Footnotes from the British Underground

This blog began as venue for my stories as I traveled in Africa. 18 months later, I return to it as I travel to study as a Marshall Scholar in the United Kingdom. My hope is that this blog can be a conduit for you - my family, friends and secret/strange admirers - to track my movements, see a photo or two and get a glimpse of my days in the UK. Apologies once again to Dostoevsky for the blog's name...

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Location: Bradford, United Kingdom

After graduating from Notre Dame, I'm off to England for graduate study. I'll be studying for a M.A. in International Politics and Security Studies. When not studying, I'm continuing to coordinate Uganda-CAN's efforts to end the 20-year war in northern Uganda!

14.2.05

Happy Valentine's Day - Don't Forget Northern Uganda

Today, we had a lecture on the civil conflict in Northern Uganda, in the Gulu, Paeler, Lango and Kitgumu regions. As I mentioned in my last post, the civil strife is horrific - leaving thousands killed and hundreds of thousands in IDP camps that are stricken with violence, disease and poverty. Perhaps one of the most atrocious situations in all of the world. The conflict is only compounded by mass numbers of child abductions (kids are forced to watch their families die or kill their families and then are forced into the rebel groups), rapes and slaughter. Yet, this conflict has received meager coverage in mainstream Western media.

The civil conflict has been raging since 1986 when current President Museveni and the National Resistance Movement gained power, pushing the Acholi (northern ethnic group) soldiers back to the northern border between Uganda and Sudan. Since then, a north-south conflict ensued as Museveni walked out of peace talks and his army attacked the northern villages. The remnants of the northern soldiers formed the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group at the helm of the violence. This was all intensified by Cold War tensions (enter foreign military donors for both sides) and subsequent Western-Islamic tensions in recent years. The funding of the LRA by the Sudanese government in Khartoum has only added immense fuel to the conflict, providing weapons that the LRA might make the north "ungovernable," challenging Museveni's power. Museveni, aided by a number of sources, has let politics get in the way of real peace. He has continually backed out of agreements, thus leading to the deterioration of any trust. After 18 years, the conflict continues on with a gross human cost.

This an oversimplified understanding of the conflict, but it is critical to contextualize such gross occurences. There is a tendency to see Africa as the "heart of darkness" (a gross misreading and misquoting of Conrad by the way), but the reality is that events are a result of complex politico-socio-economic forces (i.e. colonialism and neo-colonialism). Such context also gives us a framework to look and work for peace prospects.

As for peace prospects, there are some. The north-south peace in Sudan is a hopeful sign, and the LRA seems anxious for peace talks. Yet, Museveni's constitutional coup d'etat (to be described in a forthcoming post) is not helping build trust. Let's hope peace might come soon, though. I am thinking about doing my research project on the nexus of constitutionalism and peace in Northern Uganda.

In other news, nothing major to report on. I learned how to cut and eat sugar cane and jackfruit yesterday. I also saw Ndere Troupe, a traditional music and dance performance - quite awesome.

So, Happy Valentine's Day. Let's celebrate love, but not forget those in the northern IDP camps who have not had a peaceful night in 18 years. Perspective is a curse, but also a liberation.

4 Comments:

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