the elusive enigma

Although general peace has returned to Northern Uganda, the man who formed the Lord’s Resistance Army and instigated the thousands of ruthless murders and abductions – Joseph Kony –  is still on the run.  How hard can it be to find a band of 1,000 rebel soldiers hiding in the jungles of Congo?  More difficult than most people would guess, apparently.

Newsweek published an indepth article on Kony this week.  Here are some of the highlights:

The hunt for Joseph Kony has been marked by one spectacular failure after another.  In 2006, in an unprecedented move, the United Nations mounted a covert operation to capture or kill him…The LRA fighters slaughtered them all and, according to one account, beheaded the commander. Some reports put the U.N. dead at eight; others say as many as 40 counterinsurgency troops may have died that morning. The LRA left the corpses in the jungle but took the weapons—including heavy machine guns and grenade launchers.

Kony’s chief negotiator [at the peace talks] was a man named David Matsanga, a Ugandan exile who had also done public-relations work for Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. According to several people who worked with him, Matsanga was more “conflict entrepreneur” than credible negotiator. Insiders say he was paranoid and unstable, too. They say he tested his food with a “poison detector” before meals, and if he happened to look away while eating he would demand a fresh plate of food, which also had to be tested before he resumed his meal.

The United States contributed more than $10 million to underwrite the process. Still, it became clear that Kony had no intention of signing any agreement that didn’t guarantee his immunity from prosecution…Before every meeting, Kony would insist on receiving a shipment of food for his “5,000 fighters”—although he’s believed to have no more than 800 at any given time. Makassa says the LRA stashed the provisions for future operations.

At one point she quietly asked Museveni, “Why don’t you just ambush Kony when he’s in one of these meetings?” “We don’t ambush people,” Museveni told her. “If we’re in the bush and somebody’s back is turned, before we strike, we’ll cough.”

Regarding “Operation Lightning Thunder” in December 2008:

Acholi opposition politician chairman Norbert Mao, a tough critic of Museveni’s handling of Kony, put it more harshly: “We had the intel, and if the U.S. had been better involved, it would have been a pinpoint operation. I suspect that sometimes the incompetent management of the military may be deliberate.”

I have to admit that I often wonder if Mao is right.

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letter from a stranger

When I go to the field to visit our programs, I often receive requests from the beneficiaries.  Typically, they will ask for t-shirts or bicycles or even ID cards.  Sometimes the request comes in the form of a speech and other times I receive a written letter.  Last week, on a field visit in Western Uganda, I received a letter from a man who was not quite “all there.”  Rather than requesting material items, however, this man gave a list of advice.  The list not only made me smile (and laugh), but it amazed me for it’s simple profundity.  Allow me to share it with you:

1.  Prayer is important.

2.  Becoming serious about God is very important.

3.  Why hang yourself in a skyscraper?

4.  Trusting in God is extremely nice/crucial.

5.  Never commit suicide when the Almighty God is still in existence.

6.  Never trust in anyone who is not God.

It’s one of the best letters I’ve received from a beneficiary.  And I don’t even know his name.

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what we behold on the cross

“As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection. He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind:  as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.”


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globalization in action

It has arrived in Lira.  And it's a big hit.

It has arrived in Lira.

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the life of a king

Jesus told us that we would always have the poor among us. But is that an excuse to live as if they aren’t?

Some people seem to think as much. Below are some excerpts from a recent NYT article on the King of Swaziland.

“How can the king live in luxury while his people suffer?” asked Siphiwe Hlophe, a human rights activist. “How much money does he need, anyway?”

That question was as confounding as it was impertinent. In the government’s latest budget, about $30 million was set aside for “royal emoluments.”

But surely the king’s income exceeds that, people said. The royal family also controls a corporate business empire “in trust for the nation,” investing in sugar cane, commercial property and a newspaper. recently listed Mswati III as the world’s 15th wealthiest monarch, estimating his fortune at $200 million.

But is this not the way of the world? The king, after all, is the king. The poor, after all, are the poor.

And then this:

Of course, being king is not without its own difficulties. In 2001, faced with the relentlessness of the AIDS pandemic, Mswati III invoked an ancient chastity rite, asking Swazi maidens to refrain from sex for five years. He then violated his own rule by selecting a 17-year-old as his ninth wife. To show the extent of his regret, he paid the customary fine of one cow.

In 2003, an 18-year-old caught the king’s eye, and some of the royal aides fetched the young woman from her school. The teenager’s mother was unwilling to part with her daughter in this manner and had the audacity to sue the king in a Swazi court. This dispute ended only when the girl convinced her mother that she was happy to become the king’s next bride.

And if that wasn’t enough:

In the film, Mswati III acknowledged the poor: “It’s always very sad when you see a lot of them sick about their lives, how difficult it is, how difficult they are coping, looking after their families and so on. And then you see sometimes that you wish to help them but the funds are always not enough.”

Mswati is not the only African leader guilty of such revolting behavior; many others share similar lifestyles. I read the other day that two thirds of Africa’s wealth is held outside of the continent. This is a bit perplexing, given that international donor money often constitutes up to half of a country’s government spending.

However, maybe we should also ask Siphiwe’s question of ourselves: how much money do we need, anyway?

Read the entire, somewhat cynical, article here.

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our animal farm

My friends back home are all getting pregnant and having babies at the moment. I guess that’s what happens around this time of life for some people. (For the record, I am not pregnant.) To add to the baby craze, however, all of the animals around me have been making their own contributions to the world population.

We have our own mini-farm here, and apparently giving birth is the standard procedure for animals in August.

A couple of weeks ago, our six-month old cat gave birth to three kittens. (I had no idea cats could get pregnant so young!!)

Last week, our goat – who is also very young – gave birth. Contrary to Ugandan tradition, my staff decided to give the baby goat a name. Since no one bothered to check whether it was male or female, they decided just to name it Davis. I guess it’s probably a good thing no one checked. One can only speculate what the goat’s name would be if it turned out to be a female.

All of these newborns are very cute, I must admit. And it has been an amazing thing to watch the mothers take care of their young ones. It seems to come so naturally for them.

Upon observing the goat who had just given birth and didn’t look at all fatigued by the experience, one staff member – who is seven months pregnant herself – commented, “I don’t think animals have labor pains like we do.”

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the riches of a recession

There are certain people that I find to be quite interesting, whether or not I agree with them. I found this excerpt from a recent article on Joel Osteen, one of those people, to be incredibly revealing and thought I would share it:

Osteen will tell you that his success is a result of God’s favor, that his message is God’s message, and that all that he has achieved is a blessing from God. Clearly, he is more than just an inspiring pastor; he is also a master marketer and-pardon me for saying this, Joel-a damn good chief executive.

He presides over an empire that takes in tens of millions of dollars a year and has been growing at a boom-time pace. (Though Osteen gives a significant portion of his book and CD earnings to the church, his take is still ample enough to allow him and his family to live in 5,000 square feet of leopard-skinned luxury in one of Houston’s tonier neighborhoods.) Rough economic times, Osteen believes, make the business of saving souls that much richer. “I would think that our message would have increased relevancy in a time of economic uncertainty. I think people want to know that God is taking care of you. As it gets darker, I think the brighter message shines.”

Within the article, there are several gems just like the one above. Read the whole thing here.

How subtle is his message of prosperity?

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