FOCUS ON UGANDA

Tonight on The Terrordome (6 pm Mountain Time on cjsr.com, or 88.5 FM in Edmonton): FOCUS ON UGANDA.

My guest will be 26 year-old Joseph Ekemu. Hailing from Uganda, he’s spent the last five years in Canada searching for ways to help his homeland from the multiple miseries of civil war, the AIDS pandemic and one-party rule. Ekemu holds an MA in Political Science with a certificate in Globalisation, and is currently a research assistant in the Children and Armed Conflict Project of the University of Alberta’s Department of Political Science.

A year ago Ekemu helped establish The Child is Innocent Foundation with four other Edmontonians and another seven board members in Boston to found a sister chapter. TCIF’s mission is to rebuild educational opportunities and provide medical care for children suffering the effects of the 18-year old war in Northern Uganda, a conflict which has rendered over 800,000 people homeless and which has been especially devastating to the Acholi nationality.

During our discussion, he speaks on the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Christian fundamentalist militia terrorising Uganda in a brutal war involving atrocities and child soldiers. Joseph Ekemu will be speaking about solutions to Uganda’s problems, and how you can get involved this Saturday. We’ll also hear stories from all over Uganda on everything from boys facing the AIDS pandemic to Uganda’s economic obstacles with used clothing and used computers.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

While it’s easy in Canada to picture Uganda in the simplistic “ooga-booga” stereotypes of Afrikan safaris, loin cloths and jungle animals, Ugandan history begins with migrations from further west on the Continent about 500 years before Christ. Reaching its zenith between 1100 and 1600, the Bachwezi Dynasty achieved a unified kingdom sprawling over modern-day Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and Tanzania. European and Arab intrusion, aided by Christian and Muslim antagonism towards domestic religions, successfully drove wedges inside Ugandan society from which the country has never recovered.

Beyond the religious predation on Ugandan society by foreigners, British imperialism sucked the country of its natural resources and guaranteed an unstable political economy for decades to come. Achieving formal independence for Uganda in 1962, the country’s populist government was soon overthrown by the British, US and Israeli-backed Idi Amin, the dictator who eventually oversaw the expulsion of tens of thousands of foreigners and the killing of about 300,000 Ugandans, only to be overthrown himself by Ugandan rebels and Tanzania. Since then, the Ugandan regime headed by Yoweri Museveni hasn’t exactly been a pearl of liberty and good governance. Britain has recently cut aid to the country, claiming as motive Uganda’s slow progress towards multiparty democracy, although Museveni is elected. National elections are scheduled for next year, but Museveni is already floating the idea of dispensing with constitutional term limits for the presidency.

And if those problems weren’t enough, the AIDS pandemic has wrought devastation upon Uganda, gutting a generation and imperiling its children. And added into this horror is the chief antagonist in Uganda’s northern war, the Lord’s Resistance Army, sworn to overthrow the government and implement rule under the Ten Commandments. Its atrocities approach the horrific scale of the civil war in distant Sierra Leone.

This Saturday The Child is Innocent Foundation is holding a fundraising dinner and dance to aid its educational and medical projects. It’s called “A Night in Africa.” The event begins 6:30 at the Portuguese Canadian Cultural Centre on 129th Avenue and 52nd St, with an auction, live musical performances, a banquet catered by Langano Skies Ethiopian Restaurant, and a dance. Tickets are $20. For information, call 993-0383.

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