Kony 2012: It’s Baaaack!

Amanda and I will be participating in the Congo in Harlem panel “Kony 2012: Lessons for the Congo” this Friday. Come check it out if you’re in New York.

Meanwhile, the new Kony 2012 video, “Move,” dropped yesterday, and it’s… well, not really even interesting enough for me to finish this sentence. See for yourself:

There’s a neat screenshot of Amanda and my first Atlantic piece at 15:23, but otherwise it’s mostly just crying. (See Katie J.M. Baker’s Jezebel post for the full run-down, plus coverage of Jason Russell’s Oprah interview.)

At minute 28:53, they finally get down to business and announce a march – or an invasion, it’s hard to tell – on the White House next month. Apparently, I’m not the only one who had difficulty establishing what, exactly, the plan is. The Guardian reported it as follows:


11:18am update: I’m still not clear on what the new campaign is, but apparently it involves a Global Dance Night. For reals.

(H/T: @AfricasaCountry for the screenshot)

WTF Friday, 4/29/11

Uh, not exactly great timing, dude.

Invitations to the royal wedding appear arbitrary, but the feelings hurt are not!
Say it ain’t so, Egypt. Just when I thought I knew you guys…
This dudelaughs” at immunity deal for Saleh. This is such lazy journalism. Was it a belly-laugh, a snigger, a guffaw? The people have a right to know.

WTF Friday (Err, Saturday), 2/19/11

Voting going pretty well in Uganda. Oh, except for this little incident. Gotta admit that is a pretty good prank, though.

Oxymoron of the week: “CNN interviews Bahrain’s special envoy to the U.S., Abdul Latif bin Rashid al Zayani, who says ‘we need to have dialogue … we need to calm down.’ He also said Bahrain’s king is ‘committed to democracy.'”

Somebody’s got a bday coming up! The folks from Reporters without Borders are definitely not getting invited: “The time when Zimbabwe was southern Africa’s breadbasket is long gone. No matter. Monday is his birthday. Like a boy, that’s all he can think about right now.” 87 and young at heart. What a guy.

WTF Friday, 1/28/2011

“The Egyptian government appears ready to do all it can to force citizens back into their homes.” Funny. My mom would cut off the Internet to force me to go outside.

For Belarusian president Aleksander Lukashenko, sanctions, sanctions, and more sanctions. Invoking a Belarusian folk saying, the prez had this to say: “Don’t start a fire at your neighbour’s house. It might just spread to yours.” Dare I say, another hot metaphor?

Ugandan gay activist, David Kato, was beaten to death in his home on Wednesday. To make matters worse, some asshole priest decided, amongst hundreds of mourners, to go on his (wholly original) “homosexuality is evil” rant. Really doing God’s work there.

WTF Friday, 10/22/10

In “creepy as shit” news, a life-size sculpture of comatose Ariel Sharon has premiered at the Kishon Art Gallery in Tel-Aviv, complete with open eyes and (somehow) the appearance of breathing. Truly disturbing stuff…

The “Rolling Stone” newspaper (no relation) of Uganda has published the names and addresses of gay and lesbian Ugandans, encouraging readers to, no exaggeration, “hang them.” At least four people have been attacked so far. How unbelievably shitty.

Former President of Botswana and chairperson of the Champions for an HIV Free Generation , Festus Mogae, has spoken out against the possible criminalization of HIV infection in Zambia. Great now let’s try not to invoke homosexuality in this con…well, I tried…

Women of Kireka

As some of you probably know, I’m based in Kampala for the summer. If you’re around, or have tips about things I might want to go poke my nose into, please get in touch via the blog email address.

And speaking of poking my nose into things: Last weekend I went with Siena Anstis and TMS (Teddy) Ruge of Project Diaspora to visit the Women of Kireka, a jewelery-making business owned by a group of women living in the Acholi Quarters outside of Kampala (background here).

The situation in the Acholi Quarters is rough -tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the north inhabit slums on the side of a hill in Kireka. They support themselves by working in the local quarry (pictured at right), carving out rocks and crushing them into gravel. This is a grueling and dangerous line of work.

The quarry has been the subject of a number of press reports (see, e.g., Glenna Gordon’s excellent reporting on Stephen Batte, the “Ugandan orphan with a web presence“). However, the attention has not yielded an improvement in the lot of the people living there. Their plight exemplifies a broader problem of urban IDPs being left out of official resettlement and humanitarian aid efforts. As this 2008 bulletin by the Refugee Law Project makes clear, while rural IDPs (those living in camps) are the target of significant assistance, urban IDPs’ low visibility often means they “slip through the cracks.”

Founded by Siena, and advised by Project Diaspora, the Women of Kireka project is an effort to provide a sustainable means for the women to support themselves and their children outside of the quarry. The women make beaded jewelry out of found paper, the partners help them with marketing and sales, and they use the proceeds to reinvest in the business and pay for their children’s school fees. Below are some of their completed products. (Note: One of the women showed me how they make the beads – not an easy process!)

You might be thinking to yourself: “What a great idea! Why aren’t there more projects like this?” There are a number of them, but, as Teddy explained, handouts are still the default because it’s far more difficult to secure funding for an entrepreneurial enterprise than a charity. In other words, if you want to pay school fees for IDP children, great, register yourself an NGO and you shouldn’t have too much trouble convincing donors to fund you. But if you want to help the mothers of those IDP children form a business that will enable them to pay their children’s school fees themselves, well, good luck.

Unsurprisingly, this incentive structure produces way more local NGOs than local businesses, a scenario that is ultimately not self-sustaining. To quote the mission statement of Teddy’s organization: “Africa’s development can not continue to depend on international NGO programs and developmental aid, powered by global sympathy.” Indeed.

Insert ‘Justice League’ Joke Here

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni played a friendly game of soccer in Kampala today to “highlight the work of the International Criminal Court.” (The ICC is currently the subject of a major review conference meeting in Uganda’s capital city.)

Am I the only one who thinks naming the teams “Dignity” and “Justice” was a huge missed opportunity to compete “Peace” vs. “Justice” and settle the issue once and for all?

Update: AFP seems to have blocked the embedded link, but you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUweOt0Hlyo

Who Wants to Move to Uganda?

We get a lot of reader emails asking for career advice and specifically, for help getting paid work in the human rights or development fields. Usually, we can’t offer much more than an encouraging “Just keep banging your head against that wall until you get tired of it and switch to an easier career path, like neurosurgery. “

But today is different!

Today I have an exciting offer for you, all for the low low price of $19.95 plus shipping & handling. (Actually, it’s free.) A project I am working on at Columbia has an opening for an RA, to be based in Kampala for at least a year, starting this summer.

Details and application instructions here: http://www.idealist.org/if/i/en/av/Job/378507-264

Museveni Realizes Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill Is a Gigantic Embarrassment, Backs Away Slowly

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has apparently connected the dots between the hideously repressive Anti-Homosexuality Bill under consideration in Parliament and the gajillion dollars in assistance that Uganda receives annually from liberal western governments.

The bill (which I posted on previously here) would expand the repertoire of Uganda’s institutionalized homophobia considerably and embroil snarky bloggers everywhere in a race to coin a catchy slang term for the act of failing to report another’s gayness “to the relevant authorities within twenty-four hours of having first had that knowledge.”

As recently as two months ago, Museveni seemed to be on board with neutralizing the gay menace, cautioning Uganda’s youth to watch out for “European homosexuals [] recruiting in Africa.” However, the Ugandan government has come under substantial pressure from both NGOs and donor governments, including the U.S. (motto: “America – A Marginally Better Place to Be Gay than Uganda”).

Museveni’s comments today, as reported by AFP, suggest that he’s gotten the message:

“Because it is a foreign policy issue, it is not just our internal politics, and we must handle it in a way which does not compromise our principles but also takes into account our foreign policy interests.”

The bill’s sponsor, Parliament Member David Bahati, has so far refused to withdraw it. However, as this letter to the New York Times points out, Museveni undoubtedly has the power to compel Parliament to get rid of the bill. So cross your fingers that we can soon all settle back into complaining about Uganda’s corrupt government and lack of democratic process and forget this whole thing ever happened.

Creepy Christian Evangelicals, Godless Liberal Hippies Agree: Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill Is Bad News

Well, it’s official. Absolutely nobody thinks Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a good idea.

The bill, which would double-plus-criminalize (yes, that’s the technical term for criminalizing something that’s already criminal) homosexuality, criminalize failure on the part of a relevant authority to report another’s homosexuality (!!), and mandate the death penalty for acts of”aggravated homosexuality,” has already been decried by France, the U.S., Human Rights Watch, and a bunch of people outside the Ugandan mission to the U.N. today.

But now gay-conversion-superstars Exodus International (motto: “Jesus is the antidote to gay”) have added their voices to the chorus of condemnation. According to the gay intarwebbers at queerty.com (warning: site’s ads may be NSFW) Exodus’s concern is just business: If Uganda’s gays are executed, they lose a major market for Jesus-based conversion.

Our old pal (Ugandan Ethics and Integrity Minister) Buturo blames human rights for the resistance to the bill, noting that he is “really getting tired of this phrase human rights.” You and me both, buddy.