[Black Star News Editorial]
By Milton Allimadi, December 21, 2007
For more than 20 years critics of Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni contended that his government’s policy of confining nearly two million Acholis in squalid concentration camps amounted to mass death sentences—that the regime was intent on depopulating Acholi in order to seize fertile lands.
Such talk was often dismissed as “conspiracy theory.” Now the assertions are coming to fruition right before our eyes.
Since the Museveni government was aware that people were dying in the thousands through hunger, thirst, diseases, and sexual abuse, and still continued to maintain the concentration camps, critics saw the mass deaths as deliberate policy.
The Museveni regime and international relief agencies referred to the camps euphemistically as “internally displaced people’s camps (IDPs). The Museveni regime claimed the 200 or so death centers were intended to “protect” Acholis from the vicious attacks of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgents.
Well how many Acholis were protected? Uganda’s own Ministry of Health and The World Health Organization (WHO) in a report concluded in 2005 that there were as many as 1,000 excess deaths per week in these camps.
As The Black Star News has pointed out before on these pages, this translates to 52,000 deaths per year. Since the forced government-ordered encampment of Acholis has lasted for more than 20 years now, more than a million people may have perished in these camps.
In other words, the Museveni regime was responsible for several-fold more deaths than the LRA, his own Ministry of Health reported.
So, is Museveni’s government in a rush to dismantle the concentration centers? On the contrary, the government is more focused on a land-grab campaign---to steal land in Amuru, some of which may belong to people still in the camps, confirming what the “conspiracy” theorists have asserted all along. Releasing people from the camps would get in the way of awarding the land to developers.
This Wednesday, Museveni himself reportedly attended a secret meeting in Acholi. The objective was to arm twist Acholis into awarding fertile land to investors, including possibly the Ugandan Asian industrialists, the Madhvanis, who want to build a sugar plantation.
The Madhvanis must beware of profiting from blood-money. Let the owners of the land –or their heirs if they have died in the camps— make the decision about what to do with the land.
The Madhvanis may love money, but more than any other people, they must know what it means to be dispossessed. Have they forgotten the illegal seizure of their properties after Idi Amin ordered Asians out of Uganda? They must not allow the regime to use the Madhvani wealth to intimidate and coerce Acholis. The Madhvanis, if they are a people with conscience, must empathize with the Acholis who face dispossession.
Moreover, the Madhvanis, who are engaged in global business, would not want to tarnish their reputation by being associated in any possible land grab.
Kony and Museveni have been disastrous for Acholis. Kony eventually will answer for his actions and for those of his LRA combatants. The International Criminal Court (ICC) already has issued warrants for the arrest of Kony and his top lieutenants.
Who will answer for the million-plus Acholis who died in the concentration camps as a result of the orders issued by the Uganda government to confine them? Who will protect the land for their children? Where are the warrants for the authors of the “Final Acholi Solution”?
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