kampala does it like nobody does

I was in grade school when "This Is How We Do It" came out. I'm pretty sure that my junior-high -school fantasies at one point included seeing Montell Jordan live, probably with TLC or Skee-Lo.

They most definitely did not include seeing Montell Jordan live, outdoors, in Kampala, promoting the upcoming launch of his new album.

My mind: officially blown.


GVO: Ugandan bloggers all play, no peace talks

My next piece is up at Global Voices Online:

At last month’s Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour, I took an informal poll of why the blogren do what they do. My favorite response came from Carlo, who said that blogging is “just like Facebook,” the social networking site that’s currently sweeping the young, internet-connected world. Every blogger present declared blogging in Uganda to be a purely social exercise, evidenced by the recent “8 Random Things” meme circulating among Ivan, Magoola, Magintu and others.

Perhaps that’s why hardly anyone has mentioned last week’s one-year anniversary of the beginning of the peace talks between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a “sadistic rebel militia which ha[s] made a hell out of the north of the country for two decades.”

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agreeing with the LRA, part 7043281

Earlier this month the Government of Uganda backtracked on the most recent section of the peace agreement, which in theory promised that a special blend of traditional and national justice mechanisms would be established to deal with war criminals on both sides of the conflict. The government is now planning to set up a special tribunal for LRA members but handle UPDF members through court marshals.

The most surprising part of the Reuters report was that conflict analysts are saying the LRA is being too soft in their demands.

In case you didn’t get that: conflict analysts are saying the LRA is being too soft in their demands.

Weird. For so long the LRA has been vilified from all sides — it's odd to hear someone supporting their arguments and saying they should push harder for what they want.

Two weeks ago I helped run a conflict simulation for the participants at GYPA's Immersion on youth, development and peace-building. As part of the debriefing, we talked about the multiplicity of actors in any prolonged conflict situation and the importance of recognizing that each actor has interests that, whether or not we agree with them, are legitimate and need to be addressed in order to build sustainable peace.

This is becoming increasingly clear to me as I find myself repeatedly siding with the LRA. Uganda-CAN recently reported that the LRA has agreed to discuss the release of abductees. They’ve been adamantly opposed to this since the beginning of the talks — it doesn't make sense that they would suddenly change their minds, especially given the government's alterations to the implied terms of the last agreement.

I’m worried that peace is becoming so desirable, and the top commanders of the LRA so afraid of punishment, that they’re starting to give in haphazardly. This bodes poorly for durable peace — the likelihood that LRA combatants will abide by an agreement made hurriedly and only in order to achieve something is slim.

I never thought I’d say this, but I hope that the LRA refuses to concede its positions for the sake of reaching a peace agreement.

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This month's Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour will be held next Thursday, July 26, at 6:30 PM at Mateo's. My good friend and talented writer Locus Amoenus is back in the country and will be there, as will blogren newbie Gritty & Giddy (link on its way).

Put your dancing shoes on....

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why I love my job

Overheard at GYPA's Student Global Ambassador Immersion, a conference for Ugandan and American youth on peacebuilding and development, in the past four days:

"I'm really glad you're all women. I'm learning that women can organize things without men."

"Finance. That's money."

"The North East States Organization has been absent from the Siwa-Nizwa conflict for the past decade because it has been brokering a peace deal between Burkistan, Murkistan, Burmurkistan, and four other countries whose names I can't recall because I haven't yet made them up."


where is the rage?

Last night, as part of the Global Youth Partnership for Africa’s July Student Global Ambassador Immersion on youth, development and peace-building, I got the chance to hear Steven Okello speak.

Steven is the Country Director of Resolve Uganda, an advocacy organization that evolved out of the Uganda Conflict Action Network. He is an Acholi, and last night he shared his personal experiences and perspectives of the conflict. Steven is an incredibly eloquent, passionate speaker, and what struck me most as he was talking last night was that he was undeniably angry.

A year and a half ago I attended a lecture by Dr. Stephen Schwenke on development ethics in Uganda. During his talk, he asked the audience, “Where is the rage?” He wanted to know, and wanted us to be curious about, what the prevailing attitude towards the conflict is in Uganda. He was surprised that more people hadn’t taken to the streets to scream and yell and demonstrate. They have so many reasons to be angry — why isn’t that anger more visible?
As Steven spoke last night, I could sense his rage, and in some ways, it was refreshing. He is exactly the kind of passionate young leader Uganda needs, and his talk resounded with the Immersion participants. I can’t wait to see the range of emotions they will display over the next two weeks of this conference, and I hope that they (and I) have the courage to be angry about the last two decades of violence in this country. I believe that anger will motivate us to find new solutions and to keep working for peace.

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