he is.
5. The older woman in Opit Camp who tried to establish that I was indeed a woman and capable of nursing a child like her daughter by giving me a cheap grab.
6. Steffi and I on a motorcycle, cruising around Gulu town to the shock and awe of all – especially when I almost fell off the back.
7. In Alero Camp: the man attempting to pass as a soldier with paper badges who told me he would marry me if he were a bit younger. He seemed genuinely offended and taken aback when I suggested that perhaps I would not marry him.
8. Seeing baby Kelly Innocent for the first time.
9. Awaking to the shoot out in Kitgum in a puddle of my own sweat (from the heat, not the fear).
10. Nights of dancing (some things never change, I know).
11. When I was sick, homeless, and doubting why I ever went to Gulu.
12. The people who listened, consoled, and propelled me forward.
13. The first time my non-emailing brother Justin called me.
14. First marriage proposal – the others somehow don’t measure up to that first time.
15. Fiona, the young girl I met my first week in Gulu when I sat down among a group of youth at a conference. They all refused to talk to me, yet Fiona approached me afterwards and later would visit me and even wrote a very sweet letter with pictures of her and her family.
16. Learning to loosen (not cut) the umbilical cord to certain comforts – internet, electricity, phones, (hot) water, keeping time, functioning vehicles.
17. The young boy in the red jammies at Pabbo IDP camp.
18. Flying mutant crickets/grasshoppers in Gulu.
19. Huge mutant ants in Kampala.
20. The power of a rain storm in Gulu.
21. The woman from Kitgum who always saves the best bunch of bananas for me.
22. Sitting on the back of a boda boda, in the middle of a huge traffic jam, inhaling the fumes and smirking at those who make their snide comments about the mzungu woman who refuses to go side-saddle.
23. The woman with her baby we assisted in getting released from Kitgum Prison.
24. Sitting at a table with Betty Bigombe, the army commander, and a just returned LRA rebel commander.
25. Meatless chicken Thanksgiving dinner in Gulu.
26. The women of Roma Hotel (Beatrice, Annette, Grace, and for a time, Aisha) who took care of me, got to know my habits, and were always shocked when I broke the mold.
27. Eating and drinking at the Acholi Inn, the slowest, but most pleasant service of Tony and Steven (and the inappropriate jokes we shared and never tired of recycling).
28. The amazing friends and colleagues – Ugandans, Europeans, North Americans and all.