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Uganda: The Last King of Scotland, Cessation of Hostilities Agreement Expires, and It is a Sin to Buy a Yellow Humvee

On Sunday Evening at the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, an emotionally shaken Forrest Whitaker accepted an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in The Last King of Scotland, a film set in the frightful times of the Ugandan despot Idi Amin.

In February, the grand opening of the film took place in Kampala. The New York Times sent an outside correspondent to cover the event, and wrote in a front page article calling Uganda “one of the safest and most stable countries in Africa.” This week, the Times published this response from Patty in Nairobi:

In “A Film Star in Kampala, Conjuring Amin’s Ghost” (front page, Feb. 18), you note that Uganda is now “one of the safest and most stable countries in Africa.” That may be true in southern Uganda, but it is a very different reality for the Acholi people in the marginalized north. In Uganda, only half the population lives in a part of the country where it’s secure enough to film a Hollywood picture. We should not forget the other half.

In Kampala, Moses Odokonyero, a journalist at the independent Uganda Daily Monitor and blogger at sub-Saharan African Roundtable, describes a first hand encounter with Amin's machinery of torture, as told by an Anglican Archbishop who was condemned for speaking out against the regime. Odokonyero then goes on to draw parallels between the Amin regime and the Museveni‘s behavior in suppressing Kizza Besigye, his main opponent in the last presidential election:

Museveni, like Amin, shot his way to power after a five-year guerilla struggle that he and his supporters call a revolution. One of his favorite topics, besides the media, is past leaders whom he baptized “swines” several years ago. But how different is he from the “swines?” Uganda has greatly changed since the Amin days: people don’t disappear as often and crudely from the streets, and there has been an improvement in press freedom and freedom of speech which is commendable. But stories of illegal detentions, people being tortured in the most gruesome of ways, including allegedly tying stones on their testicles, are still heard of, only this time they take place in “safe houses.”

Northern Uganda and the Horn of Africa

Speaking from satellite phone from his hideout in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Lord's Resistance Army deputy Vincent Otti said, “We are not going to renew anything” in reference to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement set to expire next Monday between the LRA and the Government of Uganda. The expiration comes after months of stalled talks prompted by the LRA delegation's mistrust of the impartiality of the Government of Southern Sudan, who is hosting the talks. The Diocese of Northern Uganda, long seen as a moral compass in the region, writes on their blog:

With the presence of the Acholi Paramount chief, Rwot David Onen Achana 11 and key player in the diaspora as well as local leaders from Acholi in Juba, what do we expect? The reality on the ground is that people are now hesitant to go back to their villages for fear of rebel incursion. The LRA walked out of the talks last month and are insisting for a change in venue and mediator. The government position is still the same- no change of venue and mediator. We appeal to all parties involve to really have the people in the camps at heart.

Meanwhile, as the new Foreign Affairs was published this week with an article explaining the connections between the conflicts in Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Ugandan blogosphere debates whether to support the decision to send Ugandan troops to the UN Security Council sanctioned African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. In An African Minute writes:

First, I agree that geopolitical posturing was a major part of the Ugandan decision to send troops to Somalia. In the month leading up to the decision, the Uganda Minister of Foreign Affairs met with Secretary of State Rice in Washington and President Museveni received a call from President Bush. However, a realist foreign policy approach can have several merits. In this case, its clear that an unstable Mogadishu will help continue the steady flow of small arms to the conflict areas in East Africa.

The more frightening theory says the Bush administration looked the other way on northern Uganda in order to give incentive to the Ugandan Government to help in Somalia. If this is the case (and it is only one theory, the State Department has been mute on this point), I am deeply distressed and disappointed because the Americans could have made a serious impact on the stalled northern Uganda peace talks in Juba.

Public Transport and Hummers

In Kampala, one sees every type of transport, from public mini bus (matatu) to a handful of yellow H2 Hummers that cruise Kampala's streets. Only in Uganda weighs in on the folly of public transport:

The typical Kampala public transport users have neither voice nor partners in government (both local and central), their elected legislators and the parties licenced to provide it. They have to endure immeasurable levels of stress and torment getting to work in the morning, through a hard working and thankless day at work (or hospital or market, e.t.c) and then again in the evenings. The source of a bulk of this stress is from the providers of public transport which is overpriced and inadequate. What do they have to do to finally get a voice is a puzzle.

Meanwhile, Ernest Bazanye questions the moral value of christian pastors buying a hummer in Uganda. According to Bazanye, it is a sin:

Now, to the Hummer. It takes a lot of money to get one. A lot of money.

That's a lot of money. There is a heart patients need tickets to India. There is a teenage girl who dropped out of school because she ran out of school fees and is being pressured to turn to prostitution to feed herself and her mother. There is an orphanage where the kids have to share beds and blankets. There are clinics that are out of essential medicines. All these people are praying to God for help.

And God has given his follower A Lot Of Money and the instruction to perform as much charity as possible, using the most extreme example of giving everything away to illustrate how important charity is. A sinner can have a Hummer and be violating only the laws of good taste and moderation (because that is just the most vulgar behaviour I can imagine—bringing a Hummer into the third world). But a Christian has a duty to not use their millions to buy huge cars that benefit no one. It is a sin to have a Hummer.

Commenting on this post, Velvet Ink argues that all hummer owners need to be stoned (including the government of California!) and adds:

having bad taste is a sin..especially when you buy a hummer..especially the yellow ones!!

Ernest concludes his post wondering:

What’s wrong with a Prado?

*Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, popularly known as Prado, is a common SUV in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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