Archive for the 'Anthropology' Category

Living in Bad Surroundings in Northern Uganda

Civilians and Ugandan soldiers in Northern Uganda (photo by Peter van Agtmael click on photo for his website)

In his 2008 book Sverker Finnström wrote about how international observers have viewed the conflict in Northern Uganda (which has now moved to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Southern Sudan) and the realities on the ground:

The causes and consequences of the war in northern Uganda, the reasons for it, and the facts about it–they all differ, depending on whom you are listening to.  There is no one version that is fully agreed upon by all parties involved.  Perhaps this is a truism to many readers, but it is still important to emphasize because contemporary conflict analyses often tend to emphasize single causes for war in ways that are reductionist.  Regarding war in Africa, ethnicity is the most often invoked as one such single cause.  Consequently, African realities are reduced to little more than the antithesis to the roder of Western civilization, which on the other hand is taken for granted as modern and civilized…

During some periods, the [LRA] keep a low profile and their attacks are few, and consequently Ugandan authorities relax, being cooperative and even friendly to outside research.  During other periods, the rebels are very active, and in the Ugandan counterinsurgency practices almost everyone can be regarded as an enemy collaborator, including the researcher…

The war is indeed a global war even if fought on local grounds.  For some two decades, it has rolled back and forth, like the changes from rainy season to dry season and back to rainy season.  The massive influx of international humanitarian aid has ended up being deeply entangled with the realities on the ground

During some periods the rebels are disciplined and seek local support, more like fish in the water, to recall Mao Zedong’s  famous dictum on the guerilla fighters’ absolute need of local support to survive.  In such periods the repressive measures of the Ugandan authorities increase…In January 2003, the magistrate’s court in Gulu town reported that two boys aged fourteen and sixteen who returned home from rebel captivity were charged with reason, and that twenty-five more minors were being held in military custody without charges, under pressure to join the Ugandan army or face treason charges…The justice system became one of the first institutions to suffer from the war, and most cases of rebel as well as Ugandan military abuse of the civil population have not been addressed (8-9).

Reference

Finnström, Sverker.  2008.  Living with Bad Surroundings: War, History and Everyday Moments in Northern Uganda.  Durham, USA: Duke University Press.


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