In 1986, after a number of brutal and violent regimes in which numerous atrocities were committed, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) led by Yoweri Museveni entered Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, and seized control. In the years that followed, the NRM succeeded in pacifying much of the country, and large parts of Uganda have since enjoyed the fruits of stability and economic recovery.
However, an increase in economic prosperity in some areas also gave rise to a feeling of inequality in rural and ethnically disadvantage areas. In addition to this, a clear failure of the NRM has been to develop a mechanism for national reconciliation, with few legal cases being brought against those who have committed human rights abuses under previous regimes.
As a result of this failure, many Ugandan citizens now actively believe the Acholi people, the largest ethnic group in the north, to be directly responsible for the wrongs perpetrated against civilians during the Obote II regime. In late 1986, mutual suspicions between the Acholi people and the NRM were reflected in the appearance of a popular Acholi uprising lead by the messianic Joseph Kony.
According to http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_petraitis/spirit_war.shtml, Kony’s rebels attempted to curb atrocities committed against the Northerners by Uganda’s military, but soon the rebels began committing their own war crimes. His Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues to fight a brutal guerrilla war today, ostensibly in a desire to overthrow President Museveni, and to cleanse the nation through the establishment of a government that will rule in accordance with the Ten Commandments.
Kony uses religion to exonerate himself from the daily acts of rape, kidnapping, torture and murder that he orchestrates. His army is responsible for unspeakable brutalities, many of which are paradoxically committed against those he purports to be fighting in the name of the Acholis.
The children of Uganda are also the victims of this horrendous situation. Every day thousands of children are recruited into the LRA against their will after being stolen from their homes and families during the night. They are then forced to commit brutal and violent crimes often against other children, which leaves them with a sense of guilt so profound that many are reluctant to return home to their communities even when the chance of escape or reintegration is a possibility. It is estimated that 80 percent of the LRA’s combatants are children who have been forcibly embroiled within the conflict against their wills.
The fighting has also seen the emergence of refugee camps across the country. These camps, which today are estimated to hold nearly 2 million displaced people, cause disease to spread, thereby perpetuating Uganda’s problems. Reduced access to amenities have contributed to a situation which has yielded mortality rates at nearly double to that of Darfur, the conflict which is generally considered the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.
Despite all these factors, the war has received little media attention in the developed world, causing the seemingly hopeless plight of the Acholi people to continue in silence. This neglect can be attributed to so-called “compassion fatigue,” or alternatively by domestic or foreign problems, which seem to be nearer at hand for the international community. This pattern must not persist, for it is in the interest of all us to draw attention to this problem until it is finally resolved – such is the extent to which the atrocities being committed challenge every moral fiber on which our privileged societies stand.
To learn about possible solutions for this problem, and other key issues facing contemporary Africa, attend the annual African Conference on Tuesday, March 14 in Embarcadero Hall from 5 to 7 p.m.
Laura Holt is a senior English major and EAP student from the United Kingdom.