To those who don’t know better, Uganda is a “success story” – a country saved by it’s democratic system and by large amounts of donations, a country who managed to reduce her HIV infection rates to just a one-figure percentage, a country with a literacy rate of 68% (in 2009).
There is, however, a much more despairing side of Uganda rarely broadcasted for the world to see. (A side I doubt I would ever have known had I not stumbled on First Kill Your Family by Peter Eichstaedt, a recount of his experience in Uganda, where he was trying to set up her first independent news agency.) Nearly 95% of innocent civilians in North Uganda have been driven from their pastoral existence into refugee camps, and most of them live off food rations by the United Nations (UN). Due to poor living conditions and lack of sanitation and soap, people die from various diseases and illness by the second. That, or they eventually get killed. Unsettling fear sits permanently in their broken hearts; every single day is a battle of survival. And the most victimized people of the lot are the children of Uganda.
Because civil war between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been going on for twenty years now. The LRA is a pseudo-christian militia led by a sadomasochistic self-proclaimed prophet, Joseph Kony. Its fighting units consist of mostly children. (Yes, children who are involved in actual warfare and firing of arms while you play Counterstrike in an air-conditioned room.) These children are recruited by force, and are made to commit atrocious acts like murdering of their very own parents and slicing off lips or limbs of their enemies. This is the LRA’s common practice: They raid a house, take their crops and food, kidnap the children, and sometimes kill their parents and relatives; the boys are then trained to become soldiers, while the girls are given to other soldiers as child brides (to put it crudely, sex slaves). These children know not what they are fighting for, only that they have to. They become accustomed to shooting with their guns, prodding with their bayonets, torturing to achieve their means. It is a violent world they live in, and violence is the only way to live.
The LRA and the Ugandan government are still unable to come to a peaceful settlement. The LRA continues on their rampage, and the government continues in its mostly futile attempt to annihilate the rebels. The people believe that the cessation of war will come only when either one party is overthrown by the other – but even that will not guarantee peace. When two elephants fight, the grass suffers most.
Surely, something must and can be done by the global community. An international intervention maybe? The growing gap between better-developed and third-world countries is apparent in every nook and cranny, every corner of the street, every road and every city. Generous donations that come pouring into Uganda are but tiny plasters on a gaping, infected wound. We live on the very same Earth but our children grow up in utterly different worlds. The discrepancy is crushing.
Why is it that discomforting skin conditions brought about by spa centres with substandard hygiene can make the headlines, but a state of affairs as disconsolating and wrenched as this receive so little notoriety?
I just…. wanted to raise an awareness.
– sombre sarah, livid lightningpore