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.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Lazing in Lira

Yes, a Lira weekend for me. It’s strangely quiet and I am relishing a few moments to myself. Still stranded in the hotel – we were officially supposed to move into the guesthouse on August 1. I foresee spending the remainder of my contract hotel-bound. However, now that my colleague is on two-week leave, I have been upgraded to a finer room where I do not have to bathe over my toilet. Nice. I finally opened the beloved box of cereal I was saving for the guesthouse, and just this evening enjoyed the finest bowl of cornflakes with my mzungu milk (AKA lowfat), carried from Kampala. Best dinner I’ve had in awhile. I also find myself taking satisfaction in washing my own clothes in the little basin and any other mundane chores I can – it’s tiresome having others constantly looking after me. It seems to pain office staff that I insist on boiling my own water to make my coffee, carry my own belongings, or even use my own two feet to walk three blocks to a meeting.

Long working days and early evening rain storms have put a damper on my running, but on Saturday I finally got out, traveling the usual path, anticipating a reunion with my little friends. For the very first time, I had an awkward moment along the way as I saw a Ugandan jogger coming at me – I was in shock, not quite knowing how to respond! This is my first time seeing a Ugandan, in full gear, jogging for the sake of jogging. My favorite cat call today came from a man wanting to show his gratitude: “Thank you for exercising.” Also of note, a cyclist zoomed past me, looking back at me eagerly. When he turned forward again, I was in near hysterics as the back of his shirt said “Up Yours!” I would infer that he didn’t quite know what he was advertising on his back. And then there they were: my 12 or so girl groupees, and a few shy boys who linger behind. After hopping and skipping around, we sat under some shade for awhile. I tried to probe them on school and their lives, but they seemed to be preoccupied with trying to scare me into thinking some sticks were snakes. I played along for the laugh. What I did learn is that their daily lives include fetching water, helping with the cooking, washing the dishes, helping with the other kids. When I asked what they like better, washing dishes or playing, I was told washing dishes. I took advantage for some Luo language training and I’ve at least doubled my vocabulary. The kids kept touching my legs, and brave Fina tried pinching me a few times. I warned them that they might turn white if they keep touching me J Is it any wonder that this is the best part of living in Lira?

Otherwise, what can I say? I continue to work, work, work, trying to find my way through. It has been very nice to be back in Lira after my last trip to Kampala. One staff told me that she didn’t realize that she liked me until I wasn’t there. I think that is a compliment? Another young staff called me and sent eager text messages (and recall that Ugandans are quite frugal with airtime), telling me that she likes and loves me a lot. Won’t let that go to my head, especially as she probably wouldn’t feel that way if she were working on my project. Oh, Lira!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Dwindling Peace Process

UGANDA: LRA reluctant to take up new peace initiative
KAMPALA, 18 August (IRIN) - The rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has responded poorly to a recent initiative by mediators attempting to peacefully end the 19-year-old war in northern Uganda between the insurgents and government forces, sources said.Launched by Uganda's four main donors: Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States, the initiative involved broadcasting radio messages to the rebels inviting them to contact the chief mediator of the peace process, Betty Bigombe.The messages also announced the creation of a special radio monitoring post at which the rebels could pass messages to Bigombe to re-establish contact with her."We are in discussions with the Ugandan government about peace but we would like to impress upon you that it is absolutely vital that you re-establish contact so that the opportunity for peace talks is not lost," the radio messages said. "Your concerns can and should be issues for discussion. But it is impossible to do this if you do not re-establish contact - we urge you to do so without delay," they added. "This is a window of opportunity that may be closing rapidly."However, relief workers in northern Uganda said the southern Sudan-based rebels had been reluctant to heed the messages."The response has been much less than we expected," one relief worker in the northern town of Gulu, 380 km north of the capital, said on Thursday. "What we have got are small time telephone calls."According to the source, "nothing tangible has been discussed during the small time telephone contacts with the rebel group".The chief mediator, Bigombe - a former Uganda government minister - told IRIN the LRA had contacted her by phone in the past few weeks, but declined to give details of her talks with them.Another relief worker said: "We shall keep on trying again and again because this is a peace process that cannot be taken to its logical conclusion in a short time. It takes months and sometimes years."Meanwhile, renewed clashes between the rebels and the Ugandan army have claimed more than 20 lives both in northern Uganda and southern Sudan since Monday."Around midday [on Wednesday] inside Sudan in Kit Valley, about 40 km from our border, we caught up with an LRA group of about 50 and killed between 15 and 20," Lt Col Shaban Bantariza, Ugandan army spokesman, said."We used both helicopter gunships and ground forces against the LRA fighters and recovered about 20 bodies," he added.Bantariza said another 10 rebels were killed on Monday near Kitgum town, 450 km north of the capital, Kampala, when the army attacked a group led by LRA second in command, Vincent Otti. "He was carrying food to Sudan," the spokesman added. "We ambushed them, beat them up and killed 10."Since 2002, the Sudanese government has allowed Uganda to pursue the rebels inside its territory.The LRA has fought the Ugandan government for nearly two decades, ostensibly to replace President Yoweri Museveni's administration with one based on the biblical 10 Commandments.However, the rebel group is best known for its brutality against civilians, tens of thousands of whom they have killed, maimed and abducted. Some 1.6 million people have been displaced from their homes by the conflict. The UN estimates that the LRA has abducted more than 20,000 children to fight in its ranks or serve as porters and sex slaves.Talks to end the rebellion have achieved very little progress over the year, mainly due to the mistrust between the two parties. The mediators maintain, however, that the talks were still on course.The Ugandan government has a three-pronged approach to fighting the LRA: military means, peace talks and immunity from prosecution for rebels who surrender to the government. Museveni has been accused, however, of preferring the military option, and told IRIN he did not "believe in the magic of the peace talks".

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sugar Daddies

I came across this article on BBC today - an issue that is quite relevant here in Uganda: Sugar Daddies. If you have the time, have a gander.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A hut at Starch Factory IDP with the famous inscription "For God and My Country" Posted by Picasa

Sweet hearts, Corner Dakatal IDP camp Posted by Picasa

A bunch of hams - the minute these kids saw the camera, they raced to gather to be in the picture Posted by Picasa

Gotta love them - these kids enjoyed the instant gratification of seeing themselves on my digital camera Posted by Picasa

Children gathering at Corner Dakatal - many are not in school and lack access to any sort of education, despite being an annex of Lira town Posted by Picasa

I just liked this scene... Posted by Picasa

View from Corner Dakatal IDP camp with the lonely hill in the distance Posted by Picasa

A little lunch by the fire Posted by Picasa

A muzee (old man) hanging with some kiddies at the communal kitchen, Barr Camp Posted by Picasa

A little one who tried to play a little hide and go seek with me Posted by Picasa

Another kiddie in Barr Posted by Picasa

Kiddies doing some dealing, suspicious of the observant monu Posted by Picasa

Some kiddies hanging out in Barr Posted by Picasa

Barr IDP camp Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 11, 2005

More on the Uganda-Sudan link

Museveni warns press over Garang
By Sebastian Usher BBC- World Media correspondent

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has threatened to close down newspapers which continue to publish conspiracy theories about John Garang's death.
Mr Museveni said such speculation was a threat to national security and would not be tolerated.
He accused several papers of preying on the misery of others like "vultures".
Garang, the Sudanese vice-president, died on 30 July when the helicopter he was travelling in crashed on its way back to Sudan from Uganda.
President Museveni issued his warning to Ugandan newspapers about the coverage of Garang's death at a memorial ceremony for the Ugandan crew who died with Garang in the helicopter crash.
"They are vultures, vultures," he said of the papers in question. "For them the misery of the many is the joy of the vultures.
"Now, any newspaper which plays around with regional security, I will not tolerate it. I will just simply close it, finish, the end."
The reports that prompted Mr Museveni's anger included speculation that Garang's body had been found with bullet wounds and accusations that Rwanda might have been behind the crash.
Such conspiracy theories were clearly going too far for Mr Museveni, although he himself had been the first to suggest that the crash might not have been an accident.
Sudanese officials criticised him for those remarks.
In his speech, broadcast live on national TV, Mr Museveni named the sensationalist tabloid, Red Pepper, as one of the three papers whose reports he was unhappy with.
Last year, Red Pepper achieved considerable notoriety, as well as enraging the government, when it broke a big taboo in Uganda - and Africa as a whole - by revealing the country's foreign minister, James Wapakhabulo, had died of Aids.

I am still here...

I promise I am still here - just working like I've never worked before and without functioning internet in Lira. Now that I am briefly in Kampala I am trying to clean up house.
I am attaching an article below. I usually choose ones that in my opinion shed light on Ugandan affairs, but I am attaching this one because I think it is a highly idealized, blow-up vision of what is happening with Ugandan politics. I assure you, it is not all roses as the following would have you believe, though I do appreciate the point that Uganda's critical political developments are certainly not making headlines in America's newspapers.
By Georgie Anne Geyer Tue Aug 2, 8:06 PM ET
WASHINGTON -- Earlier this summer, the leaders of the industrialized world met in Gleneagles, Scotland, and the overwhelming message of this G-8 meeting was Africa, Africa, Africa. If one still believes in the tooth fairy, one could believe that the developed world would indeed finally pay some attention to the troubled "Black Continent."
So it is even more curious -- and disappointing -- that an important recent story illuminating how an African country really develops was virtually ignored in the American press.
I say "virtually" only because I do not pretend to have read every American newspaper to search for some mention of the important referendum in Uganda on July 28. In fact, the only article I saw at all in the seven or eight major papers I searched was in The Financial Times in its July 30/31 weekend edition, titled "Ugandans vote to end 'no party politics.'"
What was so important about a referendum in a remote African country that many Americans barely know, other than the horrendous dictatorship of Idi Amin in the 1970s? The fact is that it represented a necessary, if complicated and dangerous, step for a developing country on the way to development.
First, a little of the relevant history of this potentially rich country smack in the middle of Africa:
After the fall of Idi Amin in 1979, in whose regime at least 800,000 Ugandans were brutally killed, a remarkable man named Yoweri Museveni, a powerful intellectual who had also fought Amin in the guerrilla war, engaged upon a remarkable experiment.
Because his ravaged country had long suffered from a multi-party system that viciously employed religion, ethnicity and region as the sine qua non of each party's interests, he became president 10 years ago under the mantra of "The Movement" or the "National Resistance Movement."
This was the only way, he and his followers believed, to break down the ferocious sectarianism of the political parties that had turned Ugandan against Ugandan, paving the way directly for the poisonous hand of Idi Amin. Under the new system, those hatreds would gradually be ameliorated, then obliterated, as Ugandans ran for office, women as well as men, on merit. The "Big Umbrella," it has also been called.
And the fact is, this experiment in creating a new and inclusive political form to override the decisions of the past has worked brilliantly. The country has come together under the two terms of President Museveni; growth has been steady and fairly distributed, women have had equal access to jobs and the government, and international donors have made the clever Museveni the darling of Western developmentalists.
But "The Movement" has been in place, in one way or another, between 10 and 20 years. Donor nations of the West, still intent upon trying to impose pure Western-style multiparty democracy everywhere, are pressuring Museveni to change the system -- and to give up any idea of running for a third term next year.
So, what to do? For successful presidents such as Museveni, who become heroes to their people and hesitate to give up power for both noble and ignoble reasons, this is a moment of truth in which there is always the possibility of everything being lost.
When I had a lengthy interview with President Museveni in Kampala in May, he spoke of what it was like in the beginning. "You must have a diagnosis. You have a patient, and you are the doctor to treat a sick society. If your diagnosis is correct, then the prescription, which is the vision, is correct. If you don't get that right, it doesn't matter how hard you work. Now our job is to crystallize the vision."
To the surprise of many, Museveni last year himself came out for a change to multiparty democracy. "These are structural issues," he told me. "Our societies are still pre-industrial, which is why we were originally hesitant to have multiparties. But in the last 19 years some evolution has taken place.
"We dissolved the old sectarian groups. Why? Because today everyone has the same social interest. The years have enabled Ugandans to get in touch with one another. There is more self-discipline. There is today a big consensus in the society, and a middle class is emerging . Therefore, we can today face multiparty democracy again."
That was why, on July 28, Uganda did something distinctly different -- but something that could be a model of the kinds of steps needed when countries are in delicate transition. After nearly two decades of what was effectively one-party rule, the country held a referendum on returning to multiparty politics. The president was officially in favor of a "yes" vote. The turnout was disappointing -- only 45 percent of Ugandans voted -- but those who did voted overwhelmingly for the change.
No one knows what President Museveni will do next; he would not comment to me about the many rumors that he would now change the Constitution in order to run for a third term. But here is my informed conjecture:
Museveni will attempt to do what is necessary to run again because he fears the country could still be lost without his leadership. ("Running a country like Uganda is not easy," he was quoted in The Financial Times piece. "It is like driving a trailer on a bad road. You cannot give it to people who are learning to drive.") But he will gain a third term by turning "The Movement" into one party of many and thus win under multiparty rules.
This will not please the purist West, nor will it excuse leaders like Museveni who have done little to groom successors to their reigns. Other Africans are already uneasy about a third term in Uganda because of the practice of many African leaders (the notorious "Big Man" style) to hang onto power indefinitely.
But Museveni is different -- he has been uniquely successful to today's Africa, and fears of his leaving are real.
After all, we have examples from recent history when successful presidents played too precisely by the book and destroyed their countries. One was President Eduardo Frei of Chile, who could have stopped the Marxist Salvador Allende from coming to power in 1970 through congressional manipulations, but who refused to do so and regretted it all his life.
Another was President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela, who dramatically left the country for Europe in the '60s after two brilliant presidential terms in order to let his people develop without him. But his honorable departure was far too early; in the aftermath of his almost Periclean rule, the country slipped into 30 years of two-party rule so corrupt and avaricious that they gave the region the present dictator/caudillo, Hugo Chavez.
That's why the referendum in Uganda was important. It marked a new attempt, at a crucial juncture of the past and the future, to devise mechanisms to keep people genuinely involved and, at the same time, to sustain the leadership a nation needs.
In fairness, this is actually what the United States and the new Iraqi leadership in Iraq are trying to do. They might well look at Uganda and its leadership for tips.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Sudan-Uganda link: the death of Garang

UGANDA-SUDAN: Garang death may hurt northern Uganda peace - commentators
KAMPALA, 2 August (IRIN) - The death of Sudanese First Vice President John Garang in a helicopter crash on Saturday could have an adverse effect on efforts to bring peace to war-torn northern Uganda, commentators said.Northern Uganda, which borders southern Sudan, has been ravaged by two decades of a war that pits the Ugandan government against the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal group accused of committing widespread atrocities against civilians in the north and east of the country."I understand from contacts that the LRA is rejoicing because a key enemy has been removed," John Prendergast, a special advisor to the global think-tank, the International Crisis Group, said on Monday."This could have a serious negative impact for the northern Uganda situation," he told IRIN from Kampala.The LRA has launched many of its attacks from rear bases in government-controlled areas of southern Sudan. Its leader, the elusive Joseph Kony, is widely believed to inhabit the Imatong mountain range in southern Sudan.At one point, Kampala accused Khartoum of arming the LRA in retaliation for Uganda's alleged support of the SPLM/A.In an interview with Uganda's New Vision newspaper the day before his death, Garang warned Kony to leave southern Sudan, and promised to deal with all destabilising forces in southern Sudan."Kony won't be hiding there for long," he said. "It is not only Kony, but also all the militias who have been operating in the area. We need to provide peace, security and stability."Garang died when a Ugandan military helicopter flying him to southern Sudan after a meeting with Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, crashed near the Uganda-Sudan border.The two leaders are reported to have discussed how Garang's administration in southern Sudan could help deal with the LRA insurgency.The chairman of the former rebel southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), Garang had been sworn into office three weeks ago, after ending a 21-year war against the Khartoum government in January.An estimated 1.6 million people in Uganda's north and east have been forced from their homes by the Ugandan conflict. The rebels have, since the start of the conflict, abducted more than 20,000 children to fight alongside the rebels and serve as porters or sex slaves."He was committed to joining hands with us to end terrorism in northern Uganda. That is lost now," Lt Col Shaban Bantariza, Ugandan army spokesman, said. "I only hope that the SPLA will pick up the pieces and proceed from where Garang left off."Reagan Okumu, a Member of Parliament from the northern district of Gulu, said the people of northern Uganda had great faith in Garang's ability to restore peace in the region."It [Garang's death] is definitely a blow to the peace process in northern Uganda. Garang had a personal attachment with the people in northern Uganda and it was hoped that if he took firm control over southern Sudan, this LRA menace would cease," Okumu told IRIN.Museveni described Garang's death as a "tragic loss", but said it should not be allowed to hinder the Sudanese people's struggle for justice and dignity."The Uganda government supports the interim process in the Sudan," he said.The president declared three days of mourning in Uganda in Garang's honour.Museveni also announced the formation of a panel of three experts to probe the accident that claimed Garang's life. "We have also approached a certain foreign government to rule out any form of sabotage or terrorism," he added.The MI-72 helicopter presidential helicopter came down in bad weather, with some reports suggesting it had run out of fuel. All of 14 people on board were killed.[ENDS]