By John Reimann
Within 2 weeks of the first showing of Invisible Children’s Kony2012 video, some 80 million people had watched it and students in over 1200 schools across the US raised over $1 million for Invisible Children. Such icons as P Diddy, Angelina Jolie and Oprah pumped it and US Senator Jim Inhofe (R. OK) commented, “In order to combat terror and prevent further devastation caused by the hands of Joseph Kony, it is imperative that he is found and the LRA is finally disarmed. Only then, will we be able to bring stability to Africa.”
One group of people who were not so thrilled by the video was a crowd of people in the region of Uganda where Kony and the LRA used to operate. They were so infuriated when they were shown the video that they started throwing rocks at the video screen and the showing had to be prematurely ended. (www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/03/201231432421227462.html)
Maybe they were angry at the near open racism of the video, which presented Western, mainly white yuppies as the saviors of the poor, helpless Africans. Or maybe they were angry at how the video misrepresented the present situation in that region and in Uganda as a whole, including the video’s ignoring the human rights abuses and corruption of the Museveni regime.
Museveni Human Rights Violations
Museveni ran for president in 1980, lost and started a guerrilla war, which eventually brought him to power in 1985. He subsequently banned political parties, then allowed them and has manipulated the system ever since. According to the Ugandan anti Museveni web site “Musevenimustgo.com”, Museveni has remained in power through fraud and repression. They claim that some 1 million “ghost voters” were found on the rolls in 2009 and that in January of 2010 Museveni’s party claimed to have registered 8 million new voters – out of a total voter registration of slightly over 10 million!
They write that he “exercised jungle law by intimidating the opposition opponents, arresting them and charging them with trumped up charges.” (http://www.musevenimustgo.com/?id=WEL&id2=C)
As with Israel and a host of other regimes, the Museveni human rights violations are conveniently ignored by this video as they are by the US administration.
Privatization and Corruption
Museveni is under the direct influence of the World Bank and other privatizers and has privatized some 145 publicly owned companies since coming to power. As described by Naomi Klein (“The Shock Doctrine”) the privatization of state owned companies almost always involves massive corruption. Museveni’s Uganda is no exception. Numerous schemes are cited. In many of these, the Museveni regime sold off state companies to foreign investors under very favorable terms which included massive land grants and then these firms were resold to members of the Museveni regime at cheap prices. Musevenimustgo.com writes:
“Dictator Museveni and his henchmen are on a rampage to steal with no compassion at all costs against the health sector aspect of the true citizens of the Country. More thanone hundred ghost hospitals have been discovered. Such ghost hospitals have been collecting drugs, money for employee salaries and the maintenance of the institutions. Yet Government hospitals luck funds and basic drugs. Ghost soldiers and police have been discovered, yet all of them have been receiving government funds. Ghost pensioners infiltrated the payroll have been discovered. Ghost health workers and teachers have been discovered, yet for long time all have been funded… Half of Universal primary education pupils were ghost, ghost teachers, ghost UNEB centre numbers, were by UNEB sent exams to ghost schools…. Dictator Museveni and his henchmen have plundered the Nations Natural resources and assets that it is estimated that they own 80% of Uganda’s wealth, indulging in excesses, as the vulnerable die of simple diseases.”
The situation is particularly bad in the Acholi region of northern Uganda where the LRA used to operate (and where some of the main political rivals to Museveni are based). There, some one to two million people have been forced into “resettlement camps” which in reality are little more than concentration camps. One thousand are known to have died due to conditions there and “nodding disease” a fatal disease thought to be caused by a parasitic worm is common. Women and girls are reported to be raped or forced into sex by government troops.
US Senator Inhofe and Oil
Meanwhile, here in the United States, it seems that one of the chief links for Invisible Children is Senator Inhofe, and no wonder. Inhofe, who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil industry, has a 100% favorable voting record as far as that industry is concerned. Mouthing the oil industry’s lies, Inhofe is the chief congressional denier of the fact of global climate disruption/global warming.
What is the connection with Uganda?
In 2006, billions of barrels of oil were discovered in Uganda. However, the chaotic political situation in the region meant that little was done to develop these reserves. In September of 2011, a deal was signed between Tullow Oil, French-based company Total and China’s National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) to develop this oil. One month later (October, 2011) US President Barack Obama announced he was sending the first US troops to that same region of Uganda – allegedly to help hunt down war criminal Kony. However, when he announced this deployment, Obama also happened to comment, “I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy” As deadlinelive.info.com reported: “the ultimate objective (of sending the troops), would allow the U.S. to be able to counter resource-hungry China by having boots on the ground near the oil-rich northern part of Uganda, South Sudan, Congo’s region bordering Lake Albert, and the Central African Republic. The troops would also be near by in case a decision is made to support regime-change in Khartoum, Sudan.”
It should be noted that Museveni, himself, has been widely accused of war crimes similar to those of Kony, including forcing children into armed struggle. In fact, Museveni was the one who first initiated this practice on the entire continent when he abducted thousands of children in his war to gain power in the first place. The International Court of Justice found Uganda (under Museveni) liable for war crimes including mass rape, disemboweling pregnant women, massacre and plunder of resources in Congo when Ugandan troops were operating in the region. Due to Museveni’s connections with UN officials, these findings were never followed up. (Museveni also has close ties with the Israeli regime, whose former head of Mossad, Rafi Eitan, has important business ventures in Uganda.)
All of this is conveniently ignored by Invisible Children. And just who is this shady organization, whose executives pay themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars and whose finances have never been audited by an outside auditor? The executives of Invisible Children have been said to be “very religious”, and the real meaning of this is seen by the many thousands of dollars of donations Invisible Children has received from the evangelical Christian right wing groups like the Caster Foundation and the National Christian Foundation, all prominent backers of anti-gay referenda, politicians and initiatives in the United States and around the world. In fact, these groups also are linked with the Christian fanatics in Uganda who have tried to criminalize homosexual activity, including at one point trying to make it a capital offense.
It is certain that international capital is watching the situation in Uganda as well as on the continent as a whole. Wages are rising rapidly in China and other parts of Asia as workers mobilize. International capital is already planning where to find the next source of super cheap labor. As one investment advisor recently wrote:
“Investing Destination Right Now
As a hedge fund manager, I have been hearing a lot of chatter recently about Africa among my colleagues … and some of it is downright startling, in a good way…. The next and probably the last frontier for outsized returns is clearly Africa.”
Contrary to the view given in Kony2012, and contrary to what their masters, the corporate owners of the world may think, the Ugandan people are not passive victims. In April and again in October of last year, mass protests were held against spiraling inflation, and the high cost of gas. These protests took the form of walking to work and were violently repressed by the regime. In addition, within the last three years there have been strikes of tea plantation workers, workers at Entebbe airport, nurses, teachers, factory and steel workers. It is certain that all the different tribal and ethnic groups were represented amongst these strikers. This is the force that can unite Uganda, put an end to the human rights abuses of both the Museveni regime as well as those like Joseph Kony and transform society.