ENding Tyranny: The Problem Of Uganda And Africa

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The government death camps

[Uganda: From The Archives]

Brothers and sisters.

Fellow Ugandans. Thank you all for coming to this very important Ugandan Forum.

It's not Northern Ugandan Forum.  I have never heard of any country in the world called Northern Uganda.

I don't know where that is. Maybe some somebody could tell me. Anybody who knows where a country called Northern Uganda is please raise your hand and let me know.

Thank you.

So it's very important to lay the ground work from the get go. There is no such thing as Northern Uganda. We have a Uganda problem.

Part of the reason why it's lasted for such a long time [28 years] is because we've allowed it to be cast in our minds as a Northern Ugandan problem.

Just by agreeing to that terminology alone; it means that we have also  contributed towards prolonging of this tragedy.

I come from a media background. So obviously words are very important for me. When you hear terms like IDPs (Internally Displaced People's Camps). An IDP could be a place where you go to spend the night if you've missed your bus. [The word is a euphemism for concentration camps].

Internally Displaced. As if those individuals had a choice; as if they displaced themselves intentionally to live non those camps for 23 years.

How do you willingly go to live in a facility where you know that the assured outcome is death? From lack of sustenance; lack of food; lack of hydration; lack of medical facilities.

So let's stop the nonsense. You know sometimes honesty is good. We've traveled from all over the world to come here. So why are we still pretending?

Let's abandon these terminologies of nonsense. Let's deal with the issues head on and recognize it for what it is.

The tragedy is not only because of the vicious and brutal Lord's Resistance Army [LRA].  If we accept that it means we are not being honest. We all know that.

Even the government officials that are here today. They know that not to be true; they know that the Ugandan government and military is also a  problem.

So why don't we recognize that; why don't we accept that and be sometimes about that. Honesty is good sometimes. It allows us to deal with issues head on and move forward.

Let's be honest. This video we just saw right now [a precursor to Invisible Children's propaganda KONY2012]. It would be difficult to recognize who made that video. An outside organization or the Ugandan government. Let's be honest. Come on. How can you show us  a video that is celebrating the Ugandan military as if it's not a part and parcel of this tragedy?

That's not being honest. Does somebody agree with me or not? That's not being honest.

Let's be honest. When you have a tragedy such as the Ugandan situation let's recognize that the LRA has contributed massively to this calamity as has the Ugandan government by maintaining those camps for such a long time; when everybody knew what the outcome of maintaining people in those kind of living conditions, what the outcome would be.

Who can deny that? So, that's why people like Olara Otunnu [Former United Nations Under-Secretary General and leader of Uganda People's Congress political party] have a good point when he says that 'You know the outcome of those kind of living conditions and you allow it to persist for 23 years' --- can blame somebody then for believing that that was a calculated policy? Of course not; I would not blame somebody for believing that.

Let's be honest. The Ugandan problem is not very peculiar to Uganda after all. In fact it's not even a Ugandan problem. Forget about Northern Uganda. It's not even a Ugandan problem. It's a problem of lack of accountable leadership in Africa. It's not unique to Uganda only.

Where, rather than building institutions of governance and leadership, we substitute it with one-man or one- party rule.

Let's be honest. It's a question of illegitimacy of government. And when a government feels that it is not legitimate it survives by any means necessary.

There is no question of is there rule of law when government itself is in essence unlawful.

We talk about issues of transparency. Very good. I like the honorable minister's honesty [Ugandan minister David Wakikona had spoken of transparency in handling funds for rehabilitation of war-torn zone; last year, three years after Wakikona spoke, millions of dollars in such funds were embezzled from Ugandan prime minister Amama Mbabazi's office].

By bringing up the issue of transparency the honorable minister recognizes that there has been  a problem nun terms off embezzlement and corruption.

We all know this. We read the Uganda papers. Even the government newspaper [The New Vision] talks about  corruption  and embezzlement. So its good that the honorable Minister spoke about transparency.

And I hope this transparency results into concrete measures; such as for example having a website like the Federal government does in this country to show how the stimulus money is being spent.

So that we can see how the $600 million [for reconstruction in Uganda] is going to be spent. So that one day no government official is going to come forward and tell us that the money is finished; when nothing has been accomplished.

So by having a website that clearly marks how this money is being spent, where it's going, we can monitor it in real time, just like it's done in this country.


The remarks were delivered at the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA meeting in Chicago; 2009)

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