Project Uganda: Blood Tears of Acholi Land

Answer in Uganda is not a simplistic one

by Travis and Kaitlin Curtice

Demonstrators express their support for International Citizens.

“But our campaign will remain the same until Kony is either captured or killed,” said the American representative for Invisible Children’s communications department. This statement underlines the issue of overtly emotionalized media targeting an uneducated or under-educated American youth. Though no one can deny the, nearly unrivaled, ability of Invisible Children to raise awareness for the situation in Northern Uganda through their documentaries such as “Invisible Children: the Rough Cut,” “Sunday,” and “Emmy,” their ability to work for lasting and genuine change is questioned — mostly by Ugandans.

In choosing to continue to engage only hot-button issues I.C has failed to represent the programs they are actually engaging in Northern Uganda, and have brought issues to the surface that are either irrelevant or could actually perpetuate the cycle of violence in Northern Uganda.

In our interview with the Communication Officer at the I.C field office in Gulu, Andrew Morgan told us why most of the programs, community microloans, the cotton project, and the scholarship programs, remain buried from the eyes of the American sponsors. “Mainly, because we want all of our supporters lobbying for policy change on Capitol Hill, engaging their political constituents for American support for the Ugandan army to capture or kill Joseph Kony.” He continued, “We’ll fill them in on the projects being implemented after that happens.” The bill currently lobbied by Invisible Children calls for 10 million dollars of aid paid by the United States that would enable a renewed attack by the Ugandan troops on Kony’s LRA in the Congo.

The interplay of corruption and tribal tension in Northern Uganda cannot be approached in such simplistic ways as solely targeting the capturing or killing of Joseph Kony. It certainly will not work for a lasting peace and genuine reconciliation for the grievances on both sides of the conflict that caused the insurgency.

The “longest running war in Africa,” the slogan often used in Invisible Children’s advertisements, is rooted in tribal tension between Northern and Southern tribes and not only the atrocities of the LRA. Calling for the multilateral support of US military and financial aid to assist the Ugandan troops, is to side with the protagonist and predominant beneficiary of the conflict, President Yoweri Museveni.

Certainly Joseph Kony should be held accountable for the atrocities that he and the LRA have done but not at the expense of abating or enabling the atrocities of the UPDF. Such short-sided approaches to peace have already resulted in the resurgence of new rebel activities, the UPF.

The root of the conflict in Northern Uganda is not the LRA, but rather the marginalization and targeting of the Acholi people by Uganda’s current administration. Kony is simply a smoke screen, “a terrorist” that has taken the eyes of the international community off of the original issues.

The Acholi people have not forgotten their fathers and mothers burned in the streets of Kampala after Museveni took control of the nation, and the Bugandans have not forgotten the atrocities committed by the Acholi military under Obote at the Luwero triangle. A thrust of international support, mainly US support, to capture or kill Kony would not show the sufferers of the conflict that they have the support of the international community; rather this would show the ignorance of the international community regarding the real issues and grievances faced by the Acholi people.

For there to be a lasting peace, the international community must pressure Museveni to change his stance towards the North by first paying repartitions for abuses committed by his troops throughout that region, secondly by allowing proper political representation of the Northern tribes and lastly actively engaging truth and reconciliation talks with Acholi and Bugandan leaders.

THE LRA DISARMAMENT AND NORTHERN UGANDA RECOVERY ACT Bill brought before the senate by senators, Mr. Feingold and Mr. Brownback does address the need for transitional justice and truth-telling in the reconciliation process to prevent the perpetual tide of violence in Uganda but the emphasis is Kony.