Saturday, October 20, 2007

and now a shameless plea

Sunny and I will be walking the GuluWalk today. Neither of us has been to Uganda, nor do we know people in Uganda, but what's happening in the Northern part of the country right now is criminal.

Over the last 21 years, Northern Ugandan villages have been attacked and destroyed, families have been driven away or killed, medical services have been pillaged and harvests have been decimated by the conflict between the Lord's Revolutionary Army and the government troops. Over one million people have been displaced, many to camps where people are dying from a lack of clean water, food and medical care.

The LRA is led by Joseph Kony, a former altar boy turned ruthless leader who calls himself a spirit medium. He and his followers have robbed many children (estimates run from 30,000 to 60,000) of their childhood, turning them into ruthless killers to fight for their cause. In case you can't imagine what it's like to be a child soldier, I recommend you read A Long Way Gone--different place and different army, but still the chilling experience of a child.

The walk started two years ago to raise awareness for the children of the area, who would walk up to 20 kms to larger towns every night from school to avoid abduction and sleep in relative safety. In North America, we're obsessed with Amber alerts and massive hunts for abducted children, but rarely do we hear about children dying far from home. Yes, it's far away and no, it probably doesn't affect most of us directly, but an emergency is happening in Northern Uganda right now.

And, because I hate when people tell me about horrible things that are happening in the world but then don't offer a course of action, here's what you can do:
- Get educated. Watch Invisible Children or War/Dance or read about the conflict from sources like Human Rights Watch.
- Get out and support a GuluWalk today wherever you are, or give to the GuluWalk organization or one of the other great organizations that operate in the area, such as Athletes for Africa.
- Write to your local member of government. Heck, write to Museveni in Uganda and urge him/her/them to support the peace talks in Juba. 21 years is too long.

Phew. OK, enough of my political propaganda.



Emory said...

Oh Dahling really. One should not get heart broken over the natives, lest you weep the Nile out of her banks.

Now do be good, and get ready for diner. We are supposed to meet Nigel and Daphne at the Kampala Club for drinks at 7:00 .....


Mama Africa. I wonder if life visited us from a distant place, how would we explain Africa to them? I honestly believe that wealthier nations should adopt an Africa nation, and develope it as a national source of pride.

While we continue to spend trillions (globally) on ????, we continue to view Sub-Saharan Africa as the 'blackest' of holes.
A land of famine, violence, ebola and HIV. We have come to expect Africa to aalways be like this.

I suppose they are just disposable people, lives without merit, and of such limited human potencial, that we can make then forgetable.

The treatment of Africa, is a vex upon all humanity. I pplaud the post, and hope you guys 'ejoyed the walk.

complain away said...

I'm not gonna lie, the walk was long but the pain was mitigated by yummy cupcakes we ate on route. In my experience, cupcakes make everything 46% better.

I agree with most of what you say but want to discuss two things further:

First, we DO spend money on aid, it's just ridiculous how we don't dictate how it's spent. As an example, when the US donated much-needed grain to Ethiopia during the media-friendly famine of the 1980s, Mengistu and his cronies charged a port tax of $12.60 for each ton. This replaced coffee as Ethiopia's biggest hard currency earner, and it meant that the US paid $5 million just to have its first 400,000 tons sent to FEED PEOPLE pass customs inspections. Coincidentally, shortly after, the Ethiopian government launched the biggest, most expensive government offensive against the Eritrean guerillas. Don't you think that if the US is willing to donate money to stop starvation, that they should demand that port taxes be waived?! There are so many examples like this; I can't begin to list them.

Second, while I think it's a fantastic idea to adopt an African nation and take pride in making a difference, there's something scary in that idea too. Remember what happened the last time European nations thought they'd go in to Africa and bring civilization with them? It's arguably the reason why some of those nations are the way they are now.

But I don't want to rain on your parade; you have real ideas and are willing to discuss them. That's more than most of our governments have.

(But then again most of our population doesn't even vote in elections, and when they do, they don't elect the caliber of people you get in other places, like in Eastern Europe. And that's a whole other discussion.)

Anonymous said...

Waht a great cause. I heard about this but didn't know any one who wanted to go.

Maybe that's an indication of how much people care here. Sad.

Emory said...

OK, a serious subject requires serious thought.

As much as I 'haight' to agree with Qaddafi on Africa, I do see some promise in the creation of a Pan-African Union. The Colonial period did some great things in Africa, but they were done in the interest of the Colonial powers. I am not going to carte blanc say that Colonialism was a total evil, but it did reflect the political circumstances of Europe, and not the relevant realities of Africans.

Recent 'Debt Forgiveness' (40B US) by the G7 will go a long way in bringing some relief to the individual African nation states, but your point of corruption is very valid. I dare say that African corruption is so endemic at this point, that it is seen as just part of the international African tapestry. Again 40 billion sounds incredible, but is it? What is the combined military budgets of the G7?

I think this endemic corruption has little to do with Colonism, as much as it does with the post colonial period. Most African nations gained their Independence, during the height of the Cold War.
So why are we shocked that there is a long list of very bad leaders in Africa, reaching into the present day (Mugabe of Zimbabwe, offered.) The Cold War reality of supporting a monster because he was your monster, has led to propping up governments that should have been denounced.

I would agree that until some political stability is effected in Africa, then we will address crisis by crisis, in an endless series of crisises. Perhaps a Pan African Union could bring this needed stability about, in the model of the US or European Union. Perhaps not.

African identity lies within tribal affiliations, so any Union would need to discard Colonial borders, and negate National identies.Therin you find the root causes of Guerrilla movements and endless civil wars. It begins with identity, and is fueled by disenfranchisement (not to mention the merchants of death and misery.)

Your second point of 'pseudo administration' fears are also valid. Nations are not friendly to one another, such friendships are based solely on interests, anything beyond that is simple window treatment. Yet, we know that humans are capable of altruism, and we know a terrible wrong when we see one.

The problems in Africa are humanitarian one's, and these are easier to empathise with, but harder to address given there is no National interest at stake to do so.

Anyhooo ... I hopes your feets are not aching, but I will end here, because standing on my soap box is beginning to ache my feets!

complain away said...

Foot aches aside, a pan-African Union can only work if some of the "legit" African leaders hold others accountable, and I'm not sure that's going to happen any time soon.

I've ranted so much recently about Mugabe, but it's not just the West's fault that he's still in power. President Mbeki of South Africa has witnessed more than one bloody election in Zimbabwe and isn't willing to declare them invalid (reasons for this are debatable). And Zambian President Mwanawasa says the crisis in Zimbabwe is overstated. Unless leaders from neighbouring countries such as these start speaking out, Mugabe will probably be there until he dies, or 2020 (which is when he says he'll step down). Either way, Zimbabwe will be crippled and unable to recover from his legacy for a very, very long time.

And now that we're talking about African leaders taking responsibility, they have to stop harbouring war criminals from neighbouring countries too. Habre from Chad is in Senegal, Mengistu from Ethiopia is in Zimbabwe, and the list goes on and on.

I need to stop typing and go have a stiff drink now.