Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The day Otunnu unleashed dossier on alleged Acholi genocide

 Mr Otunnu displays the magazine in which he says there is proof that the northern Uganda war was an organised genocide. PHOTO Y. MUZIRANSA. 


Genocide or Just Another "Casualty of War"? - Part I[1]

Genocide or Just Another "Casualty of War"? - Part III

In this impressive book, Edward S. Herman and David Peterson examine the uses and abuses of the word “genocide.” They argue persuasively that the label is highly politicized and that in the United States it is used by the government, journalists, and academics to brand as evil those nations and political movements that in one way or another interfere with the imperial interests of U.S. capitalism. Thus the word “genocide” is seldom applied when the perpetrators are U.S. allies (or even the United States itself), while it is used almost indiscriminately when murders are committed or are alleged to have been committed by enemies of the United States and U.S. business interests. One set of rules applies to cases such as U.S. aggression in Vietnam, Israeli oppression of Palestinians, Indonesian slaughter of so-called communists and the people of East Timor, U.S. bombings in Serbia and Kosovo, the U.S. war of “liberation” in Iraq, and mass murders committed by U.S. allies in Rwanda and the Republic of Congo. Another set applies to cases such as Serbian aggression in Kosovo and Bosnia, killings carried out by U.S. enemies in Rwanda and Darfur, Saddam Hussein, any and all actions by Iran, and a host of others.

Genocide or Just Another "Casualty of War"? - Part I[1]

By Todd David Whitmore

To understand why Ageno Komakec gave me the document, it is necessary to grasp the broader context of intimidation and desperation that drives the dynamic of intrigue.

The Broad Context: Intimidation and Desperation

When I first arrived in Uganda in 2005, entry to northern Uganda required vetting by Lieutenant Colonel Shaban Bantariza, the Director of Public Relations and Information for the Uganda Peoples' Defense Forces (UPDF), the military wing of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) government. The meeting was cordial. I told him my purpose, that I was a theology professor from the University of Notre Dame in the United States seeking to go to northern Uganda to study traditional Acholi culture and Christianity, particularly Roman Catholic Christianity. Lt. Col. Bantariza asked if I was a journalist, and I said no. He asked if I had a camera, and I showed him my small four megapixel Olympus C-750. He asked what I was going to use the photos for, and I replied that they would be for the classroom and my research. He accepted my response and wished me well.

Between seventy and seventy-five percent of the people in Acholiland identify themselves as being Roman Catholic. In the rural areas, this percentage reaches as high as eighty-five to ninety percent. In addition, about ninety percent of Acholi at the time of my early research trips lived in Internally Displaced Persons camps, away from the major towns like Gulu where most researchers stay. For these reasons, when I returned in 2006, I decided to live in some of the camps. There I came under considerable scrutiny. In one of the camps, a resident warned me: "If someone comes up to you and asks how long you are staying, do not tell them. They are spies. Asking how long a visitor is staying is against Acholi hospitality. No one would ask you that except spies. Do not tell them. Just tell them you do not know. Be vague." I had been living in a wattle and daub hut, and had frequent visitors. Some were curious, others sought help of some sort or money; most of them were friends of my host. One afternoon, two men I had not seen before came to visit and sat, without asking, in some foldout chairs in front of my hut. After initial greetings and pleasantries, they asked me what I was doing in the camp. I told them. They asked how long I was staying. Having been alerted, I answered, "I am not sure."

This was the second camp I had lived in, and by that time I had been told both directly and indirectly by any number of Acholi people that doing research was not enough to justify my presence in northern Uganda. How was I going to help them? I had been thinking about various projects—agricultural support and training among them—and testing out my ideas with the people I met. When I told my two visitors about this, one wanted to enlist me in supporting a beekeeping and honey business he sought to start. I told him that I would think about it along with the other suggestions I received. Before they left, I asked them their names—they, again in contrast to Acholi cultural practices, had not provided them yet—because I wanted to remember with whom I met, particularly if they were interested in any development project I might undertake in northern Uganda. Later, I asked an active camp resident if he had heard of these two men and if they were NRM. He said that he had not heard of them, but that he would check it out. The next day he told me that they were not only NRM but they were not even from the camp. They had not just happened across me.

At another camp, the Government Security Officer or "GiSO" stopped me on the main road through the camp: "You have failed to see me." I told him that I had stopped by his place twice to report my presence, but that he was not there. He stiffened and responded, "So, you have still failed to see me." He continued, "I have direct contact with the President. I can call him whenever I want. If he is in London, whenever. I have been an intelligence officer for fifteen years, including in Sudan. Some people come here and say bad things about [the camp]. And you? What shall I say you are doing here?" I told him, "I am an academic. I am studying traditional Acholi religion." He replied, "So we cooperate. I have to tell the higher command what you are up to. They already know that you are here. They wonder, 'What is the muno doing there?' Now I can tell them what you are doing. They had some mistaken ideas."

It is in this context of government suspicion and control that people seeking to get information out of the country have approached me. One such person, in a camp near the town of Kitgum, arranged to meet me in the back room of a sundries store:1

"I need your help. God has sent you to me. I have kept careful documentation. I have kept a diary for ten years. Everything is there. Names. Dates. You know about the mass grave under the tree by the parish compound. I know the commander who did this. I can give you the names of people in the ground."

"What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to be my Charlie Wilson."

"Who is Charlie Wilson?" (This was before the Hollywood movie on Wilson came out.)

"The man who campaigned in the United States on behalf of the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. He got Congress to recognize what was going on there. To give support."

"But I am not a lobbyist. I do not know how to go about lobbying Congress. I am an academic. I write things. Articles."

"Look at me. I cannot even make love to my wife. They tied a cord around my testicles and forced me to jump off of a box. They kept me in a room with two inches of water for eight days. I had no way to relieve myself except in a bucket in a corner, and they never emptied it. It overflowed. You know it overflowed. There was no way for me to lie down to sleep. Eight days. When my wife first came to the prison, they just said, 'We do not know where he is.'"2

"If I write about you, won't the UPDF be angry and come after you?"

"All I have is the truth. They have taken everything else. They can do nothing to me that they have not already done. I am not afraid of death. They have already taken my life. My only hope is in the truth."

This is the dynamic of the context of intrigue: intimidation and desperation. If anyone dares speak out, government personnel move in to intimidate. When CBS Radio of Uganda reported on riots in Kampala in September 2009, the government-controlled Broadcasting Council shut it down and revoked its license, charging that the station was seeking to "mobilize and incite the public."3 After Voice of Radio Lango radio hosted an April 2010 show with opposition presidential candidate Olara Otunnu, Museveni himself made several telephone calls to the station owner—who is also an NRM legislator—to "ask" that the station publicly apologize, which it did. On the show, Otunnu called for open investigations into the actions of all armed groups—including Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA), the precursor of the current UPDF government army—involved in the 1980-1985 bush war in Uganda. Otunnu also charged Museveni with enabling the conflict in northern Uganda. It was made clear that failure to apologize on the part of the station would lead to its closure and, perhaps, threaten the station owner's future with NRM leadership. More recently—October 2010—the Uganda Revenue Authority's Customs Department, under orders from an unnamed "another arm of the government," seized boxed copies of a book critical of Museveni at Entebbe International Airport where they arrived for distribution in Uganda.4 A May 2010 Human Rights Watch report, A Media Minefield: Increased Threats to Freedom of Expression in Uganda, articulates the overall situation this way:

[There have been] increasingly arbitrary state attacks on the media as the ruling party faces more and more public and open criticism. Since the previous political campaigns in 2005, at least 40 criminal charges have been levied against journalists and talk show panelists. In some cases, these threats are overt, such as public statements by a resident district commissioner that a journalist should be "eliminated," or a police summons on charges of sedition, incitement to violence, or promoting sectarianism for criticizing government action in a newspaper article. In many more cases, the threats are covert, such as phone calls—some anonymous and others from well-known ruling party operatives—intimating violence or loss of employment if a journalist pursues a certain issue or story.5

Because of the government intimidation, people, through desperation, approach persons like me to get the word out. To such people, my protestations that I am an academic, an academic theologian at that, are irrelevant. If truth is to be heard at all, then I, and people like me, must be key conduits for its dissemination.

This is the context within which I received further documentation of NRM wrongdoing. In a break in a conversation I was having with a man on Ugandan cultural matters, he asked whether I could take some documents to the United States for him. Back at the compound at which I was staying, I opened the document packet he had given me and made a follow-up call. I was leaving the following day, and wanted to be sure that this is what he wanted transported. Most of the documents were already available on the internet and so did not require transport in hard copy. Being on the web, they were also moot from a security standpoint, though government intelligence officers might not view it that way. The next day, in fact, intelligence officers descended upon the compound at which I was staying—which was the home of a religious community—and demanded to see the guest book and me. They had tapped our phone call. Community members later told me that the intelligence officers said, "We know that he had permission from Shaban Bantariza to go to the North, but now he is talking to dissidents." In other words, they had been tracking me since I had first arrived two years earlier.

Fortunately, I had left before they arrived. Extrajudicial security forces have multiplied and grown under Museveni's government. A Human Rights Watch document reports, "Official and ad hoc military, security, and intelligence agencies of the Ugandan government have proliferated, practicing illegal and arbitrary detention and unlawful killing/extrajudicial executions, and using torture to force victims to confess to links to the government's past political opponents or current rebel groups."6 Chief among the extrajudicial security and intelligence agencies are the Violent Crime Crack Unit (VCCU)—dubbed "the Black Mambas," a breed of snake in Uganda, by the press—and the Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce (JATT). "Terrorism" is defined broadly to include "opposing the state." "Sedition" is similarly broad and includes written or oral statements "aimed at bringing hatred, contempt, or disaffection" towards the President or the government. The extrajudicial security and intelligence units regularly take civilians into ungazetted—that is, not publicly listed, as required by the 1995 Ugandan Constitution—detention centers where torture is a regular practice.7 Again, Human Rights Watch:

Forms of torture in use in Uganda include kandoya (tying hands and feet behind the victim) and suspension from the ceiling of victims tied kandoya, "Liverpool" water torture (forcing the victim to lie face up, mouth open, under a flowing water spigot), severe and repeated beatings with metal or wooden poles, cables, hammers and sticks with nails protruding, pistol-whipping, electrocution, male and female genital and body mutilation, death threats (through showing fresh graves, corpses and snakes), strangulation, restraint, isolation, and verbal abuse and humiliation. Some of these practices have resulted in the death of detainees in custody.8

An informal survey of detainees who had been held in a center for "political" suspects found that ninety percent of them had been tortured.9

The judiciary is often powerless to do much about the security and intelligence units. In one of the most high-profile cases, the government charged Kizza Besigye, the main opposition candidate for the presidency, with treason during the campaign leading up to the 2006 election. The High Court released Besigye and the others being tried with him on bail, but before they could leave the building, members of the Black Mamba unit swooped in and rearrested and detained the men in military prison. The American analogy would be if George W. Bush had John Kerry arrested during the 2004 campaign for the U.S. Presidency, and then, when the Supreme Court released Kerry, a Special Ops team forcibly entered the courthouse and took him to Guantanamo.

I am not sure whether or not I would have been taken into custody for questioning if I had not left before the security officers arrived. One foreign scholar of Uganda whom I know was taken in for questioning during one of his research trips. Another had his computer smashed by security forces. I doubt very much that I would have been tortured. President Museveni has to balance competing aims. The first aim is to rule Uganda in perpetuity. To ensure this, he led—some would say forced—the change in the Uganda constitution to remove term limits to the presidency and has stacked the Electoral Commission with political friends. However, given his changeover from avowed Marxist to World Bank-supported "new breed of African leader," he also has to appear sufficiently democratic to Western states. At one point, over fifty percent of the Ugandan federal budget came from foreign aid. It is now at about forty percent.10 Torturing a U.S. citizen is not in the NRM's interest.

The United States and other Western countries for their part depend on Uganda—strategically located as it is with radical Islam-influenced Sudan to the north, chaotic Democratic Republic of Congo and rebuilding Rwanda to the west, and unstable Kenya to the east—as an ally and staging ground.11 The United States is loathe, therefore, to criticize the Ugandan government.12 The dominant account of Uganda and the conflict in the North is that the economic success of the former is due to Museveni's enlightened policies and the tragedy of the latter is due strictly to the madness of Joseph Kony and the LRA. When Museveni had political opponent Kizza Besigye imprisoned during the 2006 campaign, some countries withheld aid to Uganda;13 the United States not only continued but increased aid at the time. There is little incentive on the United States government's part to highlight NRM abuses. This is the international situation that Ugandans face if they dare to be critical of the government.

This also is the political context within which Ageno Komakec approached me with the document that I am now making available. The dynamic of intimidation and desperation forced her to position me as the one possibility for getting out evidence of what she held to be the truth. I can now turn to discuss the provenance of the document, which also goes towards supporting its authenticity.

The Specific Context and Provenance of the Document: A Tragic Love Story
Soon after Museveni's victory in the 1980-1985 bush war, Virginia Kajumba became a clerical worker in the offices of the newly formed National Resistance Movement. She also was in love with an officer in the National Resistance Army, Major Okello Kolo, an Acholi. They talked of marriage. He wanted to move with her to his home area in northern Uganda. She resisted the suggestion. In the letter she sent him, she makes her case by citing the Book of Genesis on how a man must leave his mother and father—and thus his homeland—to join his wife. (The full letter is available for viewing at So that Kolo would know that Kajumba's refusal to go to northern Uganda was based not on a lack of love for him but rather on a concern about the stability of the North—a concern rooted in reality—she sent with the letter a copy of a memo that she had seen, perhaps even typed herself, in the NRM offices, the memo that I am making public. When Ageno Komakec gave me a copy of the memo, she also handed to me a copy of Kajumba's letter. It displays both her love for Kolo and her concern about what will become of life in the North under the Museveni regime. "I am sure that you were born for me and I for you.... For this reason I enclose herewith M7's [Museveni's] diabolical directive to his brother."

When Major Kolo read the memo that came with the letter, he was livid. He then went to the home of a friend to vent his anger about Museveni, and Ageno Komakec was one of the persons present. Kolo vowed to quit the NRA; the friend warned him, "You don't just quit the army. They don't let you." It is unclear from my sources whether Kolo formally resigned. What one source did tell me, however, is that he left Kampala and went to northern Uganda. It appears that he did not adequately mask his frustration with Museveni from others, however, because the NRM had another Acholi NRA officer, Fred Tolit, follow Kolo and, according to the source, have him killed. Tolit was one of the first Acholi officers from previous president Milton Obote's Ugandan National Liberation Army (UNLA) to join the NRA. He later became the NRM's director of military intelligence and has achieved the rank of brigadier general. According to my source, Tolit saw to it that the orders to kill Kolo were carried out successfully.

Virginia Kajumba’s warning to Kolo to burn her letter and the memo was prescient. “Read and burn it at once. If you allowed anyone to see it then buy a coffin for my body.” Kolo did not burn the memo or Kajumba’s letter. He and the friend made copies of both, with Kolo giving the friend explicit instructions to make the documents public “should something happen” to Kajumba and him. The friend feared losing his own life, but Ageno Komoakec later sought to fulfill Kolo’s instructions. The exact way in which the NRM found out about the stolen memo is not clear. Did someone see the original or a copy in Kolo’s possession and later tell NRM leaders? Or was it inferred from his words or actions that he either had the memo or knowledge of its contents?  Whatever else the government knew, it came to suspect Kajumba of having taken the document and shown it to Kolo. Some time after Kolo’s death, Kajumba, according to a source of mine, “was disappeared by the army.”

  • Ageno Komakec kept the document secret for twenty years. Making it public would place her own life at risk, and what she knew of the NRM's response to Okello Kolo and Virginia Kajumba gave credence to her fears. Foremost, however, she wanted to be sure that all of the people other than herself who could be at risk by the disclosure of the memo had already died. I take both Kajumba's willingness to risk her life to show it to Kolo and Komakec's willingness to risk hers to show it to me to constitute two pieces of evidence that count towards the memo's authenticity. Kajumba pleaded that Kolo not only keep the document secret but also burn it in order to protect her life. Now that Kajumba is long dead, Komakec has asked the opposite of me. She tried, without success, other avenues of getting the memo into public view before giving it to me to make it widely available. I told her that I would think about it, and I have. 1. I have also given this person's name to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, and other offices so that they can monitor his well-being in the event that he is identified by the government
  • 2. So far, I have verified this story with two other sources. For more on the human rights abuses of the Ugandan military, see, Human Rights Watch, "Uprooted and Forgotten: Impunity and Human Rights Abuses in Northern Uganda," Sept. 20, 2005,
  • 3. Museveni reopened CBS radio, a Bagandan station, in October 2010, in an effort to woo Bagandan votes. The Bagandan people had had a falling out with Museveni after he attempted to seize the Bagandan kingdom land
  • 4. Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi, "Government seizes pro-Besigye book," The Monitor, October 10, 2010, The book is Olive Kobusingye, The Correct Line?: Uganda Under Museveni (Milton Keynes: AuthorHouse, 2010).
  • 5. Human Rights Watch, "A Media Minefield: Increased Threats to Freedom of Expression in Uganda", May 2, 2010,
  • 6. Human Rights Watch, "State of Pain: Torture in Uganda," 16, no. 4A, (March 2004): 4,
  • 7. Human Rights Watch, "Open Secret: Illegal Detention and Torture by the Joint Anti-terrorism Task Force in Uganda," April 8, 2009,
  • 8. Human Rights Watch, "State of Pain," 4. See also Human Rights Watch, "Uprooted and Forgotten."
  • 9. Human Rights Watch, "State of Pain," 4.
  • 10. Anders Sjogren, "Global Power Relations and State Formation in Uganda," in Globalization, Imperialism, and Resistance, eds. Lars Lindstrom, Mats Warn, and Bjorn Beckman (Stockholm: PODSU, 2007), 35-58.
  • 11. United States military personnel regularly carry out trainings in Uganda, and the last major offensive by the NRM/UPDF against the LRA was supported by seventeen United States advisors and $1 million in fuel. On U.S. advisory support for the UPDF attack on the LRA in the December 2008 "Operation Lightning Thunder" see Jeffrey Gettleman and Eric Schmitt, "U.S. Aided a Failed Plan to Rout Ugandan Rebels," New York Times, February 6, 2009, "Operation Natural Fire 10" is a relatively recent (October 2009) joint exercise in northern Uganda where the U.S. trained military teams from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. See Kevin J. Kelley, "Uganda: Big U.S. Military Exercise for Northern Region," The East African (October 12, 2009), available at
  • 12. A notable exception is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's April 2010 report on the Ugandan Electoral Commission. See Milton Allimadi, "Clinton Issues Critical Report on Preparations for Uganda Elections," Black Star News, April 27, 2010, Clinton offered a follow-up report in September 2010 that remained critical but offered some positive comments as well. See Tabu Butagira, "Clinton's New Report Praises and Attacks Electoral Commission," The Monitor, September 24, 2010, available at It will be interesting to follow the United States government's response to the election. The U.S. Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2010 directs Secretary Clinton to work with other countries to monitor both the preparations for the election and the election itself. Of course, monitoring elections by itself is not sufficient to assure the rule of law in a country.

Genocide or Just Another "Casualty of War"? - Part II


The Authenticity of the Document: Policy Shifts, Land, Language, and Names

By Todd David Whitmore

With the immediate and remote contexts of the document set out, it is now possible to examine its contents with a view to further ascertaining its authenticity. I will focus on four key areas in my assessment: 1) the shift in policy by Museveni to include the colonially demarcated region of northern Uganda as part of the new Uganda; 2) Museveni and his brother Salim Saleh's efforts—as predicted in the memo—to take possession of land in northern Uganda; 3) the consistency of the language of the memo referring to the Acholi as "backwards" and as "Chimpanzees" and "Monkeys" with public statements Museveni has made about the Acholi; and 4) the consistency of the names mentioned in the memo, including the code names for Museveni and Saleh, with historical events.

An Early Change in Policy

The memo, written on a typewriter, is dated November 14, 1986. I have tried to find documentation either confirming or contradicting the author's claim in the memo of having taken a flight over northern Uganda from Arua to Gulu during the time described. Mention of the flight would be evidence of the document's authenticity; mention of Museveni being out of the country at the time, for instance, would be evidence of inauthenticity. Thus far, I have not been able to find public documentation either way. This is not surprising given that it is not the sort of flight that would typically be covered in the newspapers of the time. It is worth noting, however, that less than a year-and-a-half later—April 5, 1988—the indicated recipient of the memo, Salim Saleh, Museveni's brother and a Major General in Museveni's army, conducted his own flyover, and similarly commented, this time on the record to reporters, "What do you think of this unpopulated place? Couldn't it be utilized for growing food, cash crops, and ranching to improve our economy, being such a fertile area?"1 The million-plus Acholi in the region did not count as a human population. The title of the memo, "Subject: RETHINK," suggests that the author is considering a change in policy plans. The author and the recipient had made a "hasty decision to draw another national boundary, which would exclude the backward northerners from our new Uganda, particularly the Chimpanzees called Acholis." The flyover convinced the author that this previous policy was not wise. "I have now realized that the Monkeys called Acholis are sitting upon Gold Mine. It is surprising that even the British Colonialists did not make them utilize the rich land properly." Consequently, a policy change is necessary: "I have now reversed our decision to expel them, with their lands, from Uganda. We must keep Uganda as the British left it. But we must assume full control of the fertile lands." Like with the flyover, I have not been able to find written documentation with regard to the earliest NRM policy. I have, however, spoken both to an Acholi elder and to a former high-ranking official in the NRM who have knowledge of the period, and they both confirmed the change in policy. It might be objected that the memo cannot be authentic because Museveni at the time was a nationalist who was trying to unite the country after a five-year bush war and that he would not have given up the Acholi lands. However, if Museveni's objective was a united Uganda, he had the opportunity to realize the objective before he seized Kampala. Museveni did not overthrow Obote; rather Tito Lutwa Okello and his brother Bazilio Olara-Okello—both Acholis—did. After the coup, Tito became President, and it was he who tried to unify the country by extending offers of peace to the remaining rebel groups. The efforts led to the Nairobi Agreement between the Tito Okello government and the NRA in December 2005. Elijah Dickens Mushemeza writes,

On assuming power in 1985, General Tito Okello Lutwa invited all fighting groups, including the NRA, to join together and form a united government in the spirit of reconciliation and nation building. The NRA did not respond, and this led to Tito Okello's Government seeking a negotiated political settlement with the NRA. This resulted in the Nairobi Peace Agreement (17 December 1985), detailing power sharing arrangements and the composition of the Military Council. All parties also agreed to a ceasefire within forty-eight hours including the UNLA and the NRA.2

Instead of pursuing a united Uganda, Museveni used the time granted by the Agreement to build up his own army, and a month later he seized the capitol. These are not the actions of a leader seeking to unite a country. The use of the term "nationalist" to apply to Museveni, then, is an odd one if we are to pay attention to his actions rather than his rhetoric. With regard to initially redrawing the border to exclude the Acholi even though this would be to give up territory, the move makes sense if the land were as barren as he first thought it was and the Acholi were as "backwards" as he has repeatedly described them. Museveni, as we will see, is a theorist of social evolution and an advocate of modernization. The Acholi would be a drag on his new industrializing economy. As it turns out, he has developed that economy while leaving out northern Uganda—the poorest region in the country, with 42.6% of the population living on less than $1 a day3 —in any case. Moreover, as we will see later on in this article with regard to NRM/UPDF action in the Democratic Republic of Congo, state boundaries are no barrier to exploitation. Museveni has gone—as the memo indicates he would—wherever he thought that he could draw financial benefit. What drew his attention back to northern Uganda was the possibility of the production of wealth (under his control) through industrialized farming in the North. To the extent that Museveni was the nationalist he advertised himself to be, then, he did not consider the people of northern Uganda in general and the Acholi people in particular to be part of the nation. For Museveni, where the geographical boundary was drawn by the colonialists was a secondary issue to that of which ethnic groups would be participants in the new nation. This is a point to which I will return, but for now it is sufficient to point out that the contradictions built into Museveni's presumed nationalism are not dissimilar to the contradiction in earlier stages of United States political history between the claim that "all men are created equal" and the reality of the exclusion of African-Americans from participation in governance. Whether or not the latter are within the nation-state's geographical boundaries, they are not considered part of the nation.

The Scramble for Acholiland
As described in the memo, the shift to the later policy by Museveni is due to the wealth of land in northern Uganda and the President's desire to control it. Here, there is abundant evidence for the memo's account, and it is therefore the second area of my focus on the question of the authenticity of the memo. To interpret that evidence, it is necessary to understand the role of land in the Acholi culture of northern Uganda. The cultivation of land is the primary source of wealth-generating production, and thus livelihood, in northern Uganda. The vast majority of Acholi are rural-dwelling small-scale farmers. They often supplement their diet with game procured through hunting.4 The land available for these activities is, for the far greater part, held in customary ownership. That is to say, ownership, even when it is individual ownership, is not conferred via government-authorized written title but rather through oral mechanisms of clan authority. Even when an individual—or more precisely, an individual family—holds claim to a parcel of land, the controlling idea is that it is held ultimately for the common good of the clan. One important study puts the matter this way:

The land which a family owns is not considered as being totally "theirs": it is their heritage and the future heritage of their children. Since they see that a family exists only as a part of a wider community, so its land is held within the wider structure of a community (clan) and as clan's land. Land is the fundamental productive asset, without which one cannot survive, and so one's social obligations and claims are intimately connected to claims and rights over land. These obligations extend to the next generation: land must therefore be protected for them, and if anyone who leaves the village and fails to survive in the urban economy, the customary land is a safety net, because they can always return and be allocated a plot. Land is also the link with people's heritage—quite literally, since it is on the family land that one is buried.5

Hunting lands (tim) and grazing lands (olet) are held in trust by the clan as a whole. These are not empty lands; rather their purposes are best stewarded through allowing multiple families to make use of them whole rather than as divided up into smaller parcels. The fact that ownership is orally-based and dependent upon the memories of the persons involved makes customary ownership, particularly but not solely of the hunting and grazing lands, vulnerable in crisis situations such as the twenty-year conflict in northern Uganda.

On September 27, 1996, Museveni issued the mandate that all people in the Gulu district of the Acholi region move immediately to designated Internally Displaced Persons camps. The decision to displace the people into camps was by fiat. When Acholi MPs found out about the plan, they protested; Museveni then promised to re-consult with the military and to get back to the MPs in two weeks. He never did. It is noteworthy that it was Saleh who gave the reason for Museveni's not doing so, pointing up the tight relationship between him and Museveni: no consulting took place because Museveni and Saleh "suspected bureaucracy and politicking over the issue." That is to say, they were concerned about resistance to and perhaps defeat of their plan of forced displacement should the issue go to Parliament.6 When individual people refused to move to the camps, the soldiers beat them; when whole villages refused, the UPDF often used attack helicopters against their inhabitants. A report from the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative is worth quoting at length.

In every camp we visited in Gulu, people told us invariably that they were forced. In some cases people remember that soldiers gave them a seven-day deadline (Opit) or only three days (Awac), threatening to treat those who resisted as rebels. In most cases, however, it would appear that soldiers just stormed villages—often at dawn—without any previous warning. They told people to move immediately without giving them much time to collect their belongings. People were often beaten to force them out of their compounds. Much of the property left behind was looted by both rebels and soldiers. A number of people who ventured to go back to their former homes soon after found them burnt down. Men told us that they were harassed and even shot at, and women raped. A resident of Paicho summarised that experience of unbearable stress with these words: "We were beaten by Government troops, who accused us of being rebel collaborators and told us to go to the trading centre." . . . In Pabbo, Opit, Anaka, Cwero, and Unyama we met a good number of people who had direct experience of having had their villages shelled. We were told that big guns of the BM21 6 barrel type were used to fire at villages where people refused to move. . . . Aerial bombardments were used—we were told—in places like Kaloguro village, in Pabbo, Awach, KocGoma, Amuru, and Anaka. This first wave of forced displacement occurred at a time of the year which normally marks the beginning of the harvesting season. Given the fact that in most cases people were not given time to collect any foodstuff, their crops remained in the fields or in the granaries. In Pabbo and Opit people told us that there were cases of Army helicopters being used to collect foodstuff from abandoned villages. Force was also used by the UPDF some months after the camps were started, in order to compel back into the camps communities who had gone home to tend their fields. We heard this complaint in every camp we visited in Gulu and in some in Kitgum.7

The frequent justification offered by NRM and UPDF officials for the forced displacement of the Acholi people is that it was to protect the latter. In fact, the name officials often give the camps is "protected villages." However, such justifications do not stand up to empirical scrutiny for the straightforward fact that the NRM/UPDF did not adequately protect the camps, even when they had the military capacity to do so.8 Instead, the camps served as LRA magnets, and most of the worst massacres occurred in the camps. People I interviewed confirmed this experience of being left vulnerable:

What experiences in Alero camp did you go through?
Yes, in Alero camp you were never safe. The rebels... attacked the camp. They burned up people's huts. They robbed things from people. In the camp, they abducted people—both children and elders. Some of them have never come back. They went with the rebels and we have never heard about them.

When the rebels came to Alero camp, where would be the government soldiers, the military? Was the camp not protected by the military?

The government soldiers who were protecting us were few. Many times when these people [the LRA] came, they [the government soldiers] ran away. They could not protect the people in the camp, and the rebels would abduct people at will. The rebels would burn houses at will. The rebels would do whatever they wanted at will.

While the camps were left vulnerable, Salim Saleh, the President's brother, moved to secure the freed-up land. The Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative reported on this activity as well:

Soon after the forced removals of people from the countryside, Maj. Gen. Salim Saleh started some kind of commercial farming business in Kilak country, engaging people in this enterprise under conditions tantamount to exploitation, since people were given money to engage in farming but had to repay double the amount after the harvest. According to former MP of Cwa constituency Okello Okello, "people were so desperate that many engaged in this kind of business.9

Saleh controls the Sobertra Construction Company in northern Uganda, which, among other things, has built security roads that are off-limits to the civilian population. The anthropologist Sverker Finnstrom describes an encounter with one of the Sobertra vehicles, a truck with a heavy machine gun bolted in the back. A local Acholi commented to Finnstrom after the vehicle passed:

They claim that they are building roads, to destinations we don't know.... Sometimes they behave like soldiers, they drive Pajeros [a 4x4 SUV made by Mitsubishi]. The normal people of Acholi, the indigenous people, are not allowed to reach that end where these people are working, for reasons best known to them. And this is the land that even people who have gone into exile have faith and hope in, the land that they hope will be for the future generation of Acholi [in keeping with the tradition of customary tenure].10

Where are the Sobertra Construction Company roads intended to go? Saleh's actions provide information. The land study cited above describes a 1998 project "initiated by a senior army officer" to give loans to farmers to implement mechanized farming on 250 acres of land in Amuru district in northern Uganda. The hitch is that the actual landowner never gave consent for this project. The officer? Salim Saleh. The report goes on to describe a 1999 proposal by "a company for turning Northern Uganda into the breadbasket of central Africa." The company's proposal itself claims that there are "vast, highly fertile lands... available for large scale grain production."11 The company? Divinity Union Ltd., owned by Salim Saleh. Two years later, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative criticized the Divinity Union proposal. "During our consultations with people in the camps many expressed the fear that the policy of putting the population of Acholi in camps was a well-calculated move in order to grab their land. A project proposal two years ago by the Divinity Union Ltd., owned by Major General Salim Saleh, highlighted some large chunks of land in Acholi to be used for large-scale commercial farming." The situation with Saleh and Divinity Union, according to the religious leaders, "deepens the already existing rift between the people of Acholi and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Government."12

Undeterred by criticism from the Acholi religious leaders and other advocates on behalf of Acholi land rights, Saleh and Divinity Union proposed a "Security and Production Programme" (SPP) in 2003. The Production Programme's plan is for all Acholi customary land "that is not tilled, being grazed on, or privately registered" to be turned into militarized working farms, with local youth recruited and trained by the government to protect the fields. Though the SPP literature nods towards consultation with local traditional chiefs regarding the land, it states that the Production Programme is really a "government Project Implementation Unit" to be run by the central administration offices, including the Ministry of Defense. Ostensibly proposed as a way to reduce population dependence on food aid during the war, SPP, if implemented, would place all Acholi customary land not being actively tilled under government control and have Acholi work the land not as landowners but as low-wage laborers or quasi-serfs. Acholi Ministers of Parliament and advocates have resisted the proposal, and it has not been implemented thus far. For purposes of the memo under discussion, however, this history underscores that the motives and actions on the part of both Museveni and Saleh have been entirely consistent with the stated intent of "control" of Acholi land as given in the memo. Just how militarized and controlled the farms would be is evident from pictographs from the SPP's own literature:

Cover image of the 2003 brochure.13
Second image from the 2003 brochure.
In short, Museveni and Saleh unilaterally declared that it was necessary to forcibly displace the Acholi peoplef—that is, to use the military and armed attacks to move them off of their own land against their will—for the Acholi's own "protection." Museveni, through the UPDF, failed to provide that protection. However, Saleh still found there to be enough military wherewithal to protect the government SPP farms on land formerly held by the Acholi and upon which the Acholi were to serve as serf-like laborers. The evidence indicates that the motivation and goal of the camps was takeover of the land, not the protection of the people.

A Pattern of Scramble for Wealth: Uganda in the DRC

Shortly after his displacement mandate for northern Uganda, Museveni committed thousands of troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they could be used to acquire not just land but diamonds, gold, and other gems and minerals. The DRC case is informative for two reasons. First, it establishes a thoroughly documented pattern of activity by Museveni and Saleh where they together utilize the Ugandan military for their own economic benefit in a way that directly harms, often lethally, large numbers of civilians. Second, it shows that Museveni and Saleh could have provided, had they wanted, sufficient military support at the Ugandan IDP camps to protect the Acholi civilians, but that the necessary forces were used elsewhere and for other purposes.

In 1997, Uganda helped Laurent-Desire Kabila push dictator Joseph-Desire Mobutu from power in the DRC. Afterwards, however, Kabila requested that the Ugandan forces leave the DRC. This action threatened Uganda's interest in the DRC's natural resources, so in 1998 Uganda, according to a recent UN report, "created and supported" a rebel military and political movement—the Mouvement pour la liberation du Congo (MLC)—and found Jean-Pierre Bemba, the son of a Congolese billionaire, to head it up.14 Between 1998 and 2002, Bemba gave the Ugandan government mining concessions in the areas he controlled in exchange for military support.

In 2002, a United Nations report specifically identified Saleh as a key player in the illegal exploitation of minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the NRM.15 On top of that, Saleh was the primary shareholder of the Victoria Group, which, according to the UN report, was involved in the production of counterfeit Congolese francs. In other words, Saleh was having raw materials illegally extracted from a war-torn country and then was purchasing the materials with counterfeit money. In 2005, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Uganda, again with Saleh specifically named, guilty of the illegal extraction of raw materials and ordered it to pay the DRC $10 billion in restitution, an amount that remains unpaid.16

Importantly, the ICJ also found Uganda guilty of killings, torture, and other atrocities committed on civilian Congolese, though the International Criminal Court has yet to charge Saleh with war crimes or crimes against humanity. Again, his primary collaborator in the DRC was Jean-Pierre Bemba, who has since been indicted by the ICC on four counts of war crimes and two counts of crimes against humanity, but only for those crimes which he committed in the Central African Republic. If the ICC chose to indict Bemba for his crimes in the DRC itself, Saleh, given the ICJ judgment, would clearly be implicated, if not charged.17 Like with northern Uganda, Saleh in the DRC was fomenting and using a situation of insecurity and armed conflict to obtain personal and familial wealth. He is, by most accounts, one of the wealthiest people in Uganda.

What the cases in DRC add to the discussion of Uganda thus far is that they make clear, by the ICJ's own account, that the UPDF on behalf of Museveni and Saleh is willing to commit violent and even lethal crimes against persons for the purpose of securing wealth. The most recent report—October 2010—from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights makes this abundantly clear. The publication is a "mapping report" of the worst atrocities committed in the DRC between 1993 and 2003. Included among its findings are multiple instances where the UPDF or Congolese rebel factions operating with the support of the UPDF committed acts that fit the legal definition of war crimes and crimes against humanity. With regard to the town of Beni, for instance, the report states:

UPDF soldiers instituted a reign of terror for several years with complete impunity. They carried out summary executions of civilians, arbitrarily detained large numbers of people, and subjected them to torture and various other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatments. They also introduced a particularly cruel form of detention, putting detainees in holes dug two or three metres deep into the ground, where they were forced to live exposed to bad weather, with no sanitation and on muddy ground.18

In the Ituri district, UPDF forces backed ethnic Hema-Gegere militias and also participated directly in what the UN report calls, unflinchingly, a "campaign of ethnic cleansing" against the Lendu people.19 For instance, the reports states,

Between June and December 1999, UPDF and APC soldiers killed an unknown number of Lendu civilians in villages in the Djungu region close to concessions claimed by Hema-Gegere forces.... Numerous victims died when their village was set on fire or following heavy arms fire directed at their homes. Some victims were shot dead at point-blank range.20

The list of UPDF massacres of the Lendu people in Ituri district goes on:
  • Between January and February 2001, UPDF soldiers attacked around 20 villages in the Walendu Tatsi community [in Ituri], killing around 100 people, including various Lendu citizens. During the attacks, the soldiers committed rape, looted, and caused an unknown number of people to disappear.
  • On 3 February 2001, members of the Hema militias and UPDF troops killed 105 people, including numerous Lendu civilians.
  • In January 2002, UPDF troops and Hema militiamen opened fire on the population of the village of Kobu... killing 35 Lendu civilians.... Those responsible for the massacre were trying to remove Lendu populations from the Kobu area, close to the Kilomoto gold mines.
  • Between February and April 2002, elements of the UPDF and Hema militiamen killed several hundred Lendu civilians in the Walendu Bindi community in the Irumu region. They also tortured and raped an unknown number of people.21
The official response from the government of Uganda to the UN report chastises its authors for overlooking Uganda's contribution to "peace and security" in the region.22 However, like with northern Uganda, peace and security turn out not to be the real reason for their presence at all. Indeed, when six members of the International Committee of the Red Cross sought to bring humanitarian aid to the Lendu people, they were attacked and killed. Local sources interviewed by the UN pointed to UPDF soldiers and Hema militiamen. Moreover, when Uganda did seek to unite the fracturing groups in the Ituri district, it did so by forcing the various groups to join under a yet another Ugandan-created, Bemba-headed politico-military movement, this time the Front de liberation du Congo (FLC). In other words, when local conflict threatened mineral exploitation, the Ugandan government's response in the DRC was to forcibly realign the splintering groups under its own business partner, Jean-Pierre Bemba.23

This last particular effort did not endure long, but the pattern of alliance of convenience is clear. Indeed, by later 2002, Uganda switched sides to join with the very parties—the DRC government and its militias—it had been battling for years. Now the groups it was backing were massacring Hemacivilians.24 The 2010 UN report comments, "The lure of money was one of the reasons why opposing groups would suddenly join ranks or why the closest allies would unexpectedly turn against each other." This was the case around the town of Kisangani, where the Ugandan army "obtained significant revenue from trading diamonds." In Ituri district, the prime lure was gold, which was, "exported through Uganda, then re-exported as if it had been produced domestically—a similar model to that used for diamond exports."25

The case of Uganda's presence in the DRC is important because it helps to establish a documented pattern of behavior whereby economic greed and politico-military power join and issue forth in repeated atrocity. The conclusion of the 2010 UN report is unstinting. The political and economic agenda of the Ugandan government caused "massive and widespread violations of human rights and international law." The authors of the report are clear that they constitute a fact-finding rather than a judicial body; still, they do not hesitate to place these violations under the descriptions of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The only difference between NRM/UPDF behavior in the DRC and that in northern Uganda is that in the former the greed is for precious gems and minerals and in the latter it is for arable land. The outcome for the resident civilians has been the same.

In the meantime, President Museveni has promoted his brother Saleh to full General and has recently made the latter the Minister of State for Microfinance. This, despite the fact that Saleh has been implicated several times in schemes where he uses his military position, granted by his brother Yoweri Museveni, for personal financial gain. Early allegations of corruption led to Saleh being dismissed as Army Commander, but Museveni reappointed him as Senior Presidential Advisor on Defense and Security. Saleh had to leave this latter post because of a bank scandal and an arrangement where he gained $800,000 from the sale of junk helicopters to the army. Still, he continued to be promoted in rank. Now there is the UN evidence of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and possibly genocide in the DRC.

It is clear, then, that the aim of Museveni and Saleh has not been that of security and peace in either the DRC or northern Uganda. Rather, it has been the accumulation of wealth, whether in the form of precious gems and minerals or arable land. Moreover, as documented in the UN mapping report, they have demonstrated in the case of the DRC that they are hardly averse to "reducing the population" where the presence of civilians is an obstacle to the accumulation of wealth. Together, Museveni and Saleh function as the political and economic wings of the Museveni family regime, now going on twenty-five years. The connecting link between the political and economic wings is a military designed and trained to meet the objectives precisely as Museveni and Saleh have constructed them.

Neopatrimonialism: The Link Connecting NRM Actions in Acholiland and the DRC

The above facts fall into place when we understand Museveni's regime as a form of rule that political scientists call "neopatrimonialism." A political order constitutes a neopatrimonial regime when political authority is personalized in the relationships between the primary leader—in this case Museveni—and his clients, often family members—in this case Salim Saleh—who people the bureaucracy. Michael Bratton describes such a regime this way: "Corruption, clientelism, and 'Big Man' presidentialism—all dimensions of neopatrimonial rule—tend to go together as a package."26

Rune Hjalmar Espeland and Stina Petersen take neopatrimonial analysis and use it to assess the military in Uganda. They note that, as a practice, neopatrimonial rulers use their personal authority to bypass formal and merit-based structures of military advancement. Such rulers "often prefer their own ethnic group for prominent military positions, or else long-term political allies or family members."27 Saleh is all three—clan member, political ally, and brother. Espeland and Petersen go on to point out that neopatrimonial rulers "often encourage corrupt, yet individually benefitting business practices within the military."28 The aim of such an arrangement is to keep the members of the military loyal. Disloyalty results, minimally, in loss of income for the officers. This explains why, despite multiple instances of being caught in corrupt practices, Saleh continues to be promoted and given added powers. In fact, when an embezzlement scandal broke regarding illicit payments to "ghost soldiers" —one way officers pad their income is to list non-existent soldiers on their payroll—Museveni placed the corrupt Saleh on the committee to investigate the situation.29

Espeland and Petersen's article demonstrates that the loyalty- and income-producing purpose of the military in neopatrimonial regimes results in an unprofessional military. The authors cite the neopatrimonial structure of the Musveni regime as a key reason for the inability of the NRA/UPDF to defeat the LRA. Despite the President's repeated fervent claim to have the desire to defeat the LRA, maintaining client relationships with those in the military—relationships that allow and even encourage individual enterprise on the part of the officers at the expense of the local population as part of the agreed-upon arrangement with the officers—is more important than developing a level of military professionalism that is capable of victory in the conventional sense. For instance, strategic planning does not take into account that high numbers of the armed forces are "ghost soldiers" padding the officers' income; when it is time to go to battle, these officers cannot say that the soldiers do not exist without implicating themselves, and so they enter engagements with far fewer personnel than planned. It is not by accident, then, that NRA/UPDF soldiers have been proficient at terrorizing the local populace but muddling in their ability to fight the LRA.

It is important to note, however, that "unprofessional" does not in all instances mean "haphazard." In fact, as we will see further below, the NRA/UPDF have often been brutally efficient in pursuing their purpose: to repress civilian populations and exploit local resources for personal wealth and gain. The issue is not whether the NRA/UPDF have been organized or not, but rather what they have been organized for. In addition to fleeing at the sight or even rumor of LRA being in the vicinity, the NRA/UPDF, according to multiple reports, committed its own acts of violence and even atrocity.30

The results for the populace in northern Uganda have been disastrous. Espeland and Petersen state, "As a military strategy, the regime failed to defeat the LRA but politically they controlled most of the civilian population for two decades." As we have seen, this has been the plan all along: control of the people—and land—in the North. The authors conclude that the humanitarian crisis that followed was a "direct outcome of the military approach to the region pursued by President Museveni."31 As we will see in more detail in the next section, the Acholi people, according to Museveni, are not people at all.

Given the present lull in the NRM-LRA conflict, at least within Uganda, Museveni and Saleh can no longer use military force, at least not in the same way as before, as a means to cause and take advantage of social disruption in order to procure wealth. They must at least appear to be taking normal political channels, and this Museveni and others in the NRM have tried to do. Starting in 2007, Museveni sought to allocate 40,000 hectares of land in the North to the Madhvani Group for a sugar cane plantation, a number that he reduced to 20,000 hectares when faced with opposition.32 If such a deal goes through, the central government will have a forty percent stake in the plantation.33 Another case occurred when the central government gave one billion Ugandan schillings to twenty army officers and government officials to take land in the North that was already under customary tenure, resulting in the eviction of families from their land. A case of local officials getting in on the act occurred when the members of the Amuru District Land Board applied for 85,000 hectares of land for themselves, an application that, if successful, would have evicted—that is, again, displaced—10,000 people from their land.34 More recently, Museveni, Saleh, and Museveni's son, Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, have been cited by the anti-corruption NGO Global Witness for arranging "security" for newly found oil deposits in ways that enhance themselves financially.35

Although the dynamics are still neopatrimonial in these more recent cases, accessing the natural resource of land is more difficult because there is no longer the social disruption of armed conflict to act as a screen for forced displacement and military rule in northern Uganda. Museveni must at least appear to be following the rule of law in order to continue to receive the high rate of foreign aid to which he has become accustomed. To his advantage is the fact that, for the geopolitical reasons indicated earlier, U.S. officials want and need to interpret Uganda's politics not as neopatrimonial but as democratic and law-abiding. Until this structural situation of mutually reinforcing interests changes, the de facto burden of public proof will always be on those who interpret Ugandan government's polity as something other than democratic, even when such interpreters have the far greater evidence in their favor. The memo I received is one more—and one more significant—piece of that evidence.

The Language of the Memo: The Acholi as "Backward," "Chimpanzees" and "Monkeys"

So far, we have seen that the memo is consistent with both the earlier and later policies of Museveni and Saleh towards northern Uganda. As we have also seen, whenever domestic persons or organizations—whether members of the media, ministers of parliament, or NGO representatives—have spoken out about the arrangement and situation just described, Museveni has used his plenary political power to silence the critics. This is a large part of why, even given the evidence presented above, the actions of Museveni and his military, according to Espeland and Petersen, "have received much less attention by scholars than the atrocities of the LRA."36 However, Museveni has gone well beyond merely suppressing these accounts and has gone on to provide and justify his own. It is at this point that the language of the memo is important.

The author of the memo refers to "the backward northerners." This language of backwardness and, its analogue, primitiveness is consistent with Museveni's own public and documented statements. Indeed, statements from the President to this effect bookend the conflict in northern Uganda. As early as 1987, in reference to the fight with the Holy Spirit Movement—the Acholi precursor to Kony's LRA—Museveni claimed, "This is a conflict between modernity and primitivity."37 As late as 2006, at the installation of Sabino Odoki as Auxiliary Bishop of Gulu, and just a month before the ceasefire with the LRA, Museveni declared, "We shall transform the people in the north from material and spiritual backwardness to modernity."38 Thus from the beginning of the conflict up to the ceasefire agreement, Museveni has drawn upon the lexicon of backward/primitive versus civilized/modern to frame the situation. His making such statements at the installation of an Acholi bishop indicates that he is hardly ashamed of such language.39

It is noteworthy that his use of these terms bridges his switch from Maoist/Marxist guerilla to World Bank neo-liberal. The one constant is his affirmation of what anthropologists describe as a unilinear view of social evolution. Museveni makes clear in his autobiography that, in his words, "the laws of social evolution" drive his policies.40 The use in the memo, then, of the terms "Chimpanzees" and "Monkeys" is a consistent continuation of his frequent usage of the words "primitive" and "backward" to denote the Acholi. The link between the two is the language of evolution as a means of distinguishing peoples—again, it is a language much more basic to Museveni's lexicon than the differences between Marxism and neo-liberalism. Primitive versus modern is simply the social evolutionary articulation of the biological evolutionary distinction of monkey versus human. In other words, chimpanzee = monkey = primitive = backward; human = civilized = modern. Sometimes Museveni describes the Acholi as primitive not-yet-humans; at other times he describes them as animals incapable of ever becoming human. The underpinning language of unilinear evolution is the same, and the violent policies and acts they are used to justify on behalf of "civilized" and "modern" humanity are little different.

Although there are many statements attributed to Museveni and the NRM that discount the Acholi as not simply "backward" or "primitive" but as less than human, these are sometimes difficult to verify. Two such statements stand out, however. In his first address to Acholi elders in a gathering at the Acholi Inn, a hotel in Gulu, in 1986, a number of the participants report him as saying in reference to the Acholi people, "We will put them in a calabash like nsenene(grasshoppers) and let them bite themselves to death. In this way we will rid Uganda of gasiya (nuisance) once and for all." He is reported also to have made similar such statements referring to the Acholi as grasshoppers in addresses at Kaunda Grounds in Gulu in 1987 and 1988. Museveni's head of the Army Political School in Entebbe, Kajabagu Ku-Rusoke, has been even more direct. For the record in a statement to the Uganda Human Rights Commission in August 1987, Ku-Rusoke said, "We don't count those who oppose us as people."41 And again, Saleh's description of the North as "unpopulated" and thus ready for exploitation, despite the million-plus people there, elaborates in a pragmatic way the underlying viewpoint: the Acholi are not people. The context of a memo not intended to be distributed, but read only by his brother and ally, allowed the usually verbally careful Museveni to extend and state more explicitly the meaning of the "backward" versus "modern" language he uses in public speeches. The Acholi are "Chimpanzees" and "Monkeys," and are therefore not human at all. It is legitimate, therefore, to forcibly round them up—beat or shoot them if necessary—so that land can be made available for exploitation by Saleh and others.

Naming Names: Codenames, the "Rebels," Betty Bigombe, Chefe Ali, and Tinye

The memo names several persons or groups, and for clarification as well as verification it is important to identify them. The first and most important set of names is the codenames "Tremor 1" and "Meteor Plus One." I have spoken with a former high-ranking NRM official who has confirmed the authenticity of those names as they apply to Yoweri Museveni and his brother, Salim Saleh. Given the use of codenames, it is interesting that the author of the memo chose to sign it "YKM." Why would Museveni use codenames and then sign such a statement in his own initials? Here, I think it is important to remember that this memo was never intended for circulation beyond the author and the recipient and perhaps a small circle of others. In this instance, the codenames are not for the purpose of secrecy but for rhetorically signifying the nature of the communication as being official and of political and military import. A ready analogy comes from the academic setting. If an article of mine is accepted by a journal, the journal's editor, even if she knows me quite well and addresses me by first name on other occasions, addresses the acceptance letter to "Dr. Whitmore" or "Professor Whitmore." The editor's name at the end of the letter will be typed with a formal title, but she may, as is often the case, simply sign her first name. It is hardly surprising, then, that Museveni would sign personally a similarly formal memo "YKM."

The "rebels" referred to in the memo should not be mistaken for the LRA, which had yet to be formed. Described as "roaming around" rather than in attack mode, the "rebels" likely refers to the remnants of the UNLA and other splintered and defeated groups. Again, the UNLF, which gave birth to the UNLA, was a force forged from twenty-eight rebel groups. Within two years of Museveni's victory, the number of rebel groups in Uganda was back up to twenty-seven.42

Of interest is the memo author's description of the rebels as simply "roaming around"—not "regrouping" or "attacking." There is no sense of military urgency on the author's part. This is the memo of a victor. The lack of military urgency sits flush with political scientist Adam Branch's finding that at first there was initially no insurgency against Museveni's regime. When the NRA came north—looting, raping, and killing, as we will see—there was no opposition. Museveni, in Branch's words, "launched a counterinsurgency without an insurgency."43 My conversations with the people of northern Uganda who were there at the time of the NRA's actions support Branch's analysis. One man from Madi Opei told me the following:

When the NRA came, the people went into the cave that runs the full length of Got Latoolim< [the mountain in between Madi Opei and Agoro]. It is a big cave, so everyone who wanted could fit there. They took supplies and some of them had guns so they could stay there a long time and protect themselves.

They stayed there for two months. The NRA could not get them out. They had food, defense. So the NRA sent some Acholi who were NRA to talk them out, and after two months they came.
At first they were treated okay. But then a second detachment of NRA came and started treating them badly. Beating them. Raping. People "disappearing." I tell you, if it were not for that bad treatment, there would not have been any rebellion. The former UNLA would have just diffused back into the community and that is it.

The UNLA that were in Sudan—they were waiting and watching to see how people were treated. If they were treated well, then the UNLA would have just gone back into the communities. When those in Sudan heard how the people in northern Uganda were treated, then they started planning [for insurgency].

In other words, the remnants of the UNLA were waiting in Sudan like the residents of Madi Opei were holed up in Got Latoolim: the primary aim was personal security until it could be determined whether it was safe to come out.

When a resistance group finally did form, it did so in response to violence initiated by the NRA. The NRA violence actually catalyzed a major transformation in the leading group from the North. The Holy Spirit Movement, which launched the first major insurgency, was initially—before NRA atrocities—a non-violent, gender-equal religious movement. Its leader, Alice "Lakwena" Auma, was a spirit medium. Only after the NRA actions did it join with remnants of the UNLA to form a fighting group. The aggression of Museveni's "counterinsurgency without an insurgency" fits with both the aggression called for in the memo and its description of the rebels as simply "roaming around" and in disarray, thus providing further empirical evidence for the authenticity of the memo.

The memo mentions two military officers who led the NRA campaign in the North: "Chefe Ali" and David "Tinye" Tinyefuza, both of whom are known for their brutality. Their most egregious actions took place well before the formation of the International Criminal Court and so are not punishable by that body. However, the actions that took place under their command do establish a pattern of intent that becomes important in the argument concerning genocide punishable by the ICC. That argument turns on the forced displacement of the Acholi people into squalid Internally Displaced Persons camps, where thousands of them died from preventable causes. The frequent verbal defense for the formation of the camps is that they were formed for the people's own protection, thus the government's frequent reference to them as "protected villages." However, given the ill treatment of the Acholi civilian population at the hands of the NRA/UPDF in the pre-camp years, the idea that the camps were then formed for their protection is absurd. The requisite ideational and psychological reversal on the part of Museveni, Saleh, and the troops from attacking people they considered to be less than human to protecting those people under dangerous circumstances as if they were their own is too fantastic to be believable.

Chefe Ali's given name is Eriya Mwine, and he was an early ally of Museveni. He served under Museveni in FRONASA (The Front for National Salvation), a rebel group that Museveni formed in 1973 when he split off from the mainstream opposition to Idi Amin. FRONASA joined temporarily with the other rebel groups—twenty-eight groups in all—to form the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF). The UNLF, in turn, allied with the Tanzanian army to oust Amin in 1979. Museveni became the Minister of State for Defense in the UNLF government in Uganda. Infighting ensued almost immediately with multiple plots and counterplots, with Museveni demoted to Minister for Regional Cooperation. When the presidential election of 1980 was announced, he immediately formed an opposition party. After Milton Obote won, Museveni charged him with rigging the election, and formed the rebel National Resistance Army. Chefe Ali went with him. Ali commanded the NRA's 11th battalion, which was key in taking the capitol, and he was later named one of "10 Brave Men Who Faced UNLA's Fire."44 Chefe Ali would be a natural choice, then, to carry out Museveni's plans in the North. In fact, he is known for his brutality. After his death, protesters lynched his bodyguard in a demonstration of anger against the brigadier.

Museveni named David "Tinye" Tinyefuza the Director of Intelligence for the NRA during the 1980-1985 bush war. Although they had a brief falling out, Museveni promoted Tinyefuza to Brigadier and then Major General in 1988-89 and appointed him Minister of State for Defense. Museveni then set Tinyfuza as commander of Operation North, the first major operation against the LRA, until 1991. Though there is need for a formal investigation, there is already little dispute that the NRA committed crimes against humanity and war crimes during the operation. One of the most known of Tinyafuza's actions is that he rounded up about 30,000 people and forced them into Pece Stadium in Gulu to screen for LRA combatants. He also arrested and tortured major political leaders including Daniel Omara Atubo, who has referred to Tinyefuza as "the butcher of the north."45 More recently, Tinyefuza has had a hand in the repressive events discussed earlier in this article: he undertook the arrest of presidential candidate Kizza Besigye on the trumped-up charge of treason in 2005 and led the military siege of the High Court when it released Besigye and others in 2006.

Again, even though there is general consensus that Ali and Tinyefuza oversaw crimes against humanity and war crimes on the part of the NRA, there still needs to be a detailed investigation. I myself have recorded about 300 hours of oral history with the the Acholi people, and although I never asked about NRA/UPDF atrocities, these events often came up in the people's accounts. One typical example:

I have a few things that I will never forget in my life—atrocious acts of killing that I have seen in my home, among my Acholi people. I will not forget this. I would see how people were arrested, and how people were tortured and eventually killed. I have seen so many young people arrested, for no reason, and taken away—some of them as far away as Luzira upper prison in Kampala. I have seen, also, young people arrested in my area, and put underground where a big hole had been dug by the military. And there, they suffered underground, and they [the military] would make bread and throw it to these people who were suffering in the ground, like little rats. I have also seen many of these young people who were thrown in the ground, in a pit, being killed by shooting, being killed by beating. Many people died in this way. They died from many causes—either you suffocated or you were beaten to death or you were shot and left dead in the pit.

I recall other things that the military were doing in the village where I lived—raping women, defiling children, and sleeping with men. This, I think, has caused HIV/AIDS. It spread around because of these kinds of abuses on the people…

One other thing that I will not forget that the military has done in this area is taking away all the possessions from people—the cattle—taking away from people whatever they had in their food store—the rice, maize, groundnuts—all foodstuffs, taking them away. The military would come and defecate in our pots where we had clean water, and they would expect you to drink this when you come, thirsty, back into your house.

Museveni himself even provided a public statement of his rationale for this kind of behavior on the part of the NRA/UPDF. "You see when you give them [the civil population in the North] a good beating then those who are using them will no longer use them. Since the month of January [1987], we have given them much beating especially in Lira and Kitgum Districts. And in fact the week I left [for Yugoslavia] we had given them a good blow in Gulu District. So it is going to settle down."46 What this statement does not directly admit to, however, is that the "beating" often involved direct killing. Another testimony I gathered points to the fact that often the killings by soldiers were not carried out in a ramshackle way, but were planned, focused and deliberate. That is to say, the soldiers may have been unprofessional, but often they were quite effective in achieving the ends for which they were dispatched. Again, the lack of professionalism does not mean a lack of organization, but rather organization for purposes other than peace and security:

I will not forget the killing in Lacootoo. Eighteen young people were picked by the National Resistance Army of Yoweri Museveni, and they were supposed to have been brought to Anaka where there was a military base. The boys were asked to take hoes. And, with those hoes, they dug their own graves, on the mouth of River Okec. And there, they got killed, one-by-one, and buried in the graves they themselves dug.

The parents and relatives of these eighteen young men were looking for them around, and they could not find where they were. They were buried on the mouth on the River Okec—their hands and their legs having been broken, and their heads all beaten with heavy logs. The people in the area discovered the place where the young boys were buried when they went to get some reeds to prepare a granary at home. They had a strong smell, and they became suspicious about the smell. And they went to look at what was smelling—it was the decomposing bodies of the eighteen people who had been killed.

The leader of the village then invited the people whose young men went lost to come and see if any of those dead were the boys they were looking for. Indeed, those who found their sons dead took the body and went home to bury. But, these became a big source of fear for the people of the area.47
Such testimonies are important not only morally for the facts they report but legally as well, because they establish that the NRA/UPDF had no intent to "protect" the Acholi and that the idea that the NRA/UPDF—the same forces that shit in their pots and executed their children—had a sudden change of heart the moment they used armed force to drive the Acholi into the IDP camps does not stand any test of reason.

An interesting piece of evidence with regard to both Ali's and Tinyefuza's atrocities actually comes from the mouths of government officials and military officers trying to defend them. After the crowds at Ali's funeral murdered a guard in protest of the brigadier's brutality, Salim Saleh felt that he had to come to his defense, redescribing Ali as restrained. Interestingly, however, the President's brother did so in such a way as to actually disclose the predominant pattern of NRA activity in the North, one fitting the aims and statements of the memo I received: "If it was not for Brigadier Chefe Ali, no UPC or Acholi would be alive"(italics added).48 Similarly, according to one report, when UPDF Major Felix Kulayigye attempted to explain the atrocities of Tinyefuza in Operation North, he did not deny the latter's actions but rather gave the defense, which Nuremberg rejected, that the general was simply following Museveni's orders.49

There is urgent need for the United Nations to do a mapping report of northern Uganda similar to the one it conducted in the DRC. The mapping report ought to cover the period from 1986 through at least 1996, when Museveni first forcibly displaced the Acholi people, and preferably through 2004, when he made the third of his displacement mandates. The purpose of such a mapping investigation is both for its own sake and for the purpose of showing that the intent of the earlier NRM and military activities is at such odds with the later stated intent of "protecting" the Acholi in the camps—a difference so drastic as to be unbridgeable—that that later stated intent can only reasonably be understood to be false.

The author of the memo highlights the importance of using ambitious Acholi politicians against the Acholi people themselves and specifically mentions Betty Bigombe. From 1981 to 1984, Bigombe was the Corporate Secretary for the Uganda Mining Association. In 1986, after Museveni gained the Presidency, she won a seat in Parliament. Consistent with the aims and statements of the memo, in 1988, Museveni appointed her Minister of State for the Pacification of the North (italics added). In what I have been able to find thus far, Bigombe did not follow through in serving the aim, as given in the memo, "to eliminate some old politicians who are likely to give us troubles."50 Instead, she would lead what would become the negotiations with the LRA that had the best chance of peaceful outcome in the 1990s. In 1994 she met with the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, who called for comprehensive peace talks with the government involving leaders of the Acholi people and members of the political wing of the LRA—essentially the same arrangement as later took place in the 2006-2008 Juba peace talks. Kony said that arranging for such talks would take six months (which it did in the case of the Juba talks). When Museveni heard the request, he gave a seven day ultimatum: the LRA forces were to surrender themselves and all weapons in seven days or the "talks" were off.

One need not be naïve about the LRA (as I indicate below, I think that the leaders ought to be formally charged with genocide in addition to war crimes and crimes against humanity) to recognize that Museveni sabotaged the 1994 negotiations just when they were getting serious. Bigombe did not do the things he hoped that she would do as described in the memo; but, consistent with that document, he nonetheless found a way to use her and what the memo describes as her "ambition." She helped create the appearance of NRM willingness to negotiate; however, when her efforts seemed to go beyond mere appearances, Museveni had no more use for her or those efforts. Bigombe left politics soon thereafter, returning only in 2004 when international pressure mounted on Museveni to start talks anew.

What if the Document is not Authentic?

Even given the above evidence, it is possible that the memo is not authentic. If it is not authentic, it follows a pattern of disinformation that has plagued the conflict from the start. The Lord's Resistance Army has abducted tens of thousands of people, and, in order to keep them from returning home, has sometimes forced them to kill relatives and friends. This makes the lie the LRA tells the abductees—that if they return home the people there will kill them in revenge—seem plausible. During some of the worst periods of the conflict, one of the most successful efforts in encouraging abductees to return home was that of Radio Mega, a station that broadcast the information that any returnees would not only be treated well, but would receive amnesty. The LRA does what it can to keep its conscripts from hearing the radio.

Carlos Rodriquez Soto, in his book Tall Grass: Stories of Suffering and Peace in Northern Uganda , writes that LRA officers control the youth "with a dark combination of instilling fears of terror and fascination."51 "Father Carlos," as he was known in the North, lived there from 1984 to 1987 and again from 1991 to 2008. (We met briefly in 2005.) He was directly involved in a number of the grassroots negotiations mediated by religious leaders. He is not sanguine about the leadership of the LRA. Through ceremonies, rituals, and beliefs "melted into a cauldron of syncretism that staggers the imagination," the LRA leaders head up "more an armed cult than a rebel movement with political aims." The attacks on their own people are, according to Father Carlos' account of the rebels, an effort by the LRA to "purify the Acholi" so that the latter might better resist the government.52 Truth certainly is a casualty here.

The NRM and its military, the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF), have also systemically bred disinformation, from underreporting LRA numbers to overstating their own successes.53 Rodriguez Soto—who is hardly pro-LRA, calling its leader, Joseph Kony, "satanic"54—provides a detailed account of the government's handling of his own case. In order to mediate with the rebels, he had, on each individual occasion, to receive prior approval from the UPDF, which he did. However, in one instance in particular—it was late August 2002—the army used Rodriguez Soto's peace-building efforts to track the LRA. The UPDF attacked the site, with Rodriguez Soto there, where the priest was to meet the rebels. The government forces beat and kicked him and his priest companions, took them to remote barracks, and refused them sustenance. They were not released until they signed documents that said that they had failed to secure official approval for the mediation. The army spokesperson issued a statement claiming that Fr. Carlos and his colleagues were found transporting three rebels and drugs.55

If the document given to me is inauthentic, then it must be interpreted in terms of the web of disinformation I have just described. In this view, Acholi with political grievances against the NRM government gave the memo to me in order to disseminate disinformation about Museveni. This is possible. However, given the reasons I state above, I think it far more likely that it is authentic. It is time, then, to assess the implications of the document.
  • 1. Caroline Lamwaka, "4,000 UPDAs in peace centres," New Vision, April 8, 1988.
  • 2. Elijah Dickens Mushemeza, "Policing in Post-Conflict Environment: Implications for Police Reform in Uganda," Journal of Security Sector Management 6, no. 3 (November 2008): 4.
  • 3. Raymond Baguma, "Ugandans now richer, report says," New Vision, October 26, 2010,
  • 4. For instance, the Acholi often supplement their diet by hunting anyeri or "giant rat," a groundhog or muskrat-sized rodent. Stewed well, it is tender and tastes very good.
  • 5. Judy Adoko and Simon Levine, Land Matters in Displacement: The Importance of Land Rights in Acholiland and What Threatens Them (Kampala: Civil Society Organizations for Peace in Northern Uganda (CSOPNU) and Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU), 2004), 5, available at
  • 6. Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, Let My People Go: The Forgotten Plight of the People in Displaced Camps in Acholi (Gulu: ARLPI, 2001), 9.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. For further documentation on the unwillingness of the NRM/UPDF to protect camp residents against the LRA, see Civil Society Organizations for Peace in Northern Uganda, "Nowhere to Hide," December 10, 2004. Refugee Law Project, "Statement on Ethnic Violence," February 27, 2004, 25,$file/RLP+Position+Statement+on+ethnic+violence.doc.
  • 9. Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, Let My People Go, 10.
  • 10. Sverker Finnstrom, Living With Bad Surroundings: War, History, and Everyday Moments in Northern Uganda (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2008), 175.
  • 11. Adoko and Levine, Land Matters in Displacement, 16.
  • 12. Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, Let My People Go.
  • 13.  I am indebted to Sverker Finnstrom for making the 2003 brochure that had these pictographs available to me. I appreciate his selflessness in getting them to me. Apwoyo tutwal. The second of these pictographs appears in his Duke University Press book, Living With Bad Surroundings, 179.
  • 14. United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR), "Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003: Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo between March 1993 and June 2003," 310, August 2010 (Released on October 1, 2010),
  • 15. See United Nations Expert Panel on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), "Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo," See also Gerard Prunier, "Rebel Movements and Proxy Warfare: Uganda, Sudan, and the Congo (1986-1989)," African Affairs 103 (2004): 359-383.
  • 16. International Court of Justice, "Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda)," December 19 2005,
  • 17. Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, "Bemba arrest: Are Saleh, Kazini safe?" The Observer, May 29, 2008,
  • 18. United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003," 349.
  • 19. Ibid., 366.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Ibid., 405-408. See also 411.
  • 22. UNOHCHR, "Uganda's Position on the Draft DRC Mapping Exercise Report," September 30. 2010, available at
  • 23. UNOHCHR, "Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003," 408.
  • 24. On Uganda's shift in allegiance, see ibid., 418-419; on massacres of Hema people, see 420.
  • 25. Ibid., 748 and 768.
  • 26. Michael Bratton, "Formal Versus Informal Institutions in Africa," Journal of Democracy 18, no. 3 (2007): 98. See also Michael Bratton and Nicolas van de Walle, Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime Transitions in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
  • 27. Rune Hjalmar Espeland and Stina Petersen, "The Ugandan Army and Its War in the North," Forum for Development Studies 37, no. 2 (2010): 196. It is worth noting that Saleh, Museveni's brother, is not the only family member benefitting from military placement in the neopatrimonial system. Museveni's son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, joined the military as a private but is now the commander in charge of the development of the special forces. Kainerugaba is currently a lieutenant colonel, but given that the special forces has expanded to control large segments of the military, he is a de facto general.

I am indebted to one of the journal referees of the present article for pointing out the Espeland/Petersen article to me.

  • 28. Ibid.
  • 29. Ibid., 202.
  • 30. See, especially, Chris Dolan, Social Torture: The Case of Northern Uganda, 1986-2006 (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2009); Robert Gersony, The Anguish of Northern Uganda (Kampala: U.S. Embassy and USAID, 1997); and International Crisis Group, Northern Uganda: Understanding and Solving the Conflict (Nairobi and Brussels, 2004). The National Resistance Army (NRA) was renamed the Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) in 1995.
  • 31. Espeland and Petersen, "The Ugandan Army and Its War in the North," 210-211 and 208.
  • 32. See "Madhvani to set up second sugar factory," New Vision, January 1, 2007.
  • 33. See "Kakira offered 20,000 hectares of land in Amuru," The Monitor, November 13, 2008.
  • 34. For a careful account of these cases and of the issue of land in northern Uganda generally, see Ronald R. Atkinson, "Land Issues in Acholi in the Transition from War to Peace," The Examiner: Quarterly Publication of Human Rights Focus (HURIFO) 4 (2008): 3-9, 17-25. My account is directly indebted to Atkinson's.
  • 35. Yasiin Magerwa, "First Family 'too close' to oil sector," The Monitor, November 16, 2010,
  • 36. Espeland and Petersen, "The Ugandan Army and Its War in the North," 211.
  • 37. "Museveni directs final Lakwena offensive," New Vision, November 6, 1987.
  • 38. Ibid.
  • 39. Ronald Kassimir writes that the Ugandan president is "not shy" in using such terms as "primitive" and "backward" to refer to the Acholi. Kassimir, "Reading Museveni: Structure, Agency and Pedagogy in Ugandan Politics," Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue Canadiennedes Etudes Africaines 33, nos. 2/3 (1999): 654.
  • 40. Yoweni Museveni, Sowing the Mustard Seed: The Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Uganda, (London: Macmillan, 1997), 26.
  • 41. See Timothy Kalyegira, "Understanding the NRM and its impact on Uganda," The Monitor, March 15, 2008, available at
  • 42. George Clement Bond and Joan Vincent, "The Moving Frontier of AIDS in Uganda: Contexts, Texts, and Concepts," in Contested Terrains and Constructed Categories: Contemporary Africa in Focus, eds. George Clement Bond and Nigel C. Gibson (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002), 354, cited in Finnstrom, Living With Bad Surroundings, 69.
  • 43. Adam Branch, "The Political Dilemmas of Global Justice: Anti-Civilian Violence and the Violence of Humanitarianism, the Case of Northern Uganda" (PhD diss., Columbia University, 2007), 146.
  • 44. Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, "WHO FOUGHT: 10 brave men who faced UNLA's fire," The Observer, June 17, 2009,
  • 45. Badru D. Mulumba, "Waterloo or springboard?" The Monitor, July 2, 2003, available at
  • 46. New Vision, January 19, 1987.
  • 47. The place names have been changed to protect the innocent.
  • 48. "Chefe Saved UPC's, Acholi—Saleh," The Monitor, July 14, 1999, available at
  • 49. "Gen. Tinyefuza's Massacres in N. Uganda Exposed," Jonzu News, Feb. 2, 2010, Given the strongly biased reporting of this site, it is important for any full investigation to track down this attribution to Kulayigye even though it is a question of fact and not of opinion.
  • 50. Though I have been told that one researcher has evidence pointing towards Bigombe actually carrying out this part of Museveni's policy, I have not yet seen that evidence.
  • 51. Carlos Rodriguez Soto, Tall Grass: Stories of Suffering and Peace in Northern Uganda (Kampala: Fountain Publishers, 2009), 23.
  • 52. Ibid., 21-22. See also 43. For an interpretation of the LRA effort to "purify" the Acholi, see Branch, "The Political Dilemmas of Global Justice."
  • 53. See, for instance, Ron Atkinson, "Revisiting Operation Lightning Thunder" and "Revisiting Operation Lightning Thunder, Part II," The Indepent, June 9 and 16, 2009,
  • 54. Rodriguez Soto, Tall Grass, 65.

Genocide or Just Another "Casualty of War"? - Part III


By Todd David Whitmore

I am aware that the term "genocide" is an explosive one and that the standards for establishing genocide in a court of law are high. However, I find it to be the most accurate term for the plans and actions of Museveni, Saleh, and the NRA/UPDF in northern Uganda. Given what is already known about the actions of the NRM/NRA/UPDF in northern Uganda, it is clear that, like in the DRC, their actions fit within the legal framework of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The occurrence of genocide, however, is more difficult to demonstrate. I will be using the term in the strict legal rather than the loose advocacy-driven sense. For the sake of clarity, then, it is perhaps best to begin with the legal definition of genocide as set forward in Article 2 of the United Nations 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which is restated in Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court:

The Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such: killing members of this group; causing serious bodily or mentally harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.1

The October 2010 United Nations mapping report on the DRC highlighted earlier in this article contains some important elaborations on the Convention on Genocide, and it is helpful for our present discussion to set them out. Its first point is that Article 3 of the Convention states and thus makes clear that the "conspiracy to commit genocide," the "attempt to commit genocide," and the "complicity in genocide" are all also considered acts of genocide punishable under the Convention.2 What this means is that neither Museveni nor Saleh need to have had a gun in their hands to be guilty of genocide. The memo, if authentic, points to all three: conspiracy, attempt, and complicity. Second, the mapping report follows previous decisions—particularly those of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a precursor of the International Criminal Court—in distinguishing between genocidal intent and whatever other motivations the perpetrators might have. What this means is that the presence of other motivations in conjunction with the genocidal intent does not offset that latter intent in a court of law. The mapping report is clear:

Intention is not synonymous with motivation. The personal motive of the perpetrator of genocide, for example, may be the prospect of personal economic benefit, political advantages or a particular form of power. The existence of a personal motive does not mean that the perpetrator may not also have the specific intention of committing genocide.3

The import of the distinction between motive and intent is that Museveni and Saleh's avariciousness regarding gold, diamonds, and land does not nullify their intent to commit genocide.

Third, although the mapping report discusses the matter under the issue of crimes against humanity rather than genocide, it makes clear that deportation or forcible transfer of a population is against international law.4 Similarly, although the report discusses the matter under war crimes rather than genocide, it makes clear that denying a people the means and property necessary for their survival also violates international law. (The UPDF took part in stopping turbines on the Inga dam in the DRC, an action which deprived the people of Kinshasa and much of the Bas-Congo region of electricity for three weeks.) The report is unstinting: "Stopping the turbines on the Inga dam... by elements of the ANC/APR/UPDF, caused the deaths of numerous people" (italics added). Here, the report follows Paragraph 2 of Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which states that "willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health" falls under the heading of a war crime.5 When specific intent can be demonstrated, such actions can also come under the definition of genocide, which, again according to the Convention of Genocide, includes "causing serious bodily or mentally harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part." What this means is that forcibly displacing over a million people such that they cannot access their land and thus their only means of sustenance and then relocating them to places that lack even basic sanitation does in fact, when intent is demonstrated, come under the definition of genocide.

The "in part" language of the Convention is deliberate and significant. A pattern of intent and activity does not have to have as its objective the elimination of all members of a particular ethnic group to qualify as genocide. Given that so many Acholi were negatively and even lethally affected by NRM policy, the "in part" clause may seem unnecessary, but it is important to keep it in view in anticipation of possible (and inaccurate) objections that only a few Acholi suffered. Once again, the UN mapping report cites cases and decisions from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as precedent:

The intention to destroy a named group, even in part, is sufficient to constitute a crime of genocide provided that it is the group or "a distinct fraction of the group" that is targeted and not a "multitude of isolated individuals belonging to the group." Furthermore, the section of the group targeted must be substantial and thus reflect "both the mass nature of the genocide and the concern expressed in the Convention as to the impact that the destruction of the section of the group targeted would have on the group as a whole" (emphasis in original).6
Finally, the UN mapping report highlights the fact that proof of intent to commit genocide "is without doubt the element that causes the most difficulties."7 For a decision of genocide, there needs to be proof of a specific intention, what is called in the legal literature a dolus specialis. This requires direct proof of intent rather than, as is in most international law, indirect or inferential evidence of intent gathered from the various circumstances and facts of the case. The grave nature of genocide—what the ICTY called "the most abhorrent of all crimes"8 —requires the higher standard of proof. This higher standard of proof is why, even though it identifies certain activities that the UPDF and other groups carried out in the DRC as "a campaign of ethnic cleansing,"9 the UN mapping report is cautious in using the term "genocide." Rather than be determinative itself, the report calls for a judicial investigation into whether the above and other acts committed by various groups in the DRC constitute genocide.10 Similarly, the difficulty of proving genocide is also part of why the International Criminal Court has charged the leaders of the LRA only with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Still, the UN report is helpful in that it again draws on ICTY precedent to detail the factors that international courts use to determine if genocidal intention is present, including:
1.      the existence of a genocidal plan or policy and the recurrence of destructive and discriminatory acts, the general context,
2.      the perpetration of other reprehensible acts systematically directed against the same group,
3.      the scale and number of atrocities committed,
4.      the fact of targeting certain victims systematically because of their membership of a particular group,
5.      the fact that the victims had been massacred with no regard for their age or gender,
6.      the consistent and methodical manner in which acts were committed.

Actions do not need to exemplify all of the above aspects to have genocidal intent. The list simply provides insight into the considerations that international law as practiced takes into account in determining intent. We will return to this list and fill it out with evidence from the Museveni/Saleh/NRM/UPDF case of genocide.

With the above preliminary statements in view, it is now possible to assess whether Museveni, Saleh, and other elements of the NRM/UPDF ought to be investigated and indicted for genocide. To avoid the mistaken countercharges of my being a rebel collaborator (a charge frequently made against those, even archbishops, who criticize government policy) or of political partiality (Olara Otunnu, an Acholi opposition candidate for the Presidency, has also leveled the charge of genocide11), I need to make clear that I think that a formal charge of genocide ought to be brought against the leaders of the LRA as well. I understand the reason why the ICC has not so indicted the LRA leadership: genocidal intent is difficult to prove. Still, a number of scholars have demonstrated that the LRA has acted, under leadership orders, to kill Acholi people "with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part" the Acholi as an ethnic group. Ruddy Doom and Koen Vlassenroot argued as early as 1999 that after 1994 Kony felt betrayed by the lack of active (as distinct from merely sympathetic) Acholi support for the LRA, and thus turned on the Acholi themselves in what the authors term "auto-genocide."12 Genocide against one's own people has occurred before, such as in the case of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The effort on the part of the LRA was to create a "new Acholi" from child abductees. In 2007, Adam Branch drew upon extensive research in northern Uganda to argue that the LRA sought to "eradicate the external enemy" from within the Acholi.13 As indicated earlier, Carlos Rodriguez Soto, who has had extensive interaction with the LRA, has described their post-1994 actions as an attempt to "purify" the Acholi.14 Most recently (2010) Helen Nkabala Nambalirwa has drawn on field interviews with former LRA combatants to show how, while in the bush, they used a reading of the Sodom and Gomorrah story to justify their directly taking the life of Acholi civilians: the combatants were taught to view the civilians as sinners—they sinned against their Acholi-ness in not supporting the LRA—and thus not as persons with human dignity; the combatants could thus take the civilian lives without the actions counting as killing another person.15 What the ex-combatant narratives show is that the LRA did intend to kill Acholi people on the basis of their membership in a particular ethnic group. That the later LRA became more indiscriminate and killed members of other groups does not undo this initial fact. Also, I anticipate and understand the argument that the majority of the LRA fighters were themselves abducted and are thus less than fully culpable.16 However, I believe that there is sufficient evidence to charge the LRA leadership with genocide. This is a point that Otunnu and others have not made.

The next temptation to avoid is that of assuming that because the LRA has been involved in genocide, then Museveni, Saleh, and the relevant members of the NRM/UPDF have not been so involved, or that investigation of the matter of NRM/UPDF genocide would, because of the complexity of the situation, be too difficult to prove. It may also be tempting to not look at the case of Museveni because he has been considered by leaders in developed countries and international monetary institutions to be one of the "new breed" of African leaders open to economic restructuring and political reform. How can such a modern—read "not backwards African"—person be also guilty of such heinous crimes? One of the consistent tropes in Western accounts of the conflict of the North is that of the "mad" —again, read, "primitive African"—and therefore unintelligible (to modern minds) Joseph Kony. However, from an empirical standpoint, it is entirely possible for two parties not acting as co-conspirators to both commit genocide on a third group. Moreover, it is possible to demonstrate that such actions have taken place in the case of northern Uganda. That an ostensibly modern person such as Yoweri Museveni might be involved in such actions should not be surprising given the prevalence of genocide in twentieth-century Europe.17 I understand the desire to view genocide as a rare exception in the modern world, but its gravity as highlighted in international law does not entail its rarity on the ground.

Multiple factors hinder the investigation of the criminal activity of NRM officials and the UPDF in northern Uganda. The first is the disruption of the conflict itself. Most people in a position to witness the violations of international law on the part of the NRM/NRA/UPDF—the victims and their relatives and neighbors—have not been in a position to report on those violations. They have been overburdened with the task of survival. Second, as discussed earlier on in this article, the NRM has been active in suppressing the efforts of journalists and human rights activists to investigate and report on the violations.18 Numerous Acholi have given me the same list of locations where NRA/UPDF atrocities have taken place—Pabbo, Burcoro, Cwero, Awach, Naamakora, and more—some of which are said to include mass graves. The UPDF pattern of placing people into deep pits to suffer and die, cited in three different places in the UN mapping report,19 was actually developed by the Ugandan army earlier in northern Uganda. Again I quote from an interview I conducted:

I have seen, also, young people arrested in my area, and put underground where a big hole had been dug by the military. And there, they suffered underground, and they [the military] would make bread and throw it to these people who were suffering in the ground, like little rats. I have also seen many of these young people who were thrown in the ground, in a pit, being killed by shooting, being killed by beating. Many people died in this way. They died from many causes – either you suffocated or you were beaten to death or you were shot and left dead in the pit.
Again, however, methodical repression on the part of the NRM of information-gathering by interested parties has made systematic verification of such testimonies to date difficult at best.

The third factor that hinders extensive investigation of the action of NRM officials and the UPDF is the fact that the main international court in which such investigation would take place is the International Criminal Court. The Court came into being in July 2002 and will not investigate activity that took place before then. In June 2010, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo conceded, "I have received complaints from many affected people in Uganda and human rights advocates about [the] Uganda army's alleged atrocities committed during many years of insurgency in the north." However, Moreno-Ocampo went on to disclaim, "We will respond to any communication sent to us in terms of evidence but on cases not predating 2002."20 Given that many of the most overt offences by the NRA/UPDF occurred before 2002, the limits of the ICC makes the case of genocide much more difficult to make in terms that the Court will hear. I reiterate, then, my earlier point that the United Nations has an obligation to do a mapping report of early (at minimum, 1986-1996) atrocities in northern Uganda similar to that which it did of 1993-2003 DRC, both for its own sake and to provide evidence as to what is and is not plausible intent for the forcible displacement policy. Again, my argument is that, given the dehumanizing rhetoric and planned atrocities on the part of the Ugandan military on behalf of the NRM up to 1996, the idea that the intent of the displacement policy of 1996 was to protect the Acholi lacks all credibility.

At present, perhaps the most important single piece of post-2002 empirical evidence of genocide on the part of Museveni and the NRM is a 2005 World Health Organization study of the conditions in the Internally Displaced Persons camps in northern Uganda from January to July of that year. In addition to its findings, this study is significant for three reasons. First, it was conducted on behalf of the Ugandan government's own Ministry of Health. There can be no legitimate charge of political bias or complicity with the LRA. Second, it is the most extensive study of camp conditions, covering all of the districts of northern Uganda. Finally, given the late date (2005), the findings will be on the conservative side. The camps at that time were in far better condition than in earlier stages of the conflict, when they were less organized and international organizations like the UN World Food Program were not yet delivering food aid. Unbiased, extensive, and conservative, the report, after careful analysis of the situation on the ground in the IDP camps in comparison with "non-crisis" levels in the northern districts of Kitgum, Pader, and Gulu where the Acholi people predominate, found that there were almost 1000 excess deaths per week due to malaria, AIDS, malnutrition, diarrhea, violence, and other causes. In other words, 52,000 Acholi were dying per year from camp conditions. About ninety percent of the population in these districts—about 1.2 million people—lived in camps at the time of the report.21 It is also important to highlight the fact that the study, conducted in 2005, is of the conditions and deaths that occurred well after the formation of the ICC. In other words, this is legitimate evidence for the ICC to take into account in its assessment of NRM actions.

The question that follows is what the ICC is to make of the evidence. The generally accepted answer—other than to deny the accuracy of the study—is to say that whatever excess deaths have taken place in the camps are not the fault, let alone the intent, of Museveni, Saleh, the NRM, and the UPDF. The deaths, rather, are the unfortunate side effect of trying to protect the Acholi people from LRA attacks. Careful examination of the realities, however, shows this latter reasoning to be deeply flawed. Let us look at a timeline of established facts.

1996: Museveni unilaterally issues a mandate that all people in the Acholi Gulu district move immediately to designated Internally Displaced Persons camps. Refusal to do so is met by beatings and armed attacks by the UPDF. Again, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative reports that "people invariably told us that they were forced" to move to the camps. The ostensive reason for the camps is to protect the people from the LRA; however, the camps are not well-protected and, with their large concentrations of people, serve as LRA magnets for easy abduction.22 In the meantime, the camp conditions are horrid, lacking food and sanitation. Museveni repeats this mandate in 2002 and 2004 to ensure that all remaining villagers in northern Uganda are forcibly moved to the camps.

1996-present: With the people now off of their land, Salim Saleh begins forming agricultural enterprises on Acholi land without permission of the landowners and for the sake of his personal economic gain. Saleh, who is in the position of having inside knowledge, presupposes that he has enough troops to protect his farms.

1996-2003: Museveni commits UPDF troops to the DRC to overthrow Mobutu Sese Seko and to control mineral resources in the DRC rather than use such forces to protect the Acholi in the IDP camps precisely at the time that the Acholi most need them. That the aim of NRM/UPDF involvement in the DRC is the economic one of access to gems and minerals rather than the political one of stability in the DRC is shown by the fact that after Mobutu is overthrown and Laurent-Desire Kabila comes into power, gives his thanks to Uganda, and asks it to leave, Museveni creates and supports a DRC opposition movement (Mouvement pour la liberation du Congo) and installs its leader (Jean-Pierre Bemba)—actions which destabilize the DRC—but allows the Ugandan forces to remain and exploit resources. Given that the decision, as verified by the United Nations, to commit thousands of troops and billions of Ugandan schillings in resources to its efforts in the DRC for the sake of personal wealth enhancement was unnecessary for Uganda (not to say harmful for the DRC), it is accurate to reason that that decision was also a direct decision not to use those personnel and resources to serve and protect the Acholi in northern Uganda precisely when the Acholi most needed that service and protection. It is clear that it is not simply a matter of the NRM/UPDF being unable to protect the Acholi but of their being unwilling to do so. Moreover, given that camp life created the conditions and primary causes of Acholi deaths, Museveni and the NRM/UPDF actions constitute not merely a failure to protect, but an active subjection of the Acholi to the conditions that killed them. The important fact is this: Though he had plenty of personnel, Museveni dispatched not enough soldiers to protect the Acholi from the LRA and just enough to forcibly keep the Acholi away from their livelihoods—their gardens and villages—and in the camps where they died.

2005, three years after the formation of the ICC: The World Health Organization finds that people in the camps in northern Uganda are, for reasons other than LRA attack, dying at a rate of 52,000 a year more than would be the case under normal circumstances. In 2006, I personally spent two weeks in Pabbo IDP camp helping a nun feed a man back from starvation. This was two years after the latest LRA attack on the camp, so the fault cannot be placed there. Moreover, Pabbo camp is very close to Gulu town, and so is readily accessible to government vehicles. People in the camps regularly told me that the food they received from the UN World Food Program—delivered once a month—was enough to last them a week and a half if they ate only once a day.

Given Museveni's direct decision to commit extensive personnel and resources elsewhere (the DRC) for the sake of personal wealth enhancement—greed—it stands to reason that he is directly responsible for the deaths in the camps, particularly given that he did place enough soldiers in northern Uganda to forcibly keep the people sequestered there. Again, the October 2010 UN mapping report states that when the UPDF stopped the turbines on the Inga dam and thereby cut off electricity, the Ugandan army "caused the deaths" of many people.23 All the more, then, does denying people the food and sanitation necessary for life "cause their deaths."

It is evident thus far that Museveni, Saleh, and other members of the NRM/UPDF have committed acts in northern Uganda that fit under the description of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Again, the UN mapping report on the DRC states that deportation or forcible transfer of a population is a crime against humanity24 and that denying a people the property necessary for their survival is a war crime. The report follows the ICC's Rome Statute, which states that "willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health" falls under the heading of a war crime.25 The forcible displacement of the Acholi people away from the gardens that gave them sustenance, therefore, constitutes a crime against humanity and a war crime. Given that the displacement policy continued well after 2002—again, Museveni repeated the displacement mandate in 2002 and 2004—the displacement policy clearly falls under the purview of the ICC.

The key to the charge of genocide, and not just crimes against humanity and war crimes, is to demonstrate that there has been intent on the part of Museveni and Saleh to kill or harm Acholi based upon the latter's ethnicity and not just the pursuit of ill-gotten wealth. This is where the memo that was given to me becomes significant as an important—though far from the only—piece of evidence. Here, it is helpful to turn again to the list, as provided by the United Nations, of what can count as evidence of intent, this time while filling in the evidence we now have.

1)     The existence of a genocidal plan or policy and the recurrence of destructive and discriminatory acts:
The genocidal plan is most evident in the memo. Again, the author of the memo refers to the Acholi people of northern Uganda as "Chimpanzees" and "Monkeys," and seeks to "drastically reduce the population" so that he can obtain their abundant and fertile land ("I have now realized that the Monkeys called Acholis are sitting upon Gold Mine."). Here, the distinction in international law between motivation (greed) and intent (to "drastically reduce the population" specifically of the Acholi as Acholi—that is, as members of a particular ethnic group) is critical. The economic motivation does not cancel out the genocidal intent.

There have been two kinds of public statement made by Museveni that give at least indirect evidence of a genocidal plan or policy. The first kind, also found in the memo, is that where, as cited above, Museveni dehumanizes the Acholi, referring to them as "backward," "primitive," and even as insects. Greg Stanton, the President of Genocide Watch, states that this language works to "dehumanize" the other group. He goes on to say, "Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion to murder."26 Other empirical studies indicate that where there is verbal dehumanization, there is also a policy to kill.27 If there is a question about the function of dehumanizing language in Museveni's case, reference can be made to a second type of public statement that he has made, where he makes a direct, if oblique, reference to policy. He is reported as having said twice, once to the East African Law Society, "As Hitler did to bring Germany together, we should also do it here. Hitler was a smart guy, but I think he went a bit too far by wanting to conquer the world."28 Still, the memo I received is the most direct statement to date of a policy.

The question that arises is whether the deaths of the Acholi living in the IDP camp policy of Museveni are the result, in the words of the UN mapping report, of "destructive and discriminatory acts" on his part. Here it is important to distinguish between the legal meaning of genocide and that which is often present in the popular imagination and even among advocates against genocide. The popular image of genocide is that which is depicted in movies such as Hotel Rwanda, where screaming young men in multi-colored fright wigs beat their machetes in unison against the sides of trucks and commence a bloody attack. The slow but sure deaths from malnutrition, dysentery, and other such causes that occur in the IDP camps do not make for Hollywood material. Even some anti-genocide advocates contribute to misleading understandings of the phenomenon. Gregory Stanton—again, he is the President of Genocide Watch—has written that the segregation of a specific group into ghettos or concentration camps is only a "preparation" for the acts of mass killing "legally called 'genocide.'" Stanton calls the latter stage "extermination," which focuses on killing by armed forces or militias.29 However, this is a misunderstanding of the legal definition and understanding of genocide, a misunderstanding perhaps rooted in the model of the Nazi use of ghettos to segment off the Jewsbefore exterminating them in the separate concentration camps. A better example for the case in northern Uganda is the Holodomor—Stalin's genocide through the destruction of the livelihoods of Soviet Ukrainians in 1932-1933. In light of this latter context it is clear that what has been happening to the Acholi is not a mere "side-effect" of war but part of a patterned plan of action that has historical precedent.30 International law also makes this clear. Again, the Convention on Genocide includes "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part" as an act of genocide (italics added). Again, Museveni placed not enough soldiers in northern Uganda to protect the Acholi from the LRA but just enough to keep them away from their gardens and livelihoods in the villages and forcibly in the camps where they died. Therefore, there is not only strong evidence of "the existence of a genocidal plan or policy" but also of the "recurrence" over the course of at least a decade of "destructive and discriminatory" acts against the Acholi—in this case in the camps—on the part of Yoweri Museveni.

2) The general context:
There are a number of ways to frame the general context depending on how general one wants to get. Most broadly, it is possible to view the context as one of the tight relationship between colonialism and the rise of modern genocide. In Exterminate All the Brutes Sven Lindqvist follows Hannah Arendt to make the argument that the genocides on the part of fascist and totalitarian regimes in the mid-twentieth century, including the Nazi genocide of the Jews, are not unique circumstances, but rather constitute the continuation of a colonial mindset that developed most vigorously in the exploration and subsequent occupation of sub-Saharan Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century. The book is an extended reflection on its title, which comes from the last sentence of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Lindqvist states his conclusion early: "The core of European thought? Yes, there is one sentence ["Exterminate all the brutes"], a short simple sentence, only a few words, summing up the history of our continent... It says nothing about Europe as the original home on earth of humanism, democracy, and welfare. It says nothing about everything we are quite rightly proud of. It simply tells the truth we prefer to forget."31

Lindqvist makes clear that the colonial justification for the right to mass killing is grounded in what anthropologists call a unilinear view of social evolution.32 The colonial powers mapped the differences between sub-Saharan cultures and their own onto a worldview that had humanity evolving through pre-specified stages. Given the assumption that European culture was at the most advanced stage, the colonizers identified the cultures of Africa as belonging to earlier stages. This evolutionary scheme is what gives rise to the distinctions between barbaric and civilized, primitive and modern. Of importance here is that although the colonizers often turned to rougher, more blatant terms— "brutes," "animals," "insects," and the like—to refer to Africans, such appeals were and are not always necessary to leverage the act of genocide.

Uganda is noteworthy for the way in which the colonizers ruled. In 1894, the British named Uganda a protectorate and in 1896 included the people of northern Uganda in this designation. That Uganda was a protectorate and not a colony is critical because in the former the British dominated through "indirect" rule, that is, by designating one indigenous group to rule over the rest on behalf of the empire. Indirect rule, coupled with the British quest for bureaucratic order, hardened and reified ethnic differences by setting African over against African.33 The British made the Baganda people in the South, who already had a centralized political system that more closely resembled that of the colonizers, the administrators of the protectorate. The local rulers adopted colonial methods on behalf of the colonizer and for their own benefit.

Over one hundred ten years later, a form of indirect rule continues. As stated earlier, President Museveni's National Resistance Movement government receives forty percent of its budget from foreign aid in a way that reinforces his twenty-five year presidency and lack of democratic accountability (again, in the last campaign, he jailed his main opponent, Kizza Besigye, on trumped up charges of rape and treason). What is taking place in Uganda today is de factor indirect rule by the donor nations. They get a president who meets their strategic interests, and he gets to rule in perpetuity.

In the meantime, Museveni thinks of northern Uganda (and the DRC) in much the same way that colonialists thought of African countries: as a source of personal economic gain through plunder.34 This is the context within which to understand Museveni's public use of the terms "primitive" and "backward" to refer to the Acholi over against his depiction of "modern" and "civilized" societies, and his referring to the Acholi as "insects." It is also why the references to the Acholi as monkeys and chimpanzees in the memo attributed to Museveni are not surprising. As indicated earlier, he, too, conceives of these terms and the Acholi within a unilinear social evolutionary framework.

3)     the perpetuation of other reprehensible acts systematically directed against the same group:

Like I indicated earlier, most, though far from all, of the "other reprehensible acts" committed against the Acholi on the part of the NRA/UPDF occurred before the International Criminal Court came into being. It is still critical to investigate these atrocities because they go to the issue of intent with regard to the policy of forced displacement and undo the claims of an intent to protect the Acholi people. The UN needs to do a mapping report of even pre-2002 atrocities in northern Uganda.

In the meantime, it is important to note that the cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and even participation, again, in what the UN report calls "a campaign of ethnic cleansing" in the DRC on the part of the UPDF indicates that the decline of these kinds of overt and more readily documented atrocities on the part of the NRM/UPDF in Uganda since 2002 is not due to an increase in professionalism, as is sometimes claimed. Rather, the evidence is that the decline in such cases is due to the fact that the combination of horrid camp conditions and the continued presence of the LRA in Uganda was sufficient to meet the goal of "drastically reduc[ing] the population" of the Acholi as stated in the memo. In fact, the efficiency of the displacement method in meeting this goal actually freed up military personnel for the exploitation of resources in the DRC. It is not incidental that the formation of the camps and the commitment of Ugandan troops to the DRC occurred in the same year.

4)     the scale and number of atrocities committed:

Again, according to the World Health Organization, there were 52,000 excess deaths in the camps in 2005, the tenth year since Museveni's military-enforced mandate that all people in northern Uganda move to the camps. In the earlier years, there were fewer people in the camps but the conditions were far worse. For instance, the WHO reports that Pader, one of the three districts, "was almost entirely inaccessible due to insecurity for much of 2001 through 2003."35 Estimates of the number of people Idi Amin had killed during his seven year reign range from 100,000 to 500,000. Even conservative extrapolation from the WHO study indicates that the number of Acholi deaths due to the forced displacement by Museveni, Saleh, and the NRM/UPDF clearly surpasses 100,000, and is perhaps closer to 300,000, the number of deaths often attributed to Amin's regime. Once we bring ourselves around to the fact, as the Convention on Genocide clearly has, that planned deaths via starvation, malnutrition and similar causes—again, a policy of not enough soldiers to protect the camps but enough soldiers to keep the people there and away from their gardens and livelihoods—count every bit as much as atrocities as deaths by gun or machete, then it is not difficult to understand why the mass forced displacement of the Acholi constitutes genocide on the part of Museveni and his cohort.

5)     the fact of targeting certain victims systematically because of their membership of a particular group:

The Acholi were chronologically the first and always numerically by far the most in the IDP camps. Forced displacement by the NRM/UPDF was practiced only in Acholi districts, even though other districts—for instance, Lira and Soroti—came under heavy LRA attack.36 These facts fit with the memo's singling out of the Acholi people.

6)     the fact that the victims had been massacred with no regard for their age and gender:

Again, once we get used to the fact that "massacres" can take place, in the words of the Convention on Genocide, by "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part," then the criterion that there is no regard for age or gender is not problematic for a determination of genocide. In fact, those who suffer most in camp conditions are the very young and the very old because their immune systems are weak and their general strength is low. The "regard for age or gender" criterion is intended to highlight that many attacks on a population focus on the adult males, who can passably be taken as combatants, and it has been mostly males who have be singled out as such by the UPDF. Death in the camps, however, concentrates most on those who the law of war would most put in the category of the noncombatant: young children and the infirm elderly. Add to this the fact of rape as a common practice on the part of the UPDF in the camps, even after 2002,37 and it is evident that all camp residents suffered and many of them died under Museveni's enforced mandate.

7) the consistent and methodical manner in which acts were committed:
At the time of the WHO study, 1.2 million people, around 90% of the population of the districts in Acholiland, lived in 121 camps. The rest of the Acholi moved to the towns. In addition to the forced displacement in 1996, the NRM/UPDF repeated the measure of forced displacement for all remaining people in the villages in 2002 and again in 2004 (after the signing of the Rome Statute and the founding of the ICC). Anyone found outside the camps was deemed a rebel. There is no question, then, that the operation was both consistent and methodical.

It is clear from the evidence above, then, that not only the actions but the specific intent—the dolus specialis —of Museveni, Saleh, and the NRM/UPDF's policies and activities towards the Acholi, policies and activities that continued well after 2002, constitutes genocide in the strict legal sense. Given the disregard for human life exhibited by these parties towards Congolese citizens as highlighted in the 2010 UN mapping report, such genocidal intent and activity towards the Acholi ought not come as much of a surprise. The only question now is whether the various international institutions, including the International Criminal Court, will fulfill their mandates and responsibilities with regard to this matter.

  • 1. See United Nations, "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide," Dec. 9, 1948,
  • 2. UNOHCHR, "Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003," 500. The report cites Jelisic decision, ICTY, Appeals chamber, no. IT-95-10-A, July 5, 2001, 49; and ICJ, Decision on Genocide, 189: "It is also necessary to distinguish the specific intention from the other reasons or motives the perpetrator may have."
  • 3. UNOHCHR, "Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003," 505.
  • 4. Ibid., 489.
  • 5. Ibid., 482 and n.899. The UN report also cites Rule 54 of customary international humanitarian law.
  • 6. UNOHCHR, "Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003," 506. The report cites Brdanin decision, ICTY, Trial chamber, no. IT-99-36-T, Sept. 1, 2004, 700; and Kristic arrest, ICTY, Appeals chamber, no. IT-98-33-A, April 19, 2004, 8.
  • 7. UNOHCHR, "Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003," 508.
  • 8. Kristic decision, ICTY, Appeals chamber, no. IT-98-33-A, April 19, 2004, 134.
  • 9. UNOHCHR, "Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003," 366.
  • 10. Ibid., 522.
  • 11. Olara Otunnu, "Saving Our Children from the Scourge of War," Speech delivered on the occasion of the 2006 Sydney Peace Prize, Parts I and II, published in The Monitor, Jan. 8, 2006, available at; also Otunnu, "The Secret Genocide," Foreign Policy, June 9, 2006,
  • 12. Ruddy Doom and Koen Vlassenroot, "Kony's Message: A New Koine?" African Affairs 98 (1999): 26.
  • 13. Branch, "The Political Dilemmas of Global Justice," 22.
  • 14. Rodriguez Soto, Tall Grass, 21-22.
  • 15. Helen Nkabala Nambalirwa, "'The Lord Destroyed the Cities and Everyone Who Lived in Them': The Lord's Resistance Army's Use of the Old Testament Sodom/Gomorrah Narrative," in Culture, Religion, and the Reintegration of Female Child Soldiers in Northern Uganda, ed. Bard Maeland (New York: Peter Lang, 2010): 181-192.
  • 16. The issue of the culpability of atrocities committed by abductees, particularly children, is a complex one that needs more space to be worked out than I can provide here.
  • 17. See, for instance, Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: HarperCollins, 2002); and Samuel Totten and William S. Parsons, eds., Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2009).
  • 18. Again, see Human Rights Watch, "A Media Minefield: Increased Threats to Freedom of Expression in Uganda."
  • 19. UNOHCHR, "Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003," 349, 402, and 444.
  • 20. Samson Ntale, "ICC to investigate Ugandan army," CNN, June 3, 2010,
  • 21. Ministry of Health, The Republic of Uganda, "Health and Mortality Survey Among Internally Displaced Persons in Gulu, Kitgu, and Pader Districts, Northern Uganda," July 2005, ii,
  • 22. See note 6 in Part II above for further references on the unwillingness of the UPDF to protect the camps adequately.
  • 23. UNOHCHR, "Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003," 482.
  • 24. Ibid., 489.
  • 25. Ibid., 482 and n.899. The UN report also cites Rule 54 of customary international humanitarian law.
  • 26. Gregory H. Stanton, "The 8 Stages of Genocide," Genocide Watch,1,
  • 27. See David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Solving the Puzzle of Dehumanization (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011). See also the Facebook community by the name, Less Than Human: Solving the Puzzle of Dehumanization.
  • 28. Shariat (a weekly Ugandan newspaper), April 15-21, 1998; Museveni repeated the comments to the East African Law Society. Cf. "Watch Out, M-7, Uganda is Unkind to Dictators," The East African, June 9, 2003.
  • 29. Gregory H. Stanton, "The 8 Stages of Genocide," 2.
  • 30. On the Holodomor, see
  • 31. Sven Lindqvist, "Exterminate All the Brutes": One Man's Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide (New York: The New Press, 1992), ix-x and 3.
  • 32. Unilinear evolutionism accounts for differences between cultures not by pointing to differences in space—"They are different because they developed over there"—but by constructing differences in time—"They are different because they are from earlier and lower stages of evolution." The theory of unilinear evolution has been used to justify and animate racist policies of exploitation.
  • 33. On indirect rule, see Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).
  • 34. The irony is that Museveni describes himself as anti-colonial even while he mimics colonial dehumanizing speech and economic exploitation. In 1987 he writes, "It is inevitable and desirable that a clash of this type between the forces of patriotism and modernization, on the one hand, and the remnants of colonialism and forces of backwardness, takes place in order to ensure a stable Uganda." See "NRA to cover rebel areas," New Vision, August 21, 1987. However, the more Museveni presses his claim in the terms of "primitivity" versus "modernity," the more he mimics colonialism. Indeed, it is arguable that, given the fact that Museveni has ruled without interruption since 1986, the NRM merely continues in the services of the indirect rule of developed countries in the present day.
  • 35. Ministry of Health, The Republic of Uganda, "Health and Mortality Survey Among Internally Displaced Persons," 2.
  • 36. See Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre/Norwegian Refugee Council, "Uganda: Returns Outpace Recovery Planning," August 19, 2009, 24-38,$file/Uganda_Overview_Aug09.pdf.