Since Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986 Uganda has provided reference points for both the worst and the best in current Western views of Africa. The Lord's Resist-ance Army in the north has become synonymous with the issue of child soldiers: rebels only maintaining their existence by kidnapping youngsters and pressing them into service as soldiers or "wives", whilst President Museveni, is now a darling of the West: the "new breed" of African leader: some one with who the World Bank and IMF can do business.
Museveni has also managed to win support from many who have little respect for IMF policies. The left was disarmed because he won power via a Maoist guerrilla campaign and ran a movement publicly committed to an anti-corruption drive and political re-education of its mass base. Libya has been an ally throughout his period in power. NGOs and the voluntary sector are welcomed and flattered, Church groups and Mosques are praised. He has managed to be all things to all people.
Instability on the border between Ugandan and Sudan also suits American policy in containing Islam within Africa. The fourteen year war in the Acholi areas of Northern Uganda has provided a cover for the widespread theft of cattle by Museveni's govern-ment to support the war efforts outside Uganda and the forceful enlistment of Acholi soldiers from the armies of the previous government into Museveni's foreign wars. Museveni provoked that civil war and has kept it alive despite opportunities to resolve it. There has been a more recent strategy of forcing members of the Acholi community from their farms into "protected villages". This has turned them from a largely self sufficient community to one dependent on foreign aid.
For most of his 14 years in power, groups of all sorts from the West have given Museveni the benefit of the doubt. Proven atrocities by his soldiers have been seen as isolated acts, his promises of punishment of the perpetrators accepted and/or his enemies blamed. Recently, however, this facade has cracked. The most recent Amnesty report on Northern Uganda concentrates on the abuses committed by government soldiers and the damage done by the "protected villages" policy . A Human Rights Watch report published in October catalogued the activities of his "Movement" government in suppressing opposition. A newly published work by the European Platform for Conflict Prevention talks of the threat of renewed civil war undermining his regime. The "economic miracle" brought by structural adjustment is questioned in the Ugandan press. On his recent visit Labour's Peter Hain tried to be supportive but could not avoid making public a misunderstanding over the possibility of multi-party democracy replacing the Movement government early in the next century.
The campaign "Stop the Acholi Clearances" seeks to draw attention to the situation in Northern Uganda and support the Acholi community in seeking to defend itself and restore its free occupation of its own land. The web site below presents more detail on the issues raised in this article. Please have a look and offer feedback or support.
Stop the Acholi Clearances c/o 0161 798 8762