From Publishers Weekly
Eichstaedt (If You Poison Us
) offers a heartfelt if sometimes lopsided look at the consequences of prolonged civil war. Northern Uganda has been under siege by the rebel group the Lords Resistance Army, or LRA, for 20 years, leading to death tolls rivaling those in Darfur, Sudan, which has garnered considerably more media attention. The LRA is known for employing brutal techniques, including mutilating community members who inform on them, kidnapping children to serve as male child soldiers or female brides, sex slaves for rebel soldiers. Interviewing victims of these crimes, as well as perpetrators, government officials and non-governmental actors, Eichstaedt weaves a story of a decimated culture caught between merciless violence and the chaos of refugee camps. The result is a close analysis of this underreported crisis, which has only recently shown signs of abating. However, some of Eichstaedts conclusions seem uninformed at best, including his one-sided look at religious views in Uganda, which prompt his remark, There is no moral center of gravity here, no spiritual compass that one can hold against the horizon to escape the clamor and chaos. (Feb.)
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With a high literacy rate and AIDS seemingly under control, Uganda enjoyed a fine international reputation until it fell prey to revolution. For 20 years, the rebel army has killed and victimized tens of thousands and caused the displacement of two million people. American journalist Eichstaedt has spent over two years there, speaking to many soldiers and victims, including young boys forced to fight, young girl “brides” forced into prostitution, and refugees held in detention camps. He also talks with local politicians (including the rebel militia that cloaks itself in Christian rhetoric) and with UN leaders trying to forge peace. There are several memoirs told from the point of view of child soldiers, but Eichstaedt’s broader, less-personal study offers another perspective. His blend of interviews with observation and analysis of political history, including comparisons between Uganda and neighboring Rwanda, Sudan, and Congo, raises the elemental questions: Why didn’t the world know or care about what was happening? Why do people rebel and how does rebellion get out of hand? And is the call for forgiveness merely a way to prevent reprisals? --Hazel Rochman