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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Most Americans are familiar with much of the bloodshed that has taken place in Uganda since it achieved independence from Great Britain. Unfortunately, a great deal of this is a consequence of the academy-award winning movie, "The Last King of Scotland", which depicted the brutal rule of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Almost unknown is the two-decades long continuous war fought in Northern Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) led by a man called Joseph Kony. Kony is a former witch doctor that claims a Christian heritage and power as a medium. Kony argues that his army fights to support the Christian Ten Commandments, which the reason for the inclusion of "Lord's" in the name of his army.
Northern Uganda is a region almost guaranteed by geopolitical and geosocial forces to be in a state of continuous warfare. First and foremost, it is a region with several native tribes with a history of animosity. Some tribes are traditionally farmers, others traditional herders and others traditional warriors that prey on the others. The northern tribes are also distinct from those that inhabit the southern section of the country where the major cities and central government are. Secondly, it is a region, like most of Uganda, of very fertile soil, so it is easy to grow food and support a large population. Finally, the region shares borders with Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC is a chronically unstable country, the central government has no control of the region bordering Uganda and the mineral wealth in that region is a prize to be fought over. Sudan is a country split into two disparate regions, the Arab north and the more African south. The two factions have been fighting for control of the southern Sudan for years and the discovery of large reserves of oil in the region have raised the stakes. Given that neither the DRC or Sudan governments have much control over their regions that border Uganda, this allows the LRA to occupy safe havens just across the border from Uganda. The mineral wealth also makes it a region of interest to other nations.
Peter Eichstaedt is a veteran journalist that traveled to this area in order to study the conflict firsthand. The LRA is known for their brutal treatment of people, often resorting to mutilation of the people they are stealing from and abducting children. Male children are impressed into the army as fighters and the females are handed out as "brides" to LRA soldiers deemed worthy of the prize. Eichstaedt presents an accurate yet very bleak portrait of this war, he goes to great lengths to establish the historical, political and tribal context for what is taking place in northern Uganda and the neighboring countries. It is a very complex situation, Catholic missionaries that have lived in the area for years are still often uncertain as to what the underlying motives of the players are.
Situations like this are an abject lesson for Western observers who believe in simple solutions or that Western values can be applied everywhere. Uganda is 84% Christian with Islam being the next major religion at 12% of the population. Yet, these beliefs are once again being "adapted" to local conditions in a perverse way. Given that the bulk of the Ugandan population lives in the south and there appears to be no reason for the LRA to stop fighting as that is the only life the soldiers know, this is a candidate for "the forever war." In other words a war that continues for no reason other than that the principals fight because that is what their predecessors did and it is the only thing that they have ever done.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"First Kill Your Family" is the story of one reporter's journey to Uganda and examination of the "Lord's Resistance Army" or the LRA. The author goes to different parts of Uganda to find out the effects of the long war that the LRA has waged in northern Uganda. It is fascinating reporting - but each chapter is a story in and of itself. The next chapter is usually only tangentially related to the previous one. The only common theme is the effects of the LRA on Uganda.

While a similar subject, "A Long Way Gone" is much more readable because it is the story of one captured boy soldier and his experiences as a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. It is still worth a read if you are interested in this particular war, but it reads much better if you think of it as a collection of news reports from the battlefield in Uganda.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2008
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Peter Eichstaedt spares no details as he describes the violence of the L.R.A. and the often equally oppressive national army towards the people of Uganda. For some reason, the systematic destruction of this country's human and natural resources has failed to draw the same attention that has been given to similar atrocities in Darfur, and this is a strong effort to create an awareness of and outrage about another African killing field. Eichstaedt shows the tragic interplay of witchcraft, despair, greed, psychological manipulation, modern military weapons and the inattention of the global community that has allowed Joseph Kony to create and expand the L.R.A which relies on children to carry out murder. The lack of commitment by the international community is a discouraging and frightening commentary on our values as well as a harbinger of what the future of the global community will become. This is a powerful and credible work not only because it is accurately researched, but because it is told by people who have first hand experience either as the kidnapped children or individuals who have had intimate contact with them and their families.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 26, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
One of the legacies of colonialism in Africa has been violent conflict in literally dozens of the continent's countries. One such conflict has taken place over the past couple decades in Uganda. Not only has the country survived the brutal rule of Idi Amin and been ravaged by the AIDS epidemic, but has also seen some of the most brutal warfare in Africa. One of the more cruel aspects of this war is the forcing of children to fight. Peter Eichstaedt's "First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army" focuses on this phenomenon of forcibly involving children in a struggle run by adults.

While this book gives a detailed account of the Lord's Resistance Army's involvement in the war in Uganda and is chock full of information, a reader completely unfamiliar with this topic can easily read this book and not feel lost. This is due to a nice amount of background information in the first portion of the book -- maps, a preface, a chronology, and an interesting prologue. There are also ample photographs in the book to give the reader a visual idea of what is being described in the book. The main strength of "First Kill Your Family" is that Eichstaedt interviewed actual child participants and victims of the war. It is their voices that are the most compelling aspect of this book. The author brilliantly weaves interviews and anecdotes into an easy-to-read narrative of the conflict.

"First Kill Your Family" is not a book that gives the reader a lot of hope. The cycle of violence will most surely continue unless massive intervention takes place by the world community of nations, which is highly unlikely. Eichstaedt has made a valuable contribution with his book in terms of educating people about the war in Uganda and its effect on the people of Uganda. It also exposes the reader to the evil practice of involving children in war. I cannot find any flaws in this book, as it is well-written and demonstrates solid scholarship. People interested in this topic should certainly read "First Kill Your Family."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2011
This was one of the most disappointing books I've read about the Acholi people and the war in Northern Uganda, and I've read many. I actually read this on the plane to Kampala, and could not even bring myself to finish it. The author spouts stereotypes of "war-prone" Acholi people, about how they've "always been violent people" and other such misconceptions. It is these very misconceptions that have caused much of the suffering of the Acholi people, both at the hands of the LRA and of Museveni's government. It's incredible that anyone would even choose to publish a book with so many quite colonial ideas of a certain group of people being pre-dispositioned to violence. The war in Northern Uganda had nothing to do with any Acholi pre-disponitions, it has everything to do with political games and ideologies, with the Acholi people being caught in the middle.

Also, the image on the cover is not of a child soldier - talk about misrepresentation! It's a cropped photo that is explained in the middle of the book - a soldier gave a gun to a young child to hold for the picture. This boy is NOT a child soldier. I felt duped by the writer, both because of the cover and of the content.

If you are really interested in learning about the Acholi people, I suggest "Living with Bad Surroundings: War, History, and Everyday Moments in Northern Uganda" by Sverker Finnström.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is a short, quick-reading book on the long-running Ugandan civil war by a journalist who seems a relative stranger to African issues. He gives a brief overview of this long-overlooked situation and devotes chapters to such other African phenomena as the widespread belief in witchcraft and the child-soldier phenomenon.

Maybe I'm just sour because I was looking for an in-depth inside account of the Lord's Resistance Army -- which is what the title was selling, after all -- and instead received a quick overview of the civil war as a whole and its historical and cultural context, pitched to someone who is reading his or her first book on African chaos. But maybe I realized after reading a certain number of this book's interviews with ex-LRA officers who refused to admit any wrongdoing and ex-LRA conscripts who refused to discuss their time in the LRA that the author couldn't really get on the inside of this story, but felt a laudable impulse to set what he had on paper anyway to bring what attention he could to this overlooked meatgrinder of a war.

The author gets points for good intentions, but this book is, at best, the first two hundred pages in a book that ought to be twice this long and twice as deep. Readers new to Central Africa's humanitarian crises will find it an accessible introduction with the added benefit that its focus is a war that hasn't already been covered in dozens of other books. I suppose the reasons it hasn't been covered in dozens of other books - the Ugandan civil war's inaccessibility and incomprehensibility - are some of the reasons for this book's shortcomings as well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The old cliche goes that journalists are the first draft of history. This is true but it also speaks to the limitations of journalistic books. Pretty much all these limitations are prominent in this book. The author writes about the LRA with a good samaritan's eye. He talks about some of the theories concerning the formation of the LRA. He interviews some of the people that knew the leaders way back then. He also speaks briefly of Lakwada and the previous rebels.

Toward the end of the book he indicts the Ugandan government for allowing the LRA to continue to operate in the north. They have every reason to keep it going since the government is located in the South and the presence of the LRA means international financial assistance. There's also some material about Sudan.

But it all feels like a tour guide. There's not much insight into what makes the people behave the way they do. I finished this book feeling like I only got part of the story. Of course, there's a 1970s biography of Idi Amin that has the same problem and in both cases it's because the final chapter has yet to be written. THe LRA is still out there. They talk peace every so often but for the most part they are involved in a religious crusade. Even though some leaders die, it's still not working.

Some day a better book about the LRA will be written. For now, it's as messy as God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This courageous book is dedicated to the people of northern Uganda who lost their lives or suffered at the hands of the Lord's Resistance Army. Peter Eichstaedt has given voice to the child soldiers and other victims of the largely unheard-of tragedy of Uganda. We rarely hear about this on the evening news!

I highly recommend this firsthand account of events that are taking place in our lifetime for anyone seeking to understand the state of the world. We are all connected. "First Kill Your Family" should be read by the young people of our country as soon as they are old enough to comprehend the content, so that they can begin to understand the challenges humanity is faced with.

The book opens with a quote by Martin Luther King Jr.:

"Man's inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad, it is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good."

--Suza Francina, yoga teacher, author, activist and volunteer with Global Resource Alliance (GRA),an organization based in Ojai, California, that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for the people of Africa. [...]
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The story of war in Uganda has of late taken a back seat to the conflict in the DRC. Nevertheless, Uganda too has endured a horrific war for the past 20 years with no end in sight. The author duly presents the facts and he is to be commended for attempting to raise awareness of this tragedy. However, I was not completely satisfied with this account. To begin with, the title is misleading and the book does not focus on the child soldiers. This dramatic title seems to be an attempt to grab attention but it seems calculated to me. There is some (oddly dispassionate) discussion of plight of the child soldiers but by and large the book is about the war in general and the failed attempts to bring Joseph Kony to the bargaining table in particular. I should note that the cover photo (taken by the author) is not of a child soldier. The book also seems a bit rambling and disorganized. Still we should be grateful that someone is paying attention. We should be paying attention too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 20, 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"First Kill Your Family" was filled with disturbing stories of violence in Uganda. Many Americans mentally lump all African conflicts into one mental mess, but these stories help readers to separate out the mess. We don't end up with a pretty picture but it's a picture we must face.

This is not an entertaining book but one designed for motivation. The real question is "so what?" What can we do? What should we do? As a pastor, this question is especially haunting for me. Anyone trying to open the eyes of fellow Christians to the plight of others in the world should read this book.
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