Saturday, March 31, 2012

Don't fool yourself, Uhuru. GEMA cannot stop your ICC case.

The GEMA meeting in Limuru was an exercise in futility

It is pointless for Gema to petition the ICC to postpone its case against Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta. ICC spokesman Fadi Abdalla has said said only the prosecution, the defence and the victims' representatives can argue for postponement of a case in the ICC calendar. And even then, the judges have the final word. “Aside from the parties to the cases, any other submission has no effect on the proceedings. Such decisions cannot be taken based on political considerations but rest strictly on legal ones,” says Abdalla.
Last Friday in Limuru, the Gikuyu-Embu-Meru Association decided that it will endorse Uhuru as its presidential candidate and look for two million signatures to petition the ICC to postpone the case against Uhuru until after general elections. "It is a stated objective of the ICC that it does not wish to interfere with our constitutional right to elect a candidate of our choice, Gema therefore petitions the ICC to reorganise its diary to ensure that Kenyans are not deprived of their constitutional right to elect leaders of their choice in free, fair and all-inclusive elections," Gema said in a completely misguided statement.
The delegates at the rally, which Uhuru attended, said they would block any attempt to take him to the Hague. But Abdalla warns that the court, at the instigation of the prosecutor, could issue arrest warrants if the court believes that Uhuru might not honour the summons.
Abdalla says that the accused should have no contact with victims and witnesses, refrain from corruptly influencing witnesses, refrain from tampering with evidence, refrain from committing further crimes, and attend all the hearings at the ICC. “By and large the suspects have kept to these conditions. However the judges have severally said before that if any of these conditions are not adhered to, the voluntary summonses to appear will be substituted with warrants of arrests,” Abdalla warns.
Once the trial starts, the four will have to go to the Hague. The trial judges will determine whether to voluntarily summon them or issue warrants of arrest. The decision will be based on the likelihood of the four absconding and a review of how well they have adhered to the conditions. “These conditions were not just applicable at the pre trial phase only. They are applicable even now in the preparatory to trial stage. At trial, the judges will decide whether to keep the conditions, to enhance them or reduce them, depending on the circumstances,” Abdalla says.
There is no time frame for the ICC president to constitute a trial chamber for the four but he says, “it will be soon.” Two weeks ago, the ICC registry submitted the decision confirming charges against the four to the president. That submission set in motion the trial stage. Abdalla confirms that the trial will not wait for the accused's appeal on jurisdiction to be finalized. On the recent incident where an alleged prosecution witness recanted his testimony, Abdalla says it "was not unexpected or out of the ordinary" but must be done before the ICC judges. “It can only happen before the judges and not in the media. Outside of that, the recantation would be of no relevance to the court,” he says.
The penalty for false testimony in the Rome Statute is five years imprisonment. He says Kenya can still challenge the admissibility of the two Kenya cases but must first “demonstrate exceptional circumstances." Last year, the government unsuccessfully challenged the admissibility of the Kenya cases in the Hague. The government also lost when it appealed against the ruling. Two British lawyers from that appeal, Geoffrey Nice and Rodney Dixon, joined a ten member panel formed earlier this year to advise the government on the ICC. The report by the panel released last week explored the possibility of another admissibility challenge.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What have you done for us lately?

A special "thank you" to you, our special reader, and please keep supporting the truth. It's out there...

Is there a conspiracy against the ICC?

Kenya's Axis of Evil and Public Enemies #1 & 2.
This article appears in today's Standard, and succinctly captures Kenyans' aspirations, in particular the frustrations we are facing regarding the ICC and the perpetrators of PEV being brought to book. Enjoy!

By Standard Team
Will President Kibaki co-operate with International Criminal Court in the next phase of trials if post-election suspects lose the last appeal standing between them and full trial at The Hague?
This is the big question lurking in the shadows of a series of events and even his own actions, which seem to point at the fact that something could be in the offing, or in the least, that someone may be softening the ground for non-co-operation with ICC.
The speculation something could be afoot rose on Tuesday, not just because of the reshuffle that settled scores over The Hague row in Cabinet.
This was also the same day Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, who with the blessing of the President, led the shuttle diplomacy across the globe to lobby for deferral or return of Kenya’s case at The Hague to the local courts, was in Sudan with a "special message’ for President Omar Al Bashir.
Now, Bashir is the besieged President indicted by ICC and whose movement is limited because an arrest warrant is out for him. However, it came out he enjoys a cozy relationship with Kibaki’s administration when in 2010 he came to Kenya without fear of arrest and handover to the ICC.
The VP’s office, however, insists the visit had nothing to do with ICC, though it is unlikely a meeting between President Kibaki’s messenger and an ICC VIP suspect would end without discussions on The Hague given the profile of Kenyans fighting off full trial. "The Vice-President went to deliver a message on behalf of President Kibaki to President Bashir on the South-North (Sudan) conflict," said Kaplich Barsito, the VP’s spokesman.
As Kalonzo met Bashir, Kibaki reshuffled his side of the Grand Coalition Cabinet, transferring outspoken Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo from Justice Ministry, and Moses Wetangula from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The changes saw the two replaced at the Cabinet sub-Committee on ICC by their successors in their previous offices – Eugene Wamalwa and Sam Ongeri. The two newcomers to the sub-committee are perceived to be closer not only to the President, but even more sympathetic to Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret William Ruto, who are the key pillars of the G7 Alliance.
In the ICC trials, particularly for logistical, consultative and co-operation reasons, Justice and Foreign Affairs ministries play a significant role, and wield influence on the committee that is more like a clearing house for Government-ICC talks. "The State is slowly gravitating towards an anti-ICC establishment and it is being pushed by anti-reform forces among us," claimed Land minister James Orengo, who is a member of the sub-committee. He complained Mutula’s removal was bound to affect progress made on co-operation with ICC. "I am seeing an attempt to prepare the stage for non-co-operation with ICC if you examine the recent happenings, but it will boomerang," Orengo warned. He added: "Yes, you can fail to co-operate with ICC but remain a fugitive who is a villager... you cannot travel abroad."
Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara said he was perturbed the Government had not been categorical on co-operation with ICC. "Going by what has happened one would arrive at the irresistible conclusion that the Government is preparing ground for non-co-operation," he added.
Also ahead of the eagerly awaited ruling on last appeal expected in May, two significant developments took place. In what could be argued to be a precursor to the Cabinet changes, last Friday, Gema (which brings together the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru communities) feted Uhuru in Limuru as central Kenya’s leader. They announced plan to collect two million signatures to petition ICC to postpone the Kenya case until after the General Election. "The Government has not dissociated itself from the tribal meeting in Limuru yet the President’s name also featured at the meeting," complained Imanyara.
Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang’ said if at any stage the court senses non-co-operation it would demand the Head of State personally co-operates by handing over the accused persons. "If he doesn’t do so then a warrant of arrest would be issued against him personally and that is the nature of the International law as currently crafted," he added.
Earlier, Attorney General Githu Muigai appointed an eminent team of lawyers to advise the State on the ICC trials. It may be significant that the reshuffle and Kalonzo’s trip to Sudan came after these experts told the Government that the government would have no choice but to handover the suspects if their petition flops and ICC issues warrants of arrests. Further signs that could trigger the question whether there might be a conspiracy building up against The Hague came up when ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo protested that the e-mails accounts of some of its witnesses and their associates were being hacked. Towards this end, police arrested local journalist Dennis Itumbi (@OleItumbi on twitter) and dispatched two senior officers to The Hague to follow up the matter. The claim, if true, has serious implications for the lives of the witnesses, and could even undermine the case at The Hague if they then decide to step down from the dock for fear of their lives.
The State’s plan to reopen the 5,000 old post-election files also triggered debate on whether it was not either a silent threat to or vengeance scheme against some politicians who escaped ICC radar, or even an attempt to persuade The Hague Kenya has come of age and can now be trusted to try all post-election violence cases. Side by side with this was the other curious action of recording statements from some of the ICC suspects by Criminal Investigations Department. This was seen as an attempt to persuade ICC that the Government can indeed be ‘trusted’ to handle the cases involving the big fish too. But again this was done just as the Government hired British legal experts to fight off its case at The Hague through a series of appeals and jurisdictional arguments.
Alongside the claims of hacking of e-mail accounts came the so-called ‘UK Dossier’, dismissed as fake by Britain (and rumoured to have been authored by Itumbi - ed). The dossier purported to show that Kibaki, too, may be indicted on retirement, and that Prime Minister Raila Odinga could have played a role in The Hague cases, and is also the preferred candidate for the West.
Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo who tabled the dossier in Parliament declined to discuss the matter, saying: "I am prohibited to discuss such a matter when it is under investigation so let us wait and see what the committee would come up with." Wajir West MP Adan Keynan, who is leading parliamentary probe into the dossier, refused to comment on it until the inquiry is over.
The last significant action on this front was President Kibaki’s certain change of mind on support for a December 2012 elections date to March 2013, which gives him the possibility of being in power until around May in case there will be an election run-off. Kajwang’ argued Kenya tied its hands the moment it ratified the Rome Statute. "If there was any attempt to do any of these then the Government would be committing a serious international crime," he said.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kenyans should beware of anti-Raila forces out to stall reforms agenda

By Barrack Muluka
The contradictions of politics can be breathtaking.
There is no objective goodness or badness. It all depends on who is involved.
The matter of the ICC is at once a safe subject and a polarising issue to talk about. If the indicted Kenyans accuse the court, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the British Government of conspiracy, the ICC is neither sensitive nor polarising.
If the Raila Campaign Secretariat talks about the ICC, it becomes a sensitive and polarising matter. Kenyans are advised to "be cautious about this sensitive and polarising matter".
It is the same with political party democracy. When G7 functionaries set on fire an MP’s car because the MP has dared say "Raila Tosha," nobody questions the democratic culture in G7.
The same is true when another car is torched in Mwingi, because the owner has abandoned Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper party to join Charity Ngilu’s Narc. However, when Raila prefers one mode of presidential candidate nomination in ODM, he is "a dictator". One man burns another’s car.
He is a democrat. The other one prefers one mode of nomination to the other. He is a dictator. Such is Kenya in the 21st century.
Self-declared presidential aspirants from other parties have even urged ODM deputy party leader, Musalia Mudavadi, to decamp "because of dictatorship in ODM". Their sole agenda is "to bar Raila from ascending to presidency". Meanwhile, the PM is the object of attack from every corner.
So what is afoot? Why is the PM under such intense attack? Why would people forge papers to tell lies about him and the ICC? Why would they scream at charged political rallies about the ICC but say the matter is polarising when he talks about it? The strategy is to roll the PM through sewage. The immediate objective is to make him unelectable. But the bigger objective is to stall and reverse reforms.
Kenyans have reached another crossroads. They must choose between reform and reversal, now that Kanu has regrouped.
Raila is the face of reforms, in spite of his own weaknesses. He must therefore be stopped, at all costs. That is why outsiders will gleefully talk about democracy in ODM without looking at their own credentials first. Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Uhuru, Ruto, and self-declared people’s guard Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale all accuse the PM of dictatorship in ODM. Their "proof" is the on-going debate on how presidential nominations in the party should be done.
It is instructive that the people asking Raila to exercise internal democracy in ODM are themselves self-declared presidential ticket holders in their parties. It is not clear who gave them the tickets. Uhuru Kenyatta is the Kanu candidate while William Ruto is the United Republican Party (URP) candidate. Nobody is telling Kenyans how these people became their parties’ presidential nominees. Nor is Vice- President Kalonzo telling Kenyans who competed against him for the Wiper party ticket.
However, they are all presidential "nominees" for their parties and "democrats," to boot. Together with a couple of others, these "democrats" have "vowed" to unite "to defeat one man". That is their solitary election agenda.
The Kenyan nation is the headquarters of hypocrisy. Individuals who have unilaterally declared themselves presidential candidates in their own parties can be so brazen as to point accusatory fingers at somebody else and say, "Hey, please internalise democracy in your party".
The truth of the matter is that the people who brought Kenya to its knees in the bad old days have regrouped. Kalonzo, Ruto, Uhuru, Prof George Saitoti, all belong to the Kanu dark corner that rode roughshod through the nation in the 1980s and 1990s. When the forces of change threatened dictatorship, they jumped ship. They passed themselves off as reformists. The storm of reform seems to be over.
They can put on their old colours and take Kenya back to the past. As in the old days, they are now able to stare you in the eye and make illogical pronouncements like, "I am the URP presidential candidate. I also call upon Raila to open up the democratic space in ODM." A gullible nation turns a blind eye to the contradiction.
Kenyans have reached another crossroads. They must choose between reform and reversal, now that Kanu has regrouped. They must choose between impunity and the rule of law. These are the things Raila is saying. Raila is simply saying that this is Kenya’s moment. Decide now whether you will go ahead or go back. Pronouncements of this kind make some people extremely uncomfortable. They will gang up against you and spin dirty propaganda against you.
In the circumstances, reformist institutions like the IEBC and the Judiciary will need to exercise restraint, even as they grope for space. We are coming from a history of institutional abuse. When we see the same forces that abused our institutions regrouped and calling for "unity," those of us who were old enough to see Kanu in its element must get afraid, very afraid. We do not want to smell the slightest whiff of indiscretion in the IEBC or in the courts. Is that too much to ask for?
I should have been impressed to see the PM caught on a video recording, intimidating the IEBC. Instead, I saw IEBC officials on video, claiming that they had been intimidated. A gullible, or perhaps even complicit, media fraternity picked this up and went to town with it as "proof" that the commissioners had been intimidated. If you did not witness the transformation of Kenya’s politics during the period 1965 to 1988, you will probably have to wait and feel the impact of a regrouped Kanu whip on your body. It began exactly the way it is happening today.
The true heroes of the nation were isolated and corned. They were boxed and demonized. Kung’u Karumba, Achieng’ Oneko, Wasonga Sijeyo, Bildad Kagia, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. The villains became the heroes. The door to impunity was thrown wide open. To pave the way, the citizens were fed on the narcotising drug of ethnicity. They did not mind the villains, provided they were from their tribe. We are watching history repeat itself. If you have been asking what the trouble is with Raila Odinga, ask no more.
The writer is a publishing editor and media consultant

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trending on Twitter as at 1430HRS on Monday 26 May 2012

The discovery of oil in Kenya has caused quite a buzz on Twitter and put poor old Turkana on the world map instantly.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


The world was thrown into frenzy when the KONY 2012 video went mega-viral on YouTube.

After watching the hollywood style film (30 whole minutes of my life I’m afraid I’ll never get back), and seeing the atrocities committed on innocent children, many celebrities and top government officials worldwide have come out strongly to agitate for the immediate arrest of Joseph Kony and the decimation of his Lord’s Resistance Army.

When Jedidiah Jenkins from the “non-profit organisation” Invisible Children uploaded the video a few weeks ago, I bet he never thought it would escalate to the proportions we are witnessing. With over 80 million views in its first 7 days, and well over 100 million currently and still counting, KONY 2012 is the most viral video to ever feature on YouTube.

Rihanna was first on the ‘Stop Kony’ band wagon. She confessed that she learnt of the video from her twitter fans and then decided to check it out. “I’ve never been moved like this, I’ve never been involved. I want to go big. I want to get involved. I want this to be my thing and I want to blow this up. I want to get kids involved. I’m just responding to my fans. They’re so moved by this,” she reportedly said in a phone conversation with Jenkins.

Things quickly picked up in the next few days; people came out criticising the video and called it a scam (the KONY 2012 scam, replaced quickly by HORNY 2012 after Russell’s dramatic meltdown), even as the number of views kept rising and the celebrity activists kept coming.

Then Soulja Boy came up with a song.

In an effort to get his opinion heard, Soulja Boy went ahead to record “KONY 2012 (Stop Kony)”. Inasmuch as his intentions were for the greater good, the road to hell is paved with good intentions: Soulja boy has inevitably made a fool of himself. Even if one takes into consideration the fact that he is not known for melodious, lyrical and rhyme infested musical melancholy, this is still a complete fail.
On said song, he lets the commentary in the video run over a hip-hop beat as he occasionally yells “Stop Kony! Stop Kony!” It’s an extremely surreal and very disconcerting attempt at trying to make the most of a situation he seems to know little to nothing about. To the trained ear, it sounds as though Soulja Boy is in the bathroom howling away, the video is playing in the living room, a hip-hop beat is playing in the bedroom, and somehow his phone is somewhere in the middle to record all the three occasions. The production is cheap, rough, quick and dirty, and just when you thought Soulja Boy could never sound worse, he comes up trumps.

KONY 2012 (Stop Kony) could have sounded a lot better had he desisted from attention seeking, and it reeks of a publicity stunt gone tits up:

We gonna stop Kony / It’s 20 over its 2012 / 10 summers / Kidnapped the kid took him to the jungle / AK47 / And he can’t never ever / Never seen his daddy / Never seen his mama / Make this his history / All you gotta do is believe / Soulja Boy Tell Em tatted on my sleeve...

A friend recently told me that this whole Kony affair is like the Illuminati - everyone knows about it, but no one seems to know anything about it. Let’s do something about it already, instead of blatantly exploiting it. I’m looking at you Invisible Children and Soulja Boy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How KONY 2012 transformed into HORNY 2012: What next for Invisible Children?

Now that Invisible Children supremo Jason Russell has downright melted down and outed himself as the complete clattering buttock we all thought he was (excuse the pun), I believe it's time to move on to other things. I lie!

I'm gonna twist the dagger a few more times and milk this fraudster for what he's worth. So here goes...

One of my sources has been chasing down this railroad job for a while now, and saw through their veneer of deceit a long while back. He posted some comments on Invisible Children's website, but they removed it before the world got a whiff of it. Enter my source, verbatim:

"Here is one of the discussions that Invisible Children intelligently removed. Thanks to Google cached pages! I am still hunting for the one with my pages, you never know... I may find it too, mine was even tougher and more scathing than this one, even though this is also true. I have made it a PDF so you view it well but its a long image that I can shorten since it was from a scrolling web page. The other file is the 404 that shows up now if you try to access the link... lol!"

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kony 2012: Uganda speaks out

Al Jazeera has an awesome new project that allows Ugandans to text in their opinions of KONY 2012. Click on the red glowing circles to see the responses from Ugandans themselves.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

ICC First verdict: Thomas Lubanga guilty of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate in hostilities

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo © ICC-CPI/ Evert-Jan Daniel/ANP

Off the top of my head, I can immediately pick out two Kenyans who shat their pants this afternoon. - Ed.

Today, 14 March 2012, Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided unanimously that Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is guilty, as a co-perpetrator, of the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities from 1 September 2002 to 13 August 2003. It is the first verdict issued by an ICC Trial Chamber. At present, 14 other cases are before the Court, three of which are at the stage of trial.

The present war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities were committed in the context of an internal armed conflict that took place in the Ituri (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and involved the Force patriotique pour la libération du Congo (Patriotic Force for the Liberation of the Congo) (FPLC), led by Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, against the Armée Populaire Congolaise and other militias, including the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri. A common plan was agreed by Mr Lubanga Dyilo and his co-perpetrators to build an army for the purpose of establishing and maintaining political and military control over Ituri. This resulted in boys and girls under the age of 15 being conscripted and enlisted, and used to participate actively in hostilities.
Mr Lubanga Dyilo was the President of the Union des patriotes congolais(Union of Congolese Patriots) (UPC), the Commander-in-Chief of its military wing, the FPLC, and its political leader. He exercised an overall coordinating role regarding the activities of the UPC/FPLC and he actively supported recruitment initiatives, for instance by giving speeches to the local population and the recruits. Furthermore, he personally used children below the age of 15 amongst his bodyguards and he regularly saw guards of other UPC/FPLC staff members who were below the age of 15. The Chamber, comprising Judge Adrian Fulford (presiding judge), Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito and Judge René Blattmann, found that the evidence presented by the Prosecutor establishes beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Lubanga Dyilo’s contribution was essential to the common plan.
At the request of Mr Lubanga Dyilo, and in accordance with article 76(2) of the Rome Statute, the Chamber will hold a separate sentencing hearing. The Chamber will, furthermore, establish the principles that are to be applied to reparations for victims. The defence is entitled to appeal the conviction within 30 days of receiving the French translation of the Judgment.
Background information
Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was transferred to The Hague on 17 March 2006, pursuant to a warrant of arrest issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I. His trial, the first at the ICC, started on 26 January 2009 and the closing statements were presented by the parties and participants on 25 and 26 August 2011.
Over the course of 204 days of hearings, the Trial Chamber has delivered 275 written decisions and orders and 347 oral decisions. The Chamber heard 36 witnesses, including 3 experts, called by the Office of the Prosecutor, 24 witnesses called by the defence and 3 witnesses called by the legal representatives of the victims participating in the proceedings. The Chamber also called 4 experts. A total of 129 victims, represented by two teams of legal representatives and the Office of Public Counsel for Victims, were granted the right to participate in the trial. They have been authorised to present submissions and to examine witnesses on specific issues. The Prosecution submitted 368 items of evidence, the Defence 992, and the legal representatives of victims 13.
The ICC is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression. At present, 15 cases have been brought before the Court in the context of 7 situations that are currently under investigation: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Darfur (Sudan), Kenya, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. The ICC Judges have issued 20 warrants of arrest (2 withdrawn following the death of the suspects) and 9 summonses to appear. Currently, five individuals are in the ICC custody and 11 suspects remain at large.


The Problem With Invisible Children's "Kony 2012"

Alice Auma, aka Alice Lakwena,
founder of the Holy Spirit Movement
that gave birth to the LRA.
By Michael Deibert

Recently, a new video produced by the American NGO Invisible Children focusing on Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been making the rounds. Having just returned from the Acholi region of Northern Uganda myself, where the LRA was born, I thought I might share some of my thoughts on the subject, for what it's worth.

I think it is easy for Invisible Children and other self-aggrandizing foreigners to make the entire story of the last 30 years of Northern Uganda about Joseph Kony, but there is a history of the relationship between the Acholi people from whom the LRA emerged and the central government in Kampala that is a little more complicated than that.

Kony is a grotesque war criminal, to be sure, but the Ugandan government currently in power also came to power through the use of kadogo (child soldiers) and fought alongside militias employing child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, something that Invisible Children seem wilfully ignorant of.

The conflict in Acholi -- the ancestral homeland of the ethnic group who stretch across northern Uganda and southern Sudan -- has its roots in Uganda's history of dictatorship and political turmoil. A large number of soldiers serving in the government of dictator Milton Obote (who ruled Uganda from 1966 to 1971 and then again from 1980 to 1985) came from across northern Uganda, with the Acholis being particularly well represented, even though Obote himself hailed from the Lango ethnic group. When Obote was overthrown by his own military commanders, an ethnic Acholi, General Tito Okello, became president for six chaotic months until Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army took over. Museveni became president, and has since remained so, via elections -- some legitimate, some deeply flawed.

Northern Ugandans react angrily to Kony 2012. Watch the video.

Upon taking power, the Museveni government launched a brutal search and destroy mission against former government soldiers throughout the north, which swept up many ordinary Acholi in its wake. Some Acholi began mobilizing to defend themselves, first under the banner of the Uganda People's Democratic Army (largely made up of former soldiers) and then the Holy Spirit Movement.

This movement, directed by Alice Auma, an Acholi who claimed to be acting on guidance from the spirit Lakwena, brought a mystical belief in their own invincibility that the soldiers of the Kampala-based government at first found terrifying: Holy Spirit Movement devotees walked headlong into blazing gunfire singing songs and holding stones they believed would turn into grenades. The movement succeeded in reaching Jinja, just 80 km from the capital Kampala, before being decimated by Museveni's forces.

Out of this slaughter was born the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, a distant relative of Alice Auma. Kony added an additional element of targeting civilian Acholi to his schismatic blend of Christianity, frequently kidnapping children and adolescents to serve in his rebel movement. The Museveni government responded by viewing all Acholi as potential collaborators, rounding them up into camps euphemistically called "protected villages", where they were vulnerable to disease and social ills, and had few ways to carry on their traditional farming.

The LRA's policy of targeting civilians (though not the Museveni government's draconian measures) eventually drew international condemnation and in 2005 the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against Joseph Kony and several other seniors LRA commanders for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Ironically, one of those commanders, Dominic Ongwen, was himself kidnapped by the LRA while still a small boy.

After peace talks between the LRA and the Ugandan government collapsed in 2007, the group decamped from its bases in southern Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Following the end of negotiations, the Museveni government launched its Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP), an effort to stabilize northern Uganda after years of war. Since then, according to the United Nations, 98 percent of internally displaced persons have moved on from the camps that once sheltered hundreds of thousands of frightened people.

Despite criticisms from the Acholi that the government's program has been insufficient, local initiatives and the work of some foreign organizations have helped restore a sense of normality and gradual progress to the region, with people returned to their homes and travel between once off-limits parts of the region now facilitated with relative ease.

Now a thousand miles from the cradle of their insurgency, the LRA would appear to have little hope of returning to Uganda, though their potential to wreak havoc on civilians remains little diminished. In Congo's Haut-Uele province, between December 2009 and January 2010, the LRA massacred 620 civilians and abducted more than 120 children.

In October 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he was sending 100 Special Forces soldiers to help the Ugandans hunt down Kony. By the end of the year, the Ugandan army confirmed that the troops had moved along with the Ugandan army to Obo in the Central African Republic and Nzara in South Sudan.

The problem with Invisible Children's whitewashing of the role of the government of Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni in the violence of Central Africa is that it gives Museveni and company a free pass, and added ammunition with which to bludgeon virtually any domestic opposition, such as Kizza Besigye and the Forum for Democratic Change.

By blindly supporting Uganda's current government and its military adventures beyond its borders, as Invisible Children suggests that people do, Invisible Children is in fact guaranteeing that there will be more violence, not less, in Central Africa.

I have seen the well-meaning foreigners do plenty of damage before, so that is why people understanding the context and the history of the region is important before they blunder blindly forward to "help" a people they don't understand.

U.S. President Bill Clinton professed that he was "helping" in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1990s and his help ended up with over 6 million people losing their lives.

The same mistake should not be repeated today.

Michael Deibert is the author of Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What Jason Did Not Tell Gavin and His Army of Invisible Children: The Downside of the Kony 2012 Video

© Pieces Of Mee blog
Mahmood Mamdani 
March 12, 2012 
Only two weeks ago, Ugandan papers carried front-page reports from the highly respected Social Science Research Council of New York, accusing the Uganda army of atrocities against civilians in Central African Republic while on a mission to fight Joseph Kony and the LRA. The Army denied the allegations. Many in the civilian population, especially in the north, were skeptical of the denial. Like all victims, they have long and enduring memories.
The adult population recalls the brutal government-directed counterinsurgency campaign beginning 1986, and evolving into Operation North, the first big operation that people talk about as massively destructive for civilians, and creating the conditions that gave rise to the LRA of Joseph Kony and, before it, the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Lakwena. 
Young adults recall the time from the mid-90s when most rural residents of the three Acholi districts was forcibly interned in camps – the Government claimed it was to ‘protect’ them from the LRA. But there were allegations of murder, bombing, and burning of entire villages, first to force people into the camps and then to force them to stay put. By 2005, the camp population grew from a few hundred thousand to over 1.8 million in the entire region – which included Teso and Lango – of which over a million were from the three Acholi districts. Comprising practically the entire rural population of the three Acholi districts, they were expected to live on handouts from relief agencies. According to the Government’s own Ministry of Health, the excess mortality rate in these camps was approximately one thousand persons per week – inviting comparisons to the numbers killed by the LRA even in the worst year.
Determined to find a political solution to enduring mass misery, Parliament passed a bill in December 1999 offering amnesty to the entire leadership of the LRA provided they laid down their arms. The President refused to sign the bill.
Opposed to an amnesty, the President invited the ICC, newly formed in 2002, to charge that same LRA leadership with crimes against humanity. Moreno-Ocampo grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Joseph Kony became the subject of the ICC’s first indictment.
Critics asked why the ICC was indicting only the leadership of the LRA, and not also of government forces. Ocampo said only one step at a time. In his words: “The criteria for selection of the first case was gravity. We analyzed the gravity of all crimes in northern Uganda committed by the LRA and the Ugandan forces. Crimes committed by the LRA were much more numerous and of much higher gravity than alleged crimes committed by the UPDF (Uganda Peoples Defense Force). We therefore started with an investigation of the LRA.” That ‘first case’ was in 2004. There has been none other in the eight years that have followed.
As the internment of the civilian population continued into its second decade, there was another attempt at a political solution, this time involving the new Government of South Sudan (GOSS). Under great pressure from both the population and from parliament, the government of Uganda agreed to enter into direct negotiations with the LRA, facilitated and mediated by GOSS. These dragged on for years, from 2006 on, but hopes soared as first the terms of the agreement, and then its finer details, were agreed on between the two sides. Once again, the only thing standing between war and peace was an amnesty for the top leadership of the LRA, Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti in particular. In the words of Vincent Otti, the second in command: “… to come out, the ICC must revoke the indictment…If Kony or Otti does not come out, no other rebel will come out.” Yet again, the ICC refused, calling for a military campaign to get Kony, joined by the Ugandan government which refused to provide guarantees for his safety. Predictably, the talks broke down and the LRA withdrew, first to the Democratic Republic of Congo and then to the Central African Republic. 
The government responded with further militarization, starting with the disastrous Operation Lightning Thunder in the DRC in December, 2008, then sending thousands of Ugandan troops to the CAR, and then asking for American advisors. The ICC called on AFRICOM, the Africa Command of the US Army, to act as its implementing arm by sending more troops to capture Kony. The US under President Obama responded by sending an unspecified number of advisors armed with drones – though the US insists that these drones are unarmed for now.
Now Invisible Children has joined the ranks of those calling for the US to press for a military solution – presumably supported by a mostly children’s army of over 70 million viewers of its video, Kony 2012! What is the LRA that it should merit the attention of an audience ranging from Hollywood celebrities to ‘humanitarian interventionists’ to AFRICOM to children of America? 
The LRA is a raggedy bunch of a few hundred at most, poorly equipped, poorly armed, and poorly trained. Their ranks mainly comprise those kidnapped as children and then turned into tormentors. It is a story not very different from that of abused children who in time turn into abusive adults. In short, the LRA is no military power. 
Addressing the problem called the LRA does not call for a military operation. And yet, the LRA is given as the reason why there must be a constant military mobilization, at first in northern Uganda, and now in the entire region, why the military budget must have priority and, now, why the US must sent soldiers and weaponry, including drones, to the region. Rather than the reason for accelerated military mobilization in the region, the LRA is the excuse for it.
The reason why the LRA continues is that its victims – the civilian population of the area – trust neither the LRA nor government forces. Sandwiched between the two, civilians need to be rescued from an ongoing military mobilization and offered the hope of a political process. 
Alas, this message has no room in the Invisible Children video that ends with a call to arms. Thus one must ask: Will this mobilization of millions be subverted into yet another weapon in the hands of those who want to militarize the region further? If so, this well-intentioned but unsuspecting army of children will be responsible for magnifying the very crisis to which they claim to be the solution.
The 70 million plus who have watched the Invisible Children video need to realize that the LRA – both the leaders and the children pressed into their service – are not an alien force but sons and daughters of the soil. The solution is not to eliminate them physically, but to find ways of integrating them into (Ugandan) society.
Those in the Ugandan and the US governments – and now apparently the owners of Invisible Children – must bear responsibility for regionalizing the problem as the LRA and, in its toe, the Ugandan army and US advisors crisscross the region, from Uganda to DRC to CAR. Yet, at its core the LRA remains a Ugandan problem calling for a Ugandan political solution.
Mahmood Mamdani is a Professor and the Director of Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala and a Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, New York City.