I was reading an issue of the Waltonian on the website a few weeks ago and saw that within the same issue, there was a review of Hotel Rwanda and an opinion editorial about the war in Sudan. While I’m glad that our school paper pays attentions to world events, I couldn’t help but get a little frustrated. Rwanda borders Uganda to the southwest, and Sudan borders Uganda to the north. I could drive to both countries easily in a day.
But the frustration comes in when I think about the war that has been going on in the north of Uganda for the last 18 years and the fact that few people in the States know about it.
The war is led by Joseph Kony, who heads the Lord’s Resistance Army. Claiming to be in direct communion with the Holy Spirit, Kony is trying to kill all of the Acholi people-the tribe he comes from-and eventually take over the central government. That in itself isn’t what makes the war terrible. It is the fact that in order to carry out his war, Kony abducts Acholi children and forces them to do his work for him.
One of my friends at school here was abducted by Kony in 1996 and was with the LRA for six months before she escaped. In that time, she had to pass through the initiation rights of killing other children by beating them with sticks lest she be killed by her commander, stealing food from the already-starving Dinka tribe in Southern Sudan, being given as a wife to one of Kony’s top commanders and being buried alive when they thought she had died from thirst.
In other cases, the “Holy Spirit” will give Kony commands like chopping the legs off of anyone riding a bicycle or cutting the lips and noses off of people who cross the road and forcing them to eat their own body parts. How can this be ignored when so much focus is given to other wars only a few hours away?
In October of 2004, the UN admitted that the war in northern Uganda is the “worst human tragedy,” and is even “worse than Darfur.” So why doesn’t anyone know about it?
One reason is because the people being attacked and killed are, by the world’s standards, worthless. They don’t have any money, natural resources or oil to offer.
Another reason is because the Ugandan government, which has been hailed by the international community as being one of the best in Africa, doesn’t want the rest of the world to know about the war, because they fear it would lead to a withdrawal in foreign aid.
A final reason-perhaps the most personally frustrating-is that Ugandans themselves who don’t live in the north don’t seem to care. It’s like there are two countries (the North and the South), and as long as the people here in the south are peaceful, they can completely ignore a war going on four hours away.
In geography class last week, someone asked the professor if she would vote for Museveni, Uganda’s president, if he runs again next year. She said that she would support anyone who kept the peace, so yes, she would vote for him. Someone else said, “Museveni hasn’t kept the peace-what do you call the war in the North?” The professor brushed it off, saying that it didn’t really count.
Living amidst this kind of apathy does more than discourage me; it ticks me off. It’s also discouraging to think that Museveni hasn’t taken the necessary steps to stop the war yet. The fact of the matter is, he doesn’t care enough about it to stop it.
With the amount of aid and debt forgiveness Uganda has received in the last five years, they have more than enough resources to stop the conflict, but the desire isn’t there.
I don’t know what to do about this situation. Part of me wants to say that the Ugandan army should storm the North and put an end to this thing once and for all, since it has been going on for 18 years and peace talks have failed time and time again. But since most of the soldiers in the war are children who have been abducted and are forced to kill others, I can’t see how to fight against the LRA without killing innocent children who have already had enough to deal with.
There isn’t a main point to this article-mostly, I want you all to be aware of what is going on here and to spread that awareness. Wars like this shouldn’t be happening, and if they are, they shouldn’t be hidden.
Information taken from the Monitor, October 27th, 2004.
Andrea Priest is a junior at Eastern who is currently studying abroad in Mukono, Uganda. As a former editor, she has agreed to send updates of her journey.