Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I first went to Gulu

by Samantha Mgbele-Asumadu

I first went to Gulu, Northern Uganda in 2007 to film a 'peace conference' various tribal and religious leaders, MPs, Law & Order and a King, (bussed in from Oxford where he was studying) had gathered to discuss peace going forwards. It was a muted atmosphere with a lot of kind and well intentioned people gathered. Lots of excitement when President Museveni arrived with his entourage, fleet of shiny cars and of course the PBG – Museveni’s Private Army within an army, very clever chaps, far more astute than the UPDF accused of human rights abuses in Karamoja. The elephant in the room was Sam Kolo - a former brutal leader in the LRA who had laid down his arms/machete and been embraced back in to the fold. This course of action was preferred i.e. Amnesty, so that fighters would be more likely to desert. Though I qualify that by saying there are very few willing participants in Kony’s orgies of murder, and pillage. Most were either abducted, had nowhere else to go when their families had been killed or their families had turned their back on them. All are brainwashed.

However this is not a history lesson on the Lords Resistance Army it has been an over 20-year conflict that has moved from Uganda, to Sudan, to Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is plenty written about it that has been articulated far better than I could do here and now. However I will say briefly that the LRA was formed after the failed attempt by Joseph Kony’s Aunt Alice Lakwena & her ‘Holy Spirit Movement’ to take on the Uganda state. Before every battle her fighters would cover themselves with butter as this she said would be enough to protect them from bullets. She herself would ride a bicycle in to battle.

Kony based the formation of his ‘Army’ on the 10 commandments, with his own strange interpretation. In his words "Is it bad? It is not against human rights. And that commandment was not given by Joseph. It was not given by LRA. No, those commandments were given by God."

His goal was to liberate the Acholi people from the State run by Museveni’s tribe; the Ankole. Members of President Museveni’s ethnic group, Bahiima populate the upper ranks of Uganda’s government He is likened to a cultural leader who favours his own tribe and often the Ankole are blamed for nepotism, corruption and land stealing. In socio economic sense they are at the top of the tribal pile in Uganda. Meaning that many have migrated to Kampala, the capital city.

However Kony’s ‘good’ intentions did not last long, he learnt well from Museveni’s armed insurgency of the 70’s & 80’s that Child soldiers were a useful tool to brainwash and use as they were in his eyes disposable. He had learnt well from his masters, (former colonials and what is now known as the political party the NRM, National Resistance Movement, which Museveni is the head of) His 10 commandments were a mess of mysticism and misogyny. For a very long time now he has had no political rhyme or reason and his brutal parallel reign has been foremost about creating and sustaining his own personal fiefdom. Kony has few very supporters apart from those he brainwashed when he captured them, who live in fear of him and his prophecies. I worked for years with a former child soldier who still talks about him with reverence, because she was brainwashed.

Now you get my drift, but it is 2012, so you may ask what has changed?

So in 2007 I went there for peace building, in 2008 I went there to film part six of the series 'Jazz My Life’ for a Kampala based, Ugandan owned production company. I was production manager and scriptwriter and general dogsbody but I did hold the budget so was able to sneak away for a steak at the Acholi Inn at one point: ) The live road show was taken around different major cities in Uganda, live music, dancing, comedy for university students competing to be 'jazzed' Think of our own makeover shows and multiply the buzz by ten as it was the first show of its kind in Uganda. The generators failing did curtail the night around midnight, but we were happy to go to bed after a long day filming with Gulu University students. My last visit to Gulu was in 2010; my boyfriend had been on a 2-month working trip to South Sudan. So two friends and I drove up to meet him as Gulu was in the middle. We went for a holiday and break from Kampala. The weekend consisted of good food, booze, dancing and reconnecting with old friends. I was even told some months ago by Laura Seay @texasinafrica that there was a hotel in an IDP camp (I’ll discuss the camps in the second article of this series) which was owned by one of the locals (she did qualify that she'd come across some creepy crawlies i.e. bed begs so don't see this as a recommendation) You may wonder why I'd wish to expose my past life? Here's why, does any of this sound like the Northern Uganda that Invisible Children 'exposed'? No? That’s because they misrepresented and lied about Uganda, causing its people hurt and potentially damaging its economy going forward. I hope the damage is repairable.

#KONY2012 came to my notice late one night I was traversing between facebook and twitter as you do and someone had posted the video on both saying this film needed donations. My eyebrows raised and then raised even further when I realised whom the donations would go to 'Invisible Children'. They had long been exposed as self-promoters who had no sense of the danger they put ordinary Ugandans in. I wrote this comment under the post:
Kony could have been caught 20 years ago, it was politically convenient for the Uganda government to let him terrorize the Acholi people, the U.S colluded with that. The U.S now has troops apparently helping Uganda troops in CAR & DRC to catch him, how does this film help that? Genuinely interested.

I got no reply, I think the poster had not counted on anyone questioning his well intentioned video post So from then until now I have been answering questions, writing pithy ripostes, refusing CNN phone interviews, (they hadn't realised I was no longer in Uganda I left in 2010 after 3 very good years. I miss all that rushing about breaking news gathering stuff, but am sure I was just the go to girl as a black face in an African country with an English accent and it went down well in the U.S! Last time I did interviews for them and filming was for the terror attack - AlShabab perpetuated in 2010 at the final minutes of the of the World Cup Final. I gave them some numbers and emailed them with addresses of journo friends that are still there both foreign & local, ones that I know DON'T support Invisible Children!)

When the BBC broadcasted the 2nd in command of the FDLR (DRC/Rwanda) saying that their insurgency was not finished and was far from being over it served as a rallying of FDLR troops. This helps explain why I am always tweeting about responsible journalism. The FDLR were finished, their leader no longer leading but soldiers (one radio between them I envision) in the bush heard the worldservice report and were reinvigorated. Now we need an immediate campaign to make NGOs responsible, & transparent. Who funds them and how do they spend their donations? #KONY2012

The 7th of March was a BIG day online for Africa, It trended on Twitter all day, (please read Samira Musa’s article) and that’s never happened before. Whether you're on the right or the wrong side of this situation, having Africa on your mind is a good thing. So it should have been a day for humility in the West as in the empire's name Africa has been raped and pillaged for centuries and its ongoing. I have included three posts that were made on my facebook page on the 7th March by Samira Musa, Daniel Renwick and Garakai Chengu in response to a neo colonialist who made some pretty ignorant comments about Samira's article, race and intervention. They went in. We saw the light and dark side of social networks that day in response to that ridiculous war propaganda video.

Oh you're one of them types. Them 'something is better than nothing, we have to do SOMETHING cause our morals tell us to' but your morals are non-existent when our governments embark on destructive and murderous wars and invasions in our name. And you really shouldn't comment on me on a personal level cause you don't me and frankly, you're wrong. So check yourself and come correct yeah. And have you not learnt from history that if you're a westerner than YES chances are you have bad intentions. Not your average Joe, I'm talking companies and governments. You don't have to be black or African to fight injustices but you have to *acknowledge* the tools used by the west and white supremacy in order to knock down sovereign states. Also, AS AN AFRICAN (woops, offended?) I want AFRICAN states to be able to handle AFRICAN affairs on AFRICAN on the other hand clearly want western involvement which, as history shows, is regressive and detrimental to MY continent :) you're so concerned with 'saving' Africa but do you even know what you're saving it FROM? You sound like an ignorant Uncle Tom begging for Westerners to free us from the mess THEY put us in. Sitting and holding hands singing 'kumbaya' aunt gonna get us nowhere. If you knew me, you'd know my solutions and opinions on a wide range of issues but you don't so again - come correct and don't spew out bullshit. Perhaps you and your friends should donate to that dodgy charity and go beg for western intervention and see how far that gets you. You're clearly a puppet and fail to see the bigger picture of imperialism that these governments are embarking upon. I'm gonna end it here cause you're obviously a waste of time who thinks you can work *with* the enemy to get what you want. NEVER GONNA HAPPEN you silly child. Wake up! And keep that propaganda video to yourself. You're so concerned with a black man in Africa but not a bunch of white men in Westminster. You're a joke. Check yourself
Interesting exchange. Original Moogsta, where to start? Hmmm...maybe "the world's most dangerous psychopath"? A highly subjective claim with little to no substantiation. Then, the retort to Sam, where you claim the fact that Kony is out of Uganda is irrelevant? Why is that? Look at the history of character assassination, you needn't look far. The demonisation of political leaders Saddam, Gadaffi, Assad (currently), Lamumba, etc precipitates their covert assassination by special forces or the invasion of their territory. So, the linking of a leader with a territory he no longer occupies, in the call for the US army to invade, as your posts call for, is highly naive at best and colonialist at the worst. What was that thing about Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan again? Why are we still there?

I like to use Hanlon's razor when assessing interlocutors in debate: "never attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance". But, you'd probably be more affronted to being called ignorant to being called a colonist. It can't be colonialism or even neo-colonialism, that's of the past, isn't it?! Not exactly. Aid and the economics of dependency is a major area of post-colonial analysis, the writing is extensive and varied, but to see it as the saving grace of Africa or any third world or "developing" country is ignorant. Just look at the World Bank and IMF policies of structural adjustment. Look at how much debt is repaid to the West per year in comparison to the aid we donate or how much is spent on military technology, warfare, occupation and "aid" to allies like Israel. This is all A, B, C stuff, but you're too "smart" to fall into the trap of seeing the world in a perpetual state of conflict. For you've seen the light, the world is no longer run by evil, evil rules the world, no matter the geography or skin colour. That's great, but the statistics fly in the face of your analysis, as do state department documents, wikileaks, presidential speeches, congress reports, etc.

 I do not doubt that you are a man of good intentions. You are, however, ensnared on the propaganda of the new colonialism/imperialism. You flatly deny it and focus your attentions in areas of the world where you have no agency. You empower military forces that have committed mass abuses and created states of civil war wherever their boots fell. You call younger, inspiring artists and writers ignorant for showing moral and emotional response to atrocities across this world; history, recent history and present.

 You believe you schooled Samira, I wouldn't be so cocksure. The world may not be black and white, but it's in a state of war and being raped by an empire brutally concerned with the interests of a small few, who just to happen to be white. We do not live in post-racial times and those who fail to learn the lessons of history have their roles cast for them. Your role, my well-meaning friend, is imperialist, and you play it well. But your cherry picking of history and intellectual snobbery doesn't intimidate those committed to challenging this world order.

All considerations about whether or not to release the dogs of war begin and end with the spoils
Uganda sits atop the geo-strategically important intersection of 7 oil rich African nations which Senior US Dept of Energy Analyst Sally Kornfeld has called "the future Gulf" ""I am amazed by what I have seen in Uganda, it might rival Saudi Arabia" she notes.
Mr. Kony is a bad, bad man but are hundreds of US Navy SEALs running around the African bush to stop him or to secure the biggest African onshore oil discovery in recorded history? 2 billion barrels no less.After the recent “Friends of Somalia” meeting - also on the back of an oil discovery - I cant help but muse that if only Palestine could discover...More on the spoils - lets remember that AFRICOM was created for two main reasons, oil and China. This century America will look to cart 3 Cs out of Africa: Crude, Capital and China. Stopping Kony is as much about killing an evil man as it is about stopping China’s advance into the continent.
China controls 97% of the Rare Earth Element (REE) market. US Geological Survey says Central Africa is home to high-grade full spectrum REEs not to mention diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, tin, phosphates, tantalite, magnetite, uranium etc etc etc

“Ok so America is going in party for oil, I knew that and isn’t it worth it to leave with Kony’s head on a stick?” I hear you say.

Well, no.

Fact is the three previous US military Ops in Uganda - Operation North (1991) Operation Iron Fist (2002) and Operation Lightning Thunder (2008-2009) - have been unmitigated disasters, the military equivalent of poking a bee’s nest with a stick - Kony escaped, and in the ensuing reprisal and rampage 1,900 civilians were butchered and over 100,000 were displaced. As a consequence, local tribal, religious and community leaders all unanimously say military intervention is not the way. Mr Tomahawk will make things worse.

They propose all stakeholder seven nation talks, a regional force, pressure on Mr. Kony and eventual dialogue to end the nightmare. But alas, this solution remains a dream so long as the puppet President, America and the most sophisticated propaganda machine in history is drowning out local voices of reason.

Stop Kony! Stop Kony! Stop Kony! - by the time anyone sits down to discuss HOW to stop Mr Kony, they are tarred as a “political prostitute” a “dictator’s bum boy” or other such accolades my ilk have been showered with.

In short, lets “Stop Kony!” but lets do so by listening to the locals, regarding a non US military solution. And for goodness sake lets not wait for oil to be discovered in Palestine, Soweto or Qatar before we free the people. Oh oops.

My next piece will address all the Twitter Facebook responses I got from the 7th March onwards. It will be published on what I was told this morning was Joseph Kony Day?! The 30th April. I will address the ignorance of Imperialists and Anti imperialist on #KONY2012, the neo– colonial intentions of America, Africom, Invisible Children (and their funding) and of course OIL. The U.S influence has grown markedly in Uganda since 1986 when president Yoweri Museveini came to power and there are fears that under their guidance Uganda has become less and less democratic.

I want to thank the following people Samira Musa, Garikai Chengu ,Daniel Renwick, Robert Kazandjian, Afshin Shermirani, Angelo Izama, Richard Hall, Jerome Taylor, Laura Seay, Musa Okwanga, Anthony Anaxorouga, Jason D’Jehuti, Michael Hottag, Charles Oyango Obbo, Max Bilbow and Carlos Martinez who in the last week have spent their time firefighting this man made crisis. I reach out in solidarity they did some stellar work! In the meantime please read the links to the articles I have posted. Thank you.

Lastly Uganda you are in my heart, I miss you and I’ll be back soon.

Article Links:

KONY 2012, Invisible Children's Pro-AFRICOM and Museveni Propaganda
Co-Founder Admits Invisible Children Is Not A Charity

1 comment:

  1. Update from yesterday, so they've now put Congolese and Ugandans in Danger, Invisible are continuing with screenings this weekend and have been happily inviting press via twitter. I am so so angry at this from media to NGO's they must STOP using Africans for personal gain.

    Appalled Ugandans riot at Kony 2012 screening