Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Tragedy of Uganda

Via Winterr's words. The Uganda Conflict Action Network needs Blogger's help. The Europeans' colonial legacy continues. This time, Britain's "divide and rule" policy became the dysfunctional political DNA of Uganda. The underreported crisis is the civil war between the North and the South of the country. Here are some excerpt:
The consequences of the war cannot be overstated. At the end of 2003, Jan Egeland, the United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the BBC: "I cannot find any other part of the world that is having an emergency on the scale of Uganda that is getting so little international attention." On the ground in northern Uganda, the scene is shocking. Tens of thousands of civilians have been maimed or killed by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). More than 25,000 children aged seven to seventeen have been abducted from towns and camps. Ninety percent of the region's population of almost two million people has been relocated into internally displaced people's camps that lack food and security. People in the camps are enduring disease, malnutrition, and nighttime attacks from the LRA.
The complications of the war abound:
The war arose out of a repressive, divisive political climate, which was embedded by British 'divide and rule' colonialism and then perpetuated by post-colonial Ugandan politics. This climate created a politicized North-South divide in Uganda, which, mixed with the normalization of political rebellion, created a swamp for insurgency. When the current president, Youweri Museveni and his National Resistance Movement took power in 1986, they alienated the northern peoples, creating perceptual and actual incentives for rebellion.

Since 1986, the insurgency within northern Uganda has undergone four stages, beginning with a more popular rebellion of former army officials and evolving into to the current pseudo-spiritual warlordism of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). To date, the LRA consists predominantly of abducted children brainwashed, brutalized and forced to kill viciously as child soldiers. Alienated from the Acholi, the LRA wages terror on the civilian population as a means to maintain attention and challenge the government.
Following September 11, 2001, the United States found a significant ally in the Museveni NRM regime in Uganda. The U.S. quickly declared the LRA a terrorist group and increased military aid to the Ugandan government. This relationship only further solidified the insistence of Museveni on a military approach to end the war. Unfortunately, the "military solution" has exacerbated northern grievances and proven ineffective over the years. According to almost all analysts of the conflict, serious facilitated negotiations with trust-building mechanisms are the key to peace. However, the obstinacy and inconsistency of Museveni, coupled with the incoherency of the LRA, has made such talks difficult.
One of the tragedies of the Cold War was the unintended result of policies that the US pursued in order to survive the Soviet threat. The US support of Israel led the Soviet Union to support the Arab states of the Middle East. US support of any purported government opposed to communism--however dictatorial that government was--allowed many corrupt administrations to survive long after their shelf-life. Many of the Kleptocracies of Africa are good examples. Unfortunately, supporting such dictatorships often meant supporting their inefficiency, corruption and oppression of their people. The current anger of the Arab Street stems from the perceived--and often actual--support of the US that corrupt dictatorships in the region enjoy. Saudi Arabia is one shining example.

When President Bush pursues a mandate to spread Democracy, he makes an important change in US policy. The US has an opportunity to not repeat in the War on Terror the mistakes she made in the Cold War. However, the promotion of democracy must take place consistently. If the article that Carmel sites is accurate, the the US might be making the old mistakes. Is Uganda a stable democracy? Perhaps. What if it isn't? Then we're supporting a non-democratic regime in order to make gains in the War on Terror. Unfortunately, we're producing unintended consequences that may prove even more detrimental to us in the future.

The US is on the right track when it seeks to promote democracy throughout the world. People that have the freedom to participate in their own civic life often make the best use of it. Their societies flourish as a result. How much motivation will ordinary people have to engage in fanatical and suicidal behavior like joining Al Q'aida if they live well? They'll live well in a free society. The Bush Administration understands this. That's why it's essential that they consistently apply this policy. Otherwise, victory in the War on Terror will elude civilization.