Most helpful positive review
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The war in Uganda is a definite candidate for "the forever war"
on October 24, 2008
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.