American Scholar Says Memo Links Uganda President to Acholi Genocide
Whitmore believes the memo, which he believes to be authentic, links Gen. Museveni's regime to a genocidal program against Acholis. "Previous efforts to claim Museveni and the NRM have been involved in genocide have foundered on the problem of intent," Whitmore writes. "If the document is authentic, then the issue of Museveni's intent is much more straightforward."
An American university professor has published a commentary article in a journal, in which he makes reference to a purported memo by Uganda's ruler Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni, outlining a policy to "reduce" the population of an ethnic group he is widely believed to resent.
For years Museveni has been accused of deliberately forcefully encamping nearly two million ethnic Acholis in squalid conditions where hundreds of thousands are believed to have died through the years.
The memo referred to by Todd David Whitmore, professor of theology at Notre Dame University, is purportedly authored by Museveni on November 14, 1986, a few months after he seized power in Uganda and is purportedly addressed to his brother Salim Saleh, now also a general.
In the memo,
purportedly written by Gen. Museveni, he refers to himself as "Tremor
1," and Saleh is referred to as "Meteor Plus One," and the subject
matter is "Rethink." The memo, according to Professor Whitmore was typed.
Professor Whitmore writes, in introductory comments to his article in the journal, Practical Matters, that the memo was handed to him in 2005 by someone in Acholi who wanted him to help expose atrocities that had already commenced against Acholis as early as the 1980s. The memo is referenced in Whitmore's journal article, which details atrocities against civilians by Gen. Museveni's army in Acholi region, and later in what's now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Black Star News was not successful in getting a hold of the professor for an interview today. His article in the journal was published on December 22. It is not clear whether Whitmore has an original of the document or a copy. It's also unclear whether the Uganda government has reacted to Whitmore's publication of the purported memo and his article in Practical Matters.
At the time the memo was purportedly written in 1986, Museveni had overthrown his partners in a coalition government that had been negotiated between his guerrilla insurgency and a military junta under Gen. Tito Okello that had deposed Uganda's Milton Obote.
In the memo, Museveni purportedly reverses his earlier idea to partition Uganda in a manner that would exclude the area inhabited by the Acholi, whom he refers to as "chimpanzees," and "monkeys" from the rest of the country; steering it to the Sudan, which borders on the north.
In the purported correspondence to his younger brother, Saleh, who was a fellow insurgent, Museveni said he had changed his mind about redrawing Uganda's map, after touring the region that included Acholi in a helicopter. He saw from an aerial view, to his surprise, that topologically the region was extremely rich for agriculture; there was now no need to expel the Acholi from Uganda.
"I have now realized that the Monkeys called Acholis are sitting upon Gold Mine," the memo purportedly written by Gen. Museveni states. "It is surprising that even the British Colonialists did not make them utilize the rich land properly. But I will not allow these Chimpanzees to prevent other Ugandans from activating the Bread Basket of Africa."
Therefore, adds the memo, "I have now reversed our decision to expel them, with their lands, from Uganda. We must keep Uganda as the British left it. But we must assume full control of the fertile lands. It will be necessary, therefore, to find a way to drastically reduce the population."
Museveni's party officials launched a demonization campaign against Acholis and one official referred to them as "biological substances" as opposed to humanbeings. It was also around that time that the Museveni regime launched the policy of forcing almost two million Acholis into what's been described as concentration camps in the northern part of the country.
A 2005 report by the World Health Organization estimated that more than 1,000 civilians per week --or 52,000 annually-- died in these camps from treatable diseases, lack of hydration, and from starvation.
The memo purportedly authored by Gen. Museveni, also continues, "I am at pains to propose that it is necessary to eliminate some old politicians who are likely to give us troubles. However we should identify their own ambitious young men and women, who know the area well to do this for us. I have in mind one young woman, Betty Bigombe, who would be suitable because of her ambition to climb high."
Bigombe later became a Uganda government official and a member of Museveni's ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
Prior to the encampment of Acholi civilians, there were numerous documented incidents of mass atrocities by Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA) guerrillas against people in the northern part of Uganda.
The memo purportedly authored by Gen. Museveni also talks of sending another military commander, apparently to commence scorched earth operations. "I will transfer Chef Alii from Teso to command the Army in the area to seal off the four districts of Apac, Lira, Gulu and Kitgum and ensure that no journalists are permitted to travel unescorted in the area," states the memo. "Fortunately the rebels are roaming around. This gives us unassailable excuse."
"For the time being you will work with Chef Alli only to ensure watertight secrecy. Tinye will come in later," the memo concluded.
Tinye is apparently a reference to David Tinyefunza, now also a general and a top Museveni security aide. He was later accused by human rights activist of launching a scorched earth operation against Acholi civilians resulting in heavy casualties.
During the atrocities, some civilians were also burned alive inside their homes or buried alive in pits that were then covered with earth after which fire was set atop. Mass rapes, against both men and women was routine--these type of crimes were later committed against Congolese civilians during Uganda's occupation of that country.
After nearly 24 years, the Gen. Museveni government finally started dismantling the camps in Uganda; there are now heated land squabbles as Acholi civilians, returning to their homes from the camps, accuse prominent government military officials of trying to sell off their lands to investors.
Professor Whitmore wrote that he travelled to Uganda in 2005 to conduct theological studies in Acholi region and that he eventually lived in some of the camps --euphemistically referred to by the Museveni government as Internally Displaced People's Camps.
The article published by Professor Whitmore is under the headline, "Genocide of Just Another 'Casualty of War'? The Implications of the Memo Attributed to President Yoweri K. Museveni of Uganda."
Whitmore says the memo, which he believes to be authentic, links Gen. Museveni's regime to a genocidal program against Acholis. "Previous efforts to claim Museveni and the NRM have been involved in genocide have foundered on the problem of intent," Whitmore writes. "If the document is authentic, then the issue of Museveni's intent is much more straightforward."
Whitmore says he fears for the safety of the person who gave him the memo and that he had sent copies to the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Criminal Court, as protection for the source.
Whitmore had not responded to an e-mail message from The Black Star News by our publication time. Practical Matters is described as "a transdisciplinary multimedia journal of religious practices and practical theology."
"Speaking Truth To Empower."