Opposing Uganda Lobby Days 2009’s Military Strategy

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[Open Letter To The Publisher]

Dear Milton Allimadi,

I have participated in Uganda Lobby Days the past two years, and I read your book, "The Hearts of Darkness", after hearing you speak last year.

After having read the text of the Bill before participating in Lobby Days, it was unclear to me what the strategy to be designed within 180 days actually called for. It was not until I heard John Prendergast, the leader of Enough! speak about the Bill that I realized we were lobbying for a military strategy.

That fact gave me great pause and I sought out the organizers of Lobby Days to have some questions answered. I probed them to find out if the Bill was something that I could lend my support to.

In the end I decided not to protest and walk out of Lobby Days because the Bill does call for much needed aid to northern Uganda and aid that does not just address short term suffering, but seeks to promote long term stability.

Despite deciding not to walk out of Lobby Days, the good feeling I had about the experience was very much tarnished. It upset me that there wasn’t more critical dialogue about the strategy that we were supporting.

When I brought my concerns to my friends they too were concerned about the use of military force and we had an intense conversation about the morality of us, in the United States, making decisions that most likely will result in the death of Ugandans.

This is something that I am not comfortable with. I also thought specifically about you when reflecting on the speakers from this year compared to last year. The organizers replaced critical voices such as yours with a delegation and 10 minute boring promotional film from the Ugandan government.

The point I am trying to make is that I agree with your concern about the Bill and I am still not sure if I did the right thing by not walking out and trying to take more people with me. I do not think the part of the Bill that calls for a military operation provides a real solution.

There is no such thing as a surgical strike and the history of military interventions is less than reassuring. Even if Kony is detained or killed there are still people who want to see an insurgency in northern Uganda. We know they exist because they have been supporting the LRA for 23 years. I also do not think calling Kony to another rounds of talks is a viable plan either. We need a better and more creative option.

This is where the Hollywood part comes in. The people who have built a movement in the United States to take action on this issue are very creative people. I agree that the Movement is superficial in a way, but unnecessarily so. People like me and
my friends in the Movement were attracted to it by its presentation and have been inspired by the Movement to make the pursuit of justice a part of our lives.

It is not the fact that the Movement is advertised and dressed up in appealing clothing that is the problem. The fact that the leaders of the Movement have underestimated their base and shied away from presenting us with the full gravity of what we are dealing with is the real short coming.

There is no reason why something can't be appealing and substantive at the same time.  At the same time, people involved have a responsibility to inform themselves about what they are doing and to think critically about it. If the creative energy of the people involved in this Movement was harnessed and directed towards finding a peaceful solution to this problem, I guarantee we could come up with something more effective and less destructive then a military strike and something less exhausted than just another round of peace talks.

Thank you for your time and I sincerely appreciate your critical voice.

Please feel free to post your comments directly online or e-mail them to Milton@blackstarnews.com for publication

“Speaking Truth To Empower.”

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