Uganda: 5th post

Previous post here I believe I am out of my depth.

I've been trying to get a more sophisticated understanding of President Museveni's administration, but as it turns out -- and I'm sure this will come as a surprise to everyone -- understanding the political situation of Uganda, a country which 5 weeks ago I had never read an entire article about, is difficult.

So, while I do feel that I am making meaningful progress in understanding more about Uganda, the LRA, and various perspectives on foreign aid, I don't have very much useful information to summarize this week.

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I did find out that Museveni doesn't want the International Criminal Court to prosecute Kony, preferring to handle it in Uganda.  (Source)

I also found a pretty good article from 2010 that discusses why the LRA has been around so long, and why they're difficult to stop.  It wasn't the target of my information seeking this week, but it is certainly worth reading, for more full comprehension. (Source)

Here's some information on Kony's tactics:

Apart from friendships with shady dictators, the LRA has gotten pretty good at what it does -- massacring and hiding throughout the region. "They've developed skills that no military has on Earth," said Frank Nyakairu, who covered the LRA for 10 years for Uganda's Daily Monitor and now works for Reuters. LRA fighters are excellent at hiding in and moving quickly across rough terrain, often at night, and few conventional militaries can keep up. The LRA has also honed its ability to forage and loot the supplies it needs, including child soldiers. Few if any similar guerrilla or insurgent groups worldwide have been capturing, brainwashing, and training children for as long as the LRA, and its leaders have refined their brutal techniques to an art form.

And here's a bit about the corruption of the Ugandan military:

Meanwhile, the LRA's pursuers, corrupt and inept, have shot themselves in the foot innumerable times. An internal military investigation in 2003, for example, found that Ugandan commanders in their country's north were inflating their troop numbers and keeping for themselves the salaries and rations for soldiers who were dead, had deserted, or never existed in the first place. Of Uganda's 55,626 troops on paper, an estimated 20,000 did not exist. The soldiers who did exist were underequipped, underfed, and often unpaid, as the same commanders skimmed money from disbursements meant to buy food and supplies. Overall, high-ranking Ugandan military leaders profited immensely from the war -- and the LRA profited from facing a weakened military.

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I've also found a few more articles this week that discuss the problems with Invisible Children's approach.

This excellent post from How-matters.org discusses the psychological motives within the Kony 2012 film: (source)

The Invisible Children founder’s real job in that moment was not to solve Jacob’s problem. Aid workers, do-gooders, that goes for us too. We have an immense responsibility to handle these situations with care because our presence as outsiders can and often does provide opportunities for people to tell their stories, often of suffering. It takes effort to cultivate and hone our ability to carry this burdensome, sacred role and work hard not to project or protect our feelings over another’s. But in my experience, simply “being there” can help people reconnect to their hope when it seems lost.

This one offers a bulleted list of issues we should consider when thinking about the Kony 2012 film: (source)

[...] please consider

  • The lack of context and nuance;
  • Invisible to whom?;
  • The disempowering and reductive narrative;
  • Revival of the white savior;
  • The privilege of giving; and
  • The lack of African leadership.

And this libertarian-slanted HuffPost World article features a paragraph in which the writer, James Marshall Crotty, attempts to say the words "Atrocity tourism" as many times as he can: (source)

Mr. Russell is not some rare and fragile bird who descended un-touched from some Pure Land of Bodhisattva Oneness, though that's the image he projects. Moreover, he's not free, merely by decree, of the Atrocity Tourist agenda. He did not arise out of whole cloth and magically decide to heroically "do something" (as Atrocity Tourists obnoxiously and obsessively intone) about Joseph Kony. He was already practicing Atrocity Tourism in Sudan back in 2004 when he came upon the Kony story, which provided a fresh angle to his preexisting Atrocity Tourist point of view. In other words, Russell was and is part and parcel of the Atrocity Tourist culture and mindset that permeates Southern California.

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So, here's where I'm at right now:  I said in my 3rd Uganda post that I don't think I can help.  I'm going to go a step further and say that I don't think Invisible Children is particularly helpful, unless their awareness raising produces a noticeable increase of efforts like this one (and, it's worth noting, only if this effort ends up working.)

I do think that there is probably some sort of foreign aid that is helpful, but I don't think Joseph Kony and the LRA is the right kind of issue for that. Microfinance programs like Kiva seem to work, so that's going to be part of my focus for next week's installment.  I'm also going to stick with Uganda, and their relationship with South Sudan.  Since I don't know where to go with this research, I'm going to just use the loose ends from each post as a springboard into the next one.

Hopefully, through this process, I'll be able to develop a clearer sense of in what ways rich, privileged westerners can really help people in developing nations.  And maybe (fingers crossed) I'll be clear enough in my process that, by the end of it, I'll be able to write a short version of this exploration to help other people figure out how they can help, next time a video like Kony 2012 reminds a whole bunch of people to care.