Volume 21, Number 2
N.O. Dollar Day
Readers & writers
Journal of 21st Yr
2008: What's New?
Waiting for War
Iraq War Vet
Dylan & Wainwright
Charlie Wilson's War
César cuauhtémoc garcía Hernández
NYT on Kosovo
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In the early 1990s the government of the East African nation of Uganda, under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni, launched what is now widely recognized as one of the most far-reaching and successful AIDS prevention programs in Africa where the AIDS epidemic has reached disastrous proportions. First World leaders and development organizations in the early 1990s were desperate for examples of what was being done to stop the epidemic’s spread. In Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, Western leaders and development organizations felt they had found not only an example of how AIDS could be contained, but a relatively “democratic” and secular African leader advocating neoliberal economic policies. In addition, as a strategic ally, Museveni provided Western governments with a hedge against the rise of Islamic fundamentalist regimes in the critical horn of Africa. Uganda’s AIDS prevention program came to be seen by development experts as stemming the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa. This, along with Museveni’s whole-hearted commitment to the Washington Consensus on trade and development, even in implementing the IMF’s notorious Structural Adjustment Program, made him a powerful and useful example of the new gospel of international development and how it could be achieved if only African leaders would follow the agenda set forward by the international powers. For their part, international powers showed their gratitude with an influx of military and “development” aid.
At the end of the Clinton era, the view of Museveni as an exemplary African leader was passed intact from the Clinton to the Bush administration. This vision of Uganda’s leader as the Western model for leadership in Africa had gained such credence that it not only crossed political party lines in the U.S., but was also borne out by development agencies and the major media in the United States and elsewhere. A 2005 New York Times article, “By Fits and Starts, Africa’s Brand of Democracy Emerges,” painted a picture of Museveni as a leader who, though he had flaws, represented a far more responsible and democratic way of governing than those dictators and tyrants from the recent African past.
Taken out of context and viewed in a vacuum, this vision makes perfect sense. In his meetings with Museveni, President Bush has, until recently, made little mention of the civil conflict in the northern regions of Uganda. Nor has Bush made much of Museveni’s alleged diversion of U.S. military aid to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), fueling one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet. In his 2003 visit to Uganda, President Bush said of Museveni’s AIDS program, “You have worldwide influence here because you’ve provided a model of care for Uganda.”
Yoweri Museveni first came to power as head of the National Resistance Army (NRA). In 1986 the NRA, with Museveni at the helm, overthrew a regime that was one in a long series of unstable governments that Uganda had experienced since independence. As Museveni and the NRA came to power, rebel forces fled to the northern parts of Uganda.
Though the rebel forces were never able to fully threaten Museveni’s grip on power, they were also never fully eradicated. Often splintering and changing names, the rebel forces have existed in one form or another to this day. Initially Museveni pursued the rebel forces in the north, where the rebels still maintained enough of a force to make such an effort costly to his regime without any tangible benefit.
"Night commuter" children from Northern Uganda sleep in safety in early 2000s—photo from flikr.com/lifeinafrica
But even though the atrocities of the LRA were reaching horrendous proportions, Museveni did very little to negotiate with them so that the people might live in peace.
In 1996 Museveni’s troops began forcing the northern Acholi people into concentration camps. Though some entered the camps voluntarily for their own security, the majority were forced there by Museveni’s troops, who bombed and burned Acholi villages. In 2004 there were still more than 1.5 million people living in these camps. All of this was done in the name of “protecting” the Acholi people from LRA rebels. The camps were guarded by security forces who served more to violently repress criticism than to protect the people. Museveni even began withdrawing his forces, making it clear that he had no intention of seeing the war in the north to its conclusion. LRA rebels, starved for supplies, frequently raided the poorly protected camps.
Despite the atrocious treatment, neglect, and repression of the Acholi, Museveni has remained a stalwart ally of the United States. In the wake of September 11, 2001, this relationship strengthened as Museveni cast the measures used against the Acholi as necessary to fight “terror.” Museveni provided support for the U.S. “peacekeeping” mission in Somalia as well as maintaining an alliance with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army in south Sudan, a military force hostile to Sudan’s Arab nationalist government.
In the early years of the Bush administration, organizations and activists were becoming more and more aware of the extent of the crisis in northern Uganda. The practice of “night-commuting,” where Ugandan children would walk for miles so that they could sleep safely in the protection of a larger town or city from being abducted by the LRA for use as child soldiers, was vividly portrayed in a 2003 documentary Invisible Children: Rough Cut. This documentary, and the movement that grew up around it, helped to bring attention to the issue, but largely divorced the suffering of the Acholi from the political circumstances in which it occurred. The complicity of the United States in the conflict, through their uncritical financial and military support of the Museveni government, was kept from view—as was the role that Museveni played in protracting the conflict.
Recently, peace talks have been underway between the Museveni government and the LRA with the support of the Acholi. Despite this, the U.S. has been slow in supporting any sort of agreement with the LRA and has left a military solution to the conflict visibly on the table, placing their commitment to the peace process in serious question.
TO HELP: Resolve Uganda, an organization that has done extensive research and advocacy on the crisis in Uganda, is sponsoring lobby days in Washington, DC on February 24-25. For more information, visit www.ugandalobbyday.com.
Bo Chamberlin is an independent human rights activist living in Columbus, Ohio.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.