conflict, digital activism, human rights, northern uganda, uganda, ugandan blogosphere, ugandan politics

#ugandaspeaks against #kony2012

Congratulations to @jssozi, @RosebellK, @maureenagena, and @echwalu on taking steps to provide Ugandan perspectives on the LRA. Wishing the team had more northern Ugandan voices, particularly given the complex relationship between southern Uganda (where most of these bloggers are from) and northern Uganda in the context of the LRA conflict.

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conflict, digital activism, northern uganda, u.s. foreign policy, uganda

Northern Ugandan Politician Norbert Mao on #Kony2012

Norbert Mao, whom I met in 2007 while he was the Chairman of Gulu District in northern Uganda and I was putting together a program for American and Ugandan youth on peace building and post-conflict development, has a guest post in Foreign Policy today about Joseph Kony and the Kony 2012 video. The whole piece is worth a read, but two sections are key.

First, Mao’s criticism of film’s support of an American military partnership with the Ugandan government:

It has to be said that official neglect on the part of the Ugandan government is responsible for much of the suffering we witness in Kony 2012—suffering that was brought on by an incompetent counterinsurgency strategy that, at its height, herded over one million civilians into disease infested and poorly protected camps. Right now it is a point of controversy that U.S. troops are standing shoulder to shoulder with certain Ugandan officers who ought to be charged with war crimes. Americans should shudder at this partnership and demand that the Ugandan government hold accountable those members of its military establishment who need to be tried for crimes against humanity.

And second, Mao’s support for the film’s role in forcing discussion about northern Uganda to the forefront of last week’s international media agenda:

It’s clear that the aim of the video was never intellectual stimulation. I don’t think the founders of Invisible Children are the foremost analysts of the complicated political, historical and security dynamics in our troubled part of Africa. They certainly wouldn’t earn high marks in African Studies. But I will go to my grave convinced that they have the most beautiful trait on earth — compassion.

Such sentiments matter, even today. There are those who say the war is over in Northern Uganda. I say the guns are silent but the war is not over. The sky is overcast with an explosive mix of dubious oil deals, land grabs, arms proliferation, neglected ex-combatants, and a volatile neighborhood full of regimes determined to fish in troubled waters. What we have is a tentative peace. Our region is pregnant with the seeds of conflict. The military action in the jungles of Congo may capture Kony, but we need to do more to plant the seeds of peace founded on democracy, equitable development, and justice. Like peace, war too has its mothers, fathers, midwives, babysitters, and patrons. Perhaps Kony 2012 will help sort out the actors. The video has certainly shaken the fence, making fence-sitting very uncomfortable, indeed.

Lots to chew on, there.

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conflict, digital activism, northern uganda, u.s. foreign policy, uganda

Mamdani on #Kony2012

I’ve been wavering on whether to write a hotly angry post about Kony 2012 this week or to wait until the furor dies down and I have the time and patience to write something more measured and, hopefully, intelligent. I think I’ve come down on the latter side, but in the meantime, I want to share Mahmood Mamdani’s article on the topic with you.

Mamdani is a Kampala, Uganda native as well as a professor at my alma mater, the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He recently published a piece in Uganda’s Daily Monitor arguing against the military approach to the LRA conflict advocated by Invisible Children:

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 mobilisation, 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 mobilisation 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 mobilisation 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 mobilisation of millions be subverted into yet another weapon in the hands of those who want to militarise 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 entire article is worth a read: What Jason didn’t tell Gavin and his Army of Invisible Children

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afrobloggers, conflict, digital activism, global voices, ICC, northern uganda, u.s. foreign policy, uganda

GV Uganda: Can a Viral Video Really #StopKony?

I’ve taken a (too long) hiatus from writing for Global Voices, but the flood of responses to Invisible Children’s new Kony 2012 film has me back:

A film aimed at making Joseph Kony—a Ugandan guerilla leader currently wanted by International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity—”famous” in order to raise support for his arrest has swept the Internet by storm, pushing #StopKony onto Twitter’s trending topics list and prompting a wave of backlash from bloggers who worry the film and its associated campaign are overly simplistic.

Read the full post »

The post features quotes from Rosebell Kagumire, Solome Lemma, Muse Okwonga, Angelo Izama, Siena Antsis, Julian Mwine, Teddy Ruge, Ernest Bazanye, and a few others.

I’m still mulling over my own response to the film; hoping to post something in the next day or two. In the meantime, please do yourself a favor and check out two essential pieces of reading:

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conflict, press freedom, social media, uganda, ugandan blogosphere, ugandan media

Australian radio show features citizen journalism in Uganda

After I published an article for the Committee to Protect Journalists on citizen journalism during the Kampala riots, Shevonne Hunt of Australian radio show The Fourth Estate contacted me to talk about the role Twitter and blogs played in the crisis.

Solomon King (the force behind Ugandan blog aggregator Blogspirit and one of the most prolific tweeters during the riots) and I are featured in the show’s most recent podcast. You can access it at The Fourth Estate (scroll down to the bottom, click “Show Episodes,” and choose the episode from September 25).

As Solomon says, hope I did all of you justice!

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conflict, global voices, uganda

GV Uganda: Blogs, Twitter Keep World Informed as Kampala Riots Continue

Things seem to have settled down somewhat in Kampala, where riots on Thursday and Friday caused at least nine and possibly as many as 14 deaths.

I’ve been glued to my laptop for the past few days, feverishly refreshing TweetDeck and Google Reader and paging through Blogspirit, hoping for news of friends in the city. I’m not the only one: accurate information has been hard to come by, and people both in and out of Uganda have relied on blogs and Twitter for much of their news about the riots. This is the subject of my most recent piece on Global Voices Online:

As riots shook Kampala, the capital of Uganda, for the second day, bloggers and other netizens rallied to keep the world informed.

Within 24 hours of the first riots, concerned Kampalans launched Uganda Witness, a crisis reporting site where Ugandans can share news of deaths, looting, presence of government forces and other related information. As of Friday afternoon (9pm GMT) the site had received multiple reports of rioting in downtown Kampala and several of the city’s suburbs.

Read the full post »

Featured in the post are Uganda Witness, the 27th Comrade writing for The Kampalan, @dgel, Uganda Talks, Fresh Apples, @mugamuya, @uginsomniac and Ugandan Insomniac, The Malan Family, @CamaraAfrica, @solomonking, and Jon Gos of Appfrica.

Today Jon posted his thoughts on asynchronous info, disjointed data and crisis reporting during the riots. Well worth a read.

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conflict, global voices, uganda

GV Uganda: Nine Dead in Kampala Riots

Anyone who visits Jackfruity has probably heard of the Kampala riots by now. I put together a post for Global Voices Online last night on the situation in the city, and I’ll be writing more as the situation continues.

I’m following the bloggers on Blogspirit as well as @solomonking, @UgandaTalks, @uginsomniac, @appfrica, @AnneMugisha and others on Twitter.

For now, here’s the post on Global Voices:

Riots in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, have led to the deaths of at least nine people (BBC) as members of the Baganda ethnic group clashed with police and military forces on Wednesday and Thursday.

The riots are an escalation of an ongoing feud between the central Ugandan government and the King (or “Kabaka”) of the Baganda tribe, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II. The Baganda people belong to the Kingdom of Buganda, and they are the largest Ugandan ethnic group.

Last week, Mutebi announced that he was planning an official visit to Kayunga, a district about 45km (28 miles) northeast of Kampala. The district is part of the Kingdom of Buganda, but it is also home to many members of the Banyala ethnic group, many of whom would prefer to establish their own independent kingdom.

Banyala leaders announced they would protest the visit and warned Mutebi not to come. The central government responded by warning Mutebi to stay out of the district and arresting several Baganda people in the area who were erecting exhibition stalls and tents in preparation for his arrival.

Read the full post »

In this post are Flourescent, Fresh Apples, GayUganda, @solomonking, @appfrica, Araalingua and Ugandan Insomniac.

For those of you who are in Kampala and are Tweeting, blogging, and posting Facebook updates: thank you so much for keeping the rest of us informed. My thoughts are with you.

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africa, conflict, human rights, ICC, sudan

Mamdani vs. Prendergast

Tonight Mahmood Mamdani and John Prendergast will fight to the death share a civil debate on the situation in Darfur, an event I’m hoping will end in hair-pulling and the shouting of epithets. I’ll be tweeting from the debate, and you can follow along below.

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africa, conflict, digital activism, ICT for development, mobile phones, technology

mobile activism in african elections

A paper I wrote for Anne Nelson’s New Media in Development Communications class last semester was published this week on DigiActive and reviewed by Pambazuka News. The abstract:

The proliferation of mobile phones in Africa is transforming the political and social landscape of the developing world, empowering people to source and share their own information and to have a greater say in what comes to international attention. This paper compares the use and impact of mobile technology in three recent African elections: Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Kenya.

In Nigeria’s April 2007 presidential election, a local civil society organization used free software to collect over 10,000 text message reports from voters around the country, boosting citizen participation in a political process many Nigerians doubted. In Sierra Leone’s August-September 2007 elections, trained local monitors used mobile phones to collect data from designated polling sites, enabling the independent National Election Watch to compile and release an accurate, comprehensive analysis of the election almost two weeks before the official report. And in Kenya’s December 2007 election, a group of local digital activists developed and implemented a citizen reporting platform to allow Kenyans to report and track post-election violence during a month-long media blackout, collecting and publishing a comprehensive account of riots, displacement and human rights abuses that serves as one of the best available records of the crisis.

You can read the whole paper here.

update
Katrin Verclas posted a critique on MobileActive.org. Many of her comments are spot on, and she sheds valuable light on the role the December 2008 elections in Ghana play in this discussion.

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