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!

19.5.05

Uganda Heading to Civil War? - News Update

From The Monitor on 18 May 2005 -

"World Bank Report Warns of Civil War"

A World Bank commissioned report says Uganda may be plunged into a civil war if President Yoweri Museveni pushes for a third term.

In what could increase donor pressure on Mr Museveni's continued leadership of the country and intentions to stay on after 2006, the report has recommended aid cuts to Uganda over the next three years, warning that extreme prudence is required because of the country's increased risk to political uncertainty and violence.

"Though not etched in stone, it would appear that President Museveni has decided to press on with his effort to secure a third term as a price for his country's transition to multiparty politics. Should this be his final decision, the likelihood of greater violence than that which accompanied the 2001 elections is very high," the report said.

"This could in turn be highly destabilising, and, in the worst case scenario, result into proliferation of armed insurrections if not outright civil war in selected areas of the South - in addition to violence that is already occurring in the North," reads the report titled "The Political Economy of Uganda - The Art of Managing a Donor-Financed Neo-Patrimonial State".

The report adds: "The president would retain the power, but the popular base of the regime would be a shadow of what it once enjoyed. Uganda will have morphed into a Moi-like system of increasingly corrupt and repressive authoritarian rule". (Moi was president of the once prosperous Kenya from 1978 until his corrupt Kanu administration was overwhelmingly rejected in the December 2002 elections).

Parliament is expected to amend Article 105(2) of the constitution, which would enable Museveni, now in the final term of his two-constitutional terms to seek re-election in 2006 and stay on.

The World Bank report, commissioned to establish the risk of lending programmes in Uganda, recommends a move back to closely monitored project lending in the ongoing three-year aid programme up to 2008, largely because of Museveni's third term push.

The study headed by Prof. Joel Barkan of the University of Iowa and a Senior Consultant on Africa Governance conducted last year, warns the bank to be extremely prudent, recommending a "low case" lending programme in Uganda during the period of the forthcoming Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) and rethinking of the appropriateness of continued budget support to the country.

"We regret that we cannot be more positive about the present political situation in Uganda, especially given the country's admirable record through the late 1990s," the 66 - page confidential report reads.

Other members of the World bank study team, included Jack Titsworth, Africa Governance Consultant for the World Bank, Prof Njuguna Ng'ethe of the University of Nairobi and Sallie Simba Kayunga, a political science lecturer at Makerere University.

Reacting to the concerns raised in the study, the Prime Minister, Prof. Apolo Nsibambi, told The Monitor yesterday that there was no need to press the panic button in view of the recommendations of the report.

"This is not the position of the World Bank. It's just a study by a researcher and the World Bank has not adopted it," Nsibambi said by telephone.

"We have a very good relationship with our financial partners including the World Bank. If there was any indication of any problem, the lady [World Bank country representative Grace Yabroudy] would have met me or the president to raise the concerns but she hasn't met any of us," the Prime Minister said.

Nsibambi said despite recent indications that major donors including Britain may cut aid to Uganda; there was no evidence that the donors are getting jittery over the country's democratic process.

"There is no cause for alarm," he said. "The donors are asking for clarifications and we clarify to their satisfaction as we have always done," Nsibambi said.

But Mr John Nagenda, President Museveni's senior adviser on media and public relations, said the World Bank should be mindful of the wishes of the majority of Ugandans.

"I can assure you that whether you and me like the third term or not, by all indices, it appears it will go through because that is what the majority of Ugandans want. Who says that there would be a civil war because the majority want Museveni?" he asked.

"If Museveni stands in 2006, the majority, if they don't want him - he will be shown the door. That is democracy," Nagenda said on telephone.

Nagenda said the World Bank should be democratic.

"It should use its people on the ground to discover what Ugandans want. It would be tragic if the World Bank uses its financial power to punish the majority of Ugandans. We are also asking the rest of the donors why they think they should speak for Ugandans," Nagenda said.

The report expresses worry about the militarisation of politics and the increasing influence on Uganda's military matters by the Presidential Guard Brigade (PGB), President Museveni's elite guard whose members have been reportedly recruited by Museveni's brother, Lt. Gen. Salim Saleh, and his son, Maj. Muhoozi Kainerugaba. Kainerugaba is a commander in the PGB.

"The PGB is a classic praetorian guard, i.e. a military unit apart from the regular army whose sole purpose is to ensure that the head of government remains in power.

"While its exact size and equipment is a subject of speculation, the fact that it is big and well equipped, including such weaponry as battle cars, tanks, and armoured personnel carriers is not in doubt; nor does the government deny such," the report says.

"Whether the purpose of the PGB is to protect the regime against any potential intervention into Uganda's politics by the UPDF, or to suppress other opponents is unclear, but the raison d'etre (purpose) of the PGB is not the defence of Uganda borders," the report says.

"Observers knowledgeable about Uganda's military note that several senior officers from the PGB, including Muhoozi, have been redeployed to the UPDF to enhance its capacity and loyalty," the report says in a critique of the PGB formation.

Crossing Borders - The Tear of Returning to the "Normal"

As I flew over Sudan and Algeria on the trip that would eventually return me to the United States, I closed my eyes and listened to Italian opera music. My mind was racing with the stories, people and moments that composite a disjointed portrait of my last 15 weeks in Uganda. Returning home, I feel torn. I am physically back in Massachusetts, but I think I left my heart and soul in Uganda. Which I guess means I will have to return soon to retrieve them. Or reside with them.

There is a quote from Aidan Hartley's book The Zanzibar Chest - a book I highly recommend - that really sums up a lot of whay I am feeling at the moment. "In the midst of carnage, you will see the utter evil and the supreme good, side-by-side. We will rarely find it in so-called 'normal' life. I know that the privilege of witnessing the extremes stretches something inside the heart or the soul or the mind, so that there is a void we cannot ever hope to fill in again in ourselves."

My time in Uganda stretched me and will continue to stretch me. I cannot ever forget being sprayed in the eyes with tear gas as the police repressed peaceful demonstrators against Museveni's third term project. I will never forget walking through the horrifying IDP camps of northern Uganda that hold more than 1.6 million people, a forgotten people victim to a 19-year old hidden war. I shall never forget the vibrancy of the Kampala streets, the welcome of a people alive with spirit, the stars of the African night, Tusker beers, the music that booms in Old Taxi Park, the bumpy roads from Mbale, the boisterous Nile River, the fact that nothing ever works ever, the quiet Victoria Lake and the lush green hills of amatookye. And of course, it is impossible to forget the people I met, the many who I will forever consider my real brothers and sisters.

Returning to the United States has been a shock. First, it was so different to see white faces everywhere. Beyond the obvious, I have been struck by the beautiful women in skimpy clothing who adorn the covers of countless magazines, the shiny SUVs that dominate the roads (and consume massive amounts of petroleum, thus fueling civil resources wars in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East), the fact that people never greet each other, the traffic lights, the washing machines and more. Everything here is so ordered, so mechanized. I wonder where is the chaos and the madness that gave such vibrancy to Kampala? Or in other words, where is the human spirit free and creative? I fear our evolved societies have devolved inhumanely, stripping human autonomy.

I will write more in the coming days because I must. And I will continue to write in this web log of news about Uganda, and especially news about our campaign - Uganda Conflict Action Network - to push for an end to the brutal war in northern Uganda.

The challenge of connecting worlds and realities that are so easily disconnected by the constructed barriers of our world is perhaps the most noble and important in our globalized day. It is an endless struggle of the individual and the communal, which in the end believes that our destiny is wrapped up in that of one another. Together, we struggle.

14.5.05

To Tame the Savageness of Man - Final Mass Update from Kampala

This is my final mass email update to my friends and family -

Dear Baganda Bange (my brothers and sisters),

It was the first and only time I had spaghetti in Uganda. We were eating on the lawn at the Acholi Inn, the heavily-guarded hotel on the outskirts of Gulu town in northern Uganda, with the booming drums from a traditional Acholi dance ceremony ringing in the distance. I was sitting there with my two friends and travel compaions, Nate and James, nursing Tuskers, the Kenyan beer publicized with the slogan 'My country, my beer.'

At the table to my right sat four UPDF army commanders, accused by many of benefiting from the persistence of the 19-year old war. At the table ten yards in front of us sat Sam Kolo, the highest ranking officer of the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) to leave the "bush" for amnesty, a man guilty of some of the most brutal and worst crimes known to man. Sitting there, my mind wandered to the people of Starch Factory IDP camp in Lira - the victims of this war who have been raped, starved, abducted and killed while the government and international community have done nothing. Nate remarked, "Ain't this some shit." I couldn't have agreed with him more.

So, ogambaki my baganda bange? Or as people say in much of northern Uganda, kopanyo? How are you? Gyebale to all of you. It has been far too long since I last wrote one of my far too long mass emails, but I wanted to make sure I wrote one final one before I depart this Monday for the long journey north and then west that will eventually place me back in Red Sox country. Perhaps I should say World Series champions Red Sox country. That's more fitting.

It would be foolish to attempt to tell you all that has happened in the last month, let alone attempt to draw some conclusions as I depart from the "pearl of Africa." I actually want to do something radical for me - keep this email short. In that vein, I wanted to share one experience, one epiphany and one exegesis.

The experience - During my third trip to northern Uganda, I visited Noah's Ark, a center for children who "commute" to town at night from the rural villages and IDP camps to get security from LRA attacks. We traveled by bike across town in the dark to see this center, which is really a series of tents surrounded by barbed-wire fence, not unlike what I imagine concentration camps looked like on the outside during the Holocaust. As we walked towards the gates, the kids came into focus. And the numbers were enormous. There were over 2000 kids in ripped, dirty clothes ranging in age from a few months old to seventeen. They all sat, huddled together wearing stares of fear.

We visited the tents where these children sleep - they sleep on the dirt with blankets, gridlocked together like Africans on a slave ship across the Middle Passage. After visiting the tents, we walked back to the entrance. As we moved up the hill, the children rushed past us to secure their spots for sleep. It was an overwhelming emotional moment - seemingly endless waves of little malnourished, fear-ridden, cute children walking and running past us. And then the kids choir in the camp, which had been practicing in the distance, started singing a song. We could only make out one word: peace.

If you want to know more about these children, visit - http://www.unicef.org/media/media_21312.html or http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/05/africa_night_commuters/html/1.stm or http://wwwnotes.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/0/57bf748c1437a97549256ea5000ae163?OpenDocument

The epiphany - The more I have learned about this horrific 19-year old war, the more I have realized the complicity of the international community, especially the United States in the persistence of the war. Subsequently, I have learned that the United States government, if it used its significant power in Uganda, could push President Museveni to serious negotiations that would likely end the war. As one analyst told me, "If the U.S. woke up and decided at breakfast that it wanted the war to end, it would be over by dinner." It could happen. And it should happen.

This summer, I, along with my good friend Michael Poffenberger, will be launching a new campaign, called the Uganda Conflict Action Network (Uganda-CAN). We will be operating under the wing of Africa Faith and Justice Network to expose the silence and complicity of the U.S. government in this subtle genocide, while pushing the government to act for a peaceful resolution of the war. With enough support and commitment, we believe our campaign can have a massive impact on the lives of Ugandans living on the brink of death. When I spoke with Betty Bigombe, the chief peace negotiator about our campaign, she told me that our work "would be a major contribution to peace in northern Uganda."

To be successful, we need your help with funding, volunteerism, advocacy and more. I have already received tens of emails from people who want to help with the campaign. We have already raised $5000 thanks to many generous donors. The people of northern Uganda are crying out for your and my attention, for the world's attention. For too long, this war has been hidden and ignored, resulting in a situation most appropriately described as hell on earth. One woman in an IDP camp in Lira told me, "If the international community does not do anything soon, we will all die and be forgotten."

Email Michael or I to get involved (pquarant@nd.edu).

The exegesis - The famous Greek poet Aeschylus wrote that we should dedicate ourselves to "tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world." As I depart from this place that has taught and given me so much, I am not more certain of anything else. Facing the realities and deep contradictions of our world hurts. Facing the very real and horrific suffering faced by millions and millions of people across the globe hurts, confuses, depresses and breaks us. It shatters our preconceived, socialized notions of how things are, how things should be or even how things can be. Looking at a world deeply tarnished by the real inhumane effects of systems of violence and oppression, it is nearly impossible to have hope.

I do not believe we will ever eliminate the capacity for brutal, vicious evil that lies within all hearts, including yours and mine. Nonetheless, we struggle tirelessly to create structures and mechanisms that foster active values of inclusion, equity and justice. We creatively utilize our power in movements for a more humane and just tomorrow. We are compelled to work to embed norms of human rights, human dignity and human justice into our societal fabric. In doring so, we seek to create a world where it easier for humans to be good; a world that empowers the capacity for good in the human heart. A world that tames the savageness of man and makes gentle the life of this world.

As I leave Uganda, I will deeply miss this country. I will miss the madness of the taxi park, the music that makes ordinary people dance on the streets, the colors, the fruits, the sunshine, the greetings and so much more. Most of all, I will miss the many friends I have made here, people whom I will forever consider my brothers and sisters in a real sense. As we cross the many constructed barriers of our world - national boundaries, religion, ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality, economic status, eduation - I really believe we find there is a human oneness that weaves itself through all life wherever it thrives.

I am excited to come home to see all of you, but I know there is a part of me that will never leave Uganda. And I will definitely be back. Soon.

Thanks for reading these lengthy emails and following my blog postings over the last three and a half months. It means so much to know that we journey not alone, but together. Best wishes wherever your path leads you in the coming months, and stay in touch!

Peace,
Pete

13.5.05

Updates as we Wind on Down the Road... - Final Days in Uganda

It has been far too long since I last chimed in on this blog. Last week was a mad rush to write and publish my report - titled "They are Feeding off our Blood": The Struggle for Peace in Uganda's Tenuous Political Climate. I will put the report up on my website - www.nd.edu/~pquarant - as soon as I get home.

After the madness of writing, our group traveled to Ssese Islands in the middle of Lake Victoria to present our findings and have final groups debriefings. The island was beautiful, and the opportunity to relax much needed. Yet, I find myself growing sad as my final days in the "pearl of Africa" (for now) pass.

I intend to write tomorrow some reflections, not conclusions, on my fifteen weeks here in Uganda, which I will post here.

In good news, the human rights complaint that my friend wrote about the discrimination against homosexuals in HIV/AIDS policy has already received some great press coverage. Just small coverage from international news agencies will force the Uganda Human Rights Commission and the government to respond. The struggle will inevitably be a long one, but this is definitely an example of the power we have as consciencious citizens to utilize our power to push for a more just and humane world. I will also post my friend's report on my website in a week when I am back in the United States.

Finally, my little brother, Dan, graduates today from Xaverian Brothers High School in Massachusetts. I am really excited for him and wish I could be there. Congrats, Dan.

Best wishes to you wherever you stumble upon the blog. More to come tomorrow.

5.5.05

Museveni's Third Term: A Test for the Bush Administration?

The following is an editorial written this week by a former U.S. ambassador, Johnnie Carson, to Uganda -

FOR the past decade, Uganda has been one of Africa's success stories. It has been held up as an African poster child for economic reform, improved human rights, and a champion in the struggle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The man responsible for its success has been President Yoweri Museveni.

Charismatic and affable, Museveni is regarded as one of the most influential leaders in Africa. However, his thirst for power and quest for a controversial third presidential term may return Uganda to its dictatorial past.

Before Museveni came to power in 1986, Uganda was one of Africa's most notorious killing fields. From 1971-79, Uganda was ruled by Idi Amin, a former Ugandan army sergeant who seized power from the country's first elected president, Dr Milton Obote.

During his eight years in office, Amin unleashed a reign of terror. He started by expelling some 70,000 Ugandan-Asians from the country and confiscating their land and property. As his tyranny gained steam, he turned on his fellow Africans. Under his orders, Amin's troops killed more than 500,000 Ugandans in the central part of the country.

A Tanzanian-led invasion of Uganda in 1979 led to the overthrow of Amin's bloody regime, but it did not usher in a period of peace. Backed by Tanzania's president, the late Julius Nyerere, Uganda's first president, Milton Obote, was returned to power.

However, instead of instituting economic and political reforms, Obote engaged in retribution, unleashing his troops on previous political adversaries, as well as the remnants of Idi Amin's discredited army. In three years, Obote was able to create nearly as much havoc as Amin.

A younger Yoweri Museveni led the successful guerrilla campaign that stopped ethnic killing and ousted Obote and his thugs from power. Although it took some months for Museveni to solidify his authority over several rival political groups and pacify the majority, by 1986 he was able to consolidate his authority, stop the political violence, and win political recognition from Uganda's neighbours.

Unlike Obote and Amin, Museveni established himself as a genuine reformer and innovative thinker. Demonstrating remarkable courage, he reversed Amin's 1973 Asian expulsion order and agreed to return all the houses, shops, and large agricultural estates to their previous Asian owners. He also adopted a major economic reform programme, which won the praise of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

However, Museveni's greatest success came in public health when he became the first African leader to speak out publicly against the dangers of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Mobilising his government, Museveni's leadership has made Uganda a model in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the developing world.

While Museveni's reforms and leadership have led to stability and growth, his handling of two domestic issues threaten to disrupt the progress that Uganda has made over the last 15 years and to cast Museveni as just another African president unwilling to give up power.

Under a new constitution in 1996, Museveni was limited to two five-year terms. However, over the last two years, Museveni has shown an increasing desire not to move on when his term ends in 2006.

A strong critic of Uganda's former political leaders, Museveni has been a reluctant supporter of a full return to multiparty politics in his own country. Now, with political party activity expanding, Museveni seems determined to engineer a controversial constitutional change that will clear the way for him to remain in power.

All of Uganda's major opposition parties have accused the Ugandan president of using the Police to intimidate their leaders and suppress public demonstrations.

Museveni's attempted power grab has also caused a deep rift inside his own political organisation.

When several of his Cabinet colleagues voiced opposition to the constitutional amendment extending presidential terms, Museveni threw them out.

Many observers see Museveni's efforts to amend the Constitution as a rerun of a common problem that afflicts many African leaders - an unwillingness to follow constitutional norms and give up power. If Museveni succeeds in remaining in office, he will probably tighten his grip on power and slow down the return to multiparty democracy.

Much depends on what Museveni decides to do in the next year and whether the United States, Great Britain, and Africa's new reformist leaders will speak out against Museveni's efforts to retain power.

Uganda may also be an early test of whether the Bush administration's policy of promoting democracy extends to major African countries.

If Museveni succeeds in his desire to win a third term, we may be looking at another Mugabe and Zimbabwe in the making.

The writer was US ambassador to Uganda, and now senior vice president at the National Defence University in Washington

The Criminalization and Systematic Discrimination against Sexual Minorities in Uganda

I thought I would post this press release that a friend of mine here has been working on for the past few weeks. The criminalization and systematic discrimination against homosexuals in Uganda and most of sub-Saharan Africa remains of the most hidden injustices throughout the world. This suffering deserves attention and substantive legal action to ensure basic human rights.

**For Immediate Release**

Uganda’s HIV/AIDS Policy Systematically Abuses Human Rights

Contact: Sexual Minorities Uganda – Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256-78-460-642
+256-78-696-823
805-234-6171
Email: sm_ug2004@yahoo.com

Kampala – The plight of Ugandan sexual minorities continues as one of the worst and most hidden human rights abuses in East Africa. Facing this gross injustice, Sexual Minorities in Uganda (SMUG) is filing a human rights complaint to expose abuses in HIV/AIDS policy that intentionally and disproportionately kill Ugandan homosexuals.

The government of Uganda disallows appropriate HIV/AIDS treatment and counseling for gays and lesbians because of their sexual preferences. This denial of health service indisputably harms these people, resulting in unsafe sexual practices and unmitigated HIV rates that may disproportionately exceed those of heterosexuals. This heinous discrimination egregiously violates:

The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

The government of Uganda pledged to uphold the principles of each of these documents or agreements, but in the case of HIV/AIDS, it does not.

In addition, the government-sponsored violation and criminalization of homosexuality (Section 145 of the penal code) tie the hands of powerful and effective HIV/AIDS organizations in Uganda who are genuinely interested in protecting and informing all Ugandans of their HIV/AIDS risks.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission, who has previously refused to hear cases concerning homosexuality, may be contacted at:

UHRC Headquarters – Kampala, Uganda
E-mail: uhrc@uhrc.org
Tel: 256-041-348006/8
Fax: 256-041-255261
www.uhrc.org