A bitter sweet peace.
Posted on August 30th, 2006
Peace is on the way and for the first time in twenty years, residents of Northern Uganda will be able to sleep through the night without fear. At least that’s the hope. With the announcement of a truce between the LRA and the Uganda government, there is hope for peace.
But it is likely to be a bitter sweet peace. The desire for hostilities to be at an end was so great that the Acholi people are now willing to forgive the perpetrators of ‘crimes against humanity’ in order to be able to feel safe once more.
But what does the future bode? What recourse will the victims who are unwilling to forgive and want to seek redress? Will they be allowed legal recourse or is Kony now immune from prosecution, thereby denying the victims their rights again in the most cruel way imaginable.
How will a society come to terms with men like Kony and other LRA leaders walking in their midst? Men who have perpetrated some of the most heinous crimes they are wanted internationally.
Does Kony’s pardon mean we are going to be treated to the grotesque spectacle of him running for office, perhaps as an MP or even president? After all if there is one thing that he can say in his favour, his name is known by everyone…
It is said peace comes at a high price. This kind of peace may be the bitterest pill of them to swallow.
The Real Thing This Time?
Posted on August 28th, 2006
The headline said it all
Is it the real thing this time? One can only hope. We’ve been here many times before. The absurd demands the LRA has been making do not have me convinced as yet. I’ll believe it is the real deal when I see the LRA leadership come out of the bush and stand before the people they have been terrorizing for the last two decades.
A different spin on an inconvenient truth.
Posted on August 22nd, 2006
With the end of the IAS 2006, the predictable debates and recriminations about whether it was worth it, if anything substantial was achieved, what can be done and where do we go from here will start or more correctly are set to continue.
But there’s one that is almost never mentioned…
90% of Africans do not have AIDS. For the average person in the West, who relies on mass media for their information, this may come as startling news…one could forgive them for the impression that most Africans are ridden with the HI virus…..bombarded by images of stick thin people wasting away from AIDS, orphans fending for themselves… all good TV…I’ve lived there and I appreciate all to easily how this mistaken impression can take hold, how such false perceptions can arise…
I’ll repeat it – 9 out of ten Africans are not infected by the HI virus. Amidst all the gloom and despair, amid all the figures, statistics and data reported on the health of Africans every year, some how this is one that is rarely mentioned, let alone published. In the context of AIDS which is pretty much synonymous with Africa these days these non-infected Africans are all but invisible and often forgotten. Unless they are unfortunate victims of the periodic droughts and famine, wars, or some other newsworthy event, some epidemic, environmental disaster the HIV negative population of Africa are almost all but invisible, always there but never seen, just below the surface of consciousness, like an iceberg most of which floats below the surface of water.
Yep it’s all true. Take a pin, stick it in a map of Africa. Line up 10 persons from whatever region of Africa you have put your pin in, Madagascar, Timbuktu, Nairobi, Kampala, Kinshasa, Shaba Province, Victoria Falls, Apapa Island and you’ll find that overall, only one in ten has the virus. That should be good news right. You’d expect all the NGO’s, multilateral organizations, researchers etc to be emphasizing this fact. But no…
The fact that less than one in ten Africans has AIDS is an inconvenient truth for the most part. Rather than being celebrated, the information is kept on the down low, only referred to in passing. I’ve heard it whispered that if the donors became aware would be less inclined to donate funds; and in a world of limited funding, one must prioritise. So let’s keep it to ourselves. Wink. Wink. And everyone is in on the act.
If one is trying to raise funds; “40% of South Africans aged 15-45 have HIV” or “one in three adults will die of AIDS” is a much better soundbite. And somehow in the media it always translates to the rest of (all of) Africa. If that doesn’t work, how about “Life expectancy dropping to 40 years because of AIDS”; a much more attention grabbing headline to some one who reasonably expects to live twice that. So one cannot blame the average joe for thinking all Africa is full of AIDS.
Here’s a newsflash – donors aren’t giving any more money anyway….
The fact that the vast majority of Africans are free from the virus should be trumpeted in the newspapers, shouted from the roof tops. A different spin should be put on this figure – “The efforts of the last 25 years have successfully kept / are successfully protecting 90% of Africans free from the virus.”
-“ Prevention works – 90% of Africa still free from AIDS.”
Sounds much better than “AIDS projects failing, more people dying from AIDS…”. Maybe this is what donors should be hearing / seeing. It will help counter the general perception feeling of things just getting worse, and maybe money would be better spent on problems with a greater chance of a better outcome.
XVI International AIDS Conference – Another year a
Posted on August 15th, 2006
I’m trying to drum up some eager enthusiasm for the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto that’s going on even as I type. I’ve gone as far as hosting syndicated content from kaisernetwork.org, the official webcaster of the conference. But the fervor just won’t come. The conference statistics are impressive. Here are a few Quick Facts courtesy of AF-AIDS eForum monthly newsletter – August 2006 – Issue 12 Health and Development Networks.
- Estimated 20,000 participants;
- 16,000 people applied for international scholarships – 815 got them;
- another 1,100 scholarships will go to Canadian residents;
- 12,888 abstracts submitted – 4,565 selected for presentation;
- 366 oral presentations;
- Global Village – promoting learning and interaction between the diverse communities affected and responding to AIDS;
- 199 poster discussions;
- 4000 poster exhibitions;
- 86 skills-building workshops; expanded youth programme; cultural activities
It’s been 25 years. So many millions have died, the exact numbers are not known, mostly Africans, most never had any treatment. This is how Ms Graca Machel framed the Leadership Statement at the International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Bangkok, now two years ago. “We are ashamed that some 38 million people are living with HIV/AIDS and fighting the same battles after two decades. Despite all that we have learned about what works in prevention and treatment, the epidemic is on the rise in every region.”
They have rolled out the big guns the Bills – Bill Gates, Bill Clinton.. The stars are in evidence. The theme ‘Time To Deliver”…A slew of jaja’s (grandmas) have beeen flown in from Africa…And oh yes, orphans are once again on the agenda. And what’s the big thing on the horizon I hear? Circumcision…That’s it….In 25 years that’s what we’ve come up with, and less than 10% of those needing medicines are getting them today. …
The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper couldn’t be bothered to attend. (CP/Cananda.com)
It’s enough to make a body weep…all one can do is persevere and soldier on…keep fighting the good fight…So keep tuned and maybe some surprises will turn up. You can view the IAC here… XVI International AIDS Conference
A triumph for common sense in the fight against malaria.
Posted on August 14th, 2006
The tide may be turning once more in the fight against malaria. In what surely must a triumph of commonsense and science over reactionary knee jerk politics, the news that the WHO has decided to endorse the use of DDT in combating malaria is yet another bright spot in the resurgent commitment to defeating the scourge.
The WHO is not known for taking controversial, radical positions, let alone for it’s pioneering spirit, but in the face of overwhelming evidence, the venerable organization finally recognized what everyone else knew, and what experts having been saying for a few years, DDT works.
Though a reluctant convert to the cause, (the WHO needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into the light), it seems to be firmly on the side of the good and the many. Said Dr. Marugasampillay “… these successes have helped guide the new WHO policy, which is based on scientific studies and advice from government and health officials…”
The victory is all the more important, because it puts the lives of humans alive today at the forefront of the public health battle, rather than the future as yet unborn generations, the poster children of environmentalists that have so vehemently opposed the re-introduction of DDT. Well heeled environmental groups, mainly based in the west, with access to funds and well organised media campaigns have fought a rear-guard action for years against DDT, based on spurious research.
Better late than never I say.
Uganda holding its breathe for peace–again
Posted on July 17th, 2006
Once again Uganda is holding it’s breathe for peace. Peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA formally opened on Friday in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba. But prior to this there was much confusion about whether senior LRA leaders would attend. AT first they said they were not interested in the amnesty the Uganda government had offered, then they were.. It does not bode well.
There have been attempts at peace, and each time the LRA have failed to live up to their side of the bargain. Perhaps it is because they have nothing to offer. We have been here before. There is no indication that this time it will be any different. For my part, while I’m a little hopeful, I’m skeptical that anything will be achieved.
G8 hijacked by world events—again
Posted on July 17th, 2006
Another year and more of the same. Events in the Middle East have taken centre stage and driven all other concerns off the table. It was hoped that there would be movement on the global problem of infectious disease which was supposed to be a major item on the summit agenda, but it seems it is not going to happen, according to a senior international official familiar with the kind of negotiations that take place at the G8 “This was an opportunity for a big push forward and now it appears it’s not going to happen,” he said. Coming on the back of the dismal report of the G8 fulfilling last years promises, it seems another year will be lost to conflict.
The more things change….5 years on
Posted on July 11th, 2006
By chance I came across some old webpages cached from 5 years ago, the very early days of Medilinks. At the time Medilinks was hosted at www.medilinks.org. A lot has changed over the last 5 years, and yet depressingly a lot has remained the same. The subjects I was writing about at that time in 2001 such as malaria, the lack of doctors, HIV/AIDS are the same familiar subjects that are being debated today. A lot has changed in the last 5 years but equally unfortunately a lot has stayed the same. To coin that old cliché plus ca change, plus ca meme…Come to think of it I’ve used that before….
Malaria was on my mind, when I wrote Malaria no longer the forgotten epidemic. Malaria was the ugly stepchild of health…
At the time funding for fighting malaria was woefully low, estimated at a mere $100 million dollars a year. So the donation of US$ 100 million to Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health by an anonymous donor was big news. Other news was the start of clinical trials for vaccines and reports of the success of insecticide treated nets in preventing malaria in children…. Looking back it’s startling to realize that Africa Malaria Day has only been marked for the last 5 years, the same age as Medilinks. It shows just how low malaria was on the priorities of health and policy planners. Malaria is no longer the ugly step child of health…it has big players looking to find a solution…most notably the Gates Foundation which already had billions and was recently awarded another staggering $38 billion dollars from Warren Buffet. Is there a chance that malaria will defeated in our lifetime? Watch this space.
It was also blindingly obvious 5 years ago there were not enough health professionals to ensure the success of treatment programs for HIV/AIDS in Africa which I wrote about in an article entitled “>http://web.archive.org/web/20010927000434/http://www.medilinks.org/
Overdue for Women
Posted on July 10th, 2006
For more than 50 years we have known how to manage safe child birth and yet more than 500,000 women die a year from preventable causes during childbirth, the most natural of processes. Most are from the developed world, many from Africa. This week comes a report that, “more than four million women and girls in Africa undergo unsafe abortions annually, and about 34,000 of them die because of complications from the procedure,ore than four million women and girls in Africa undergo unsafe abortions annually, and about 34,000 of them die because of complications from the procedure”, it is a horrific and unnecessary toll on the women of Africa ( Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy).
So it is nice to report the tireless Stephen Lewis, U.N. Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, is turning his efforts to creating a U.N. agency to address women’s rights and needs (Mallard, VOA News, 7/7). Lewis said “women are suffering grievously all over the world” because of a lack of economic empowerment and exposure to maternal mortality, armed conflict, HIV/AIDS and sexual violence. “[As] I watch the carnage and ravages of AIDS in Africa and the toll it has taken on women, I know that finally, after 50 years of passivity and paralysis, it’s time to have an agency through which women can assert their rights,”
According to Lewis, “The agency would not replace other U.N groups that work on women’s issues, including the World Health Organization and the U.N. Population Fund, according to Lewis. “I wouldn’t think for a moment of taking pieces out of reputable existing agencies, which are doing a good job. … [I am] advocating for a new, independent, full-fledged operational [U.N.] Agency with country capacity on the ground, much like UNICEF,” Lewis said (VOA News, 7/7). Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report
Uganda dealing with the devil
Posted on July 6th, 2006
This week comes news that the Uganda government is giving Kony a pardon to end the war in the North. Why I hear you cry, why would they do such a thing? Perhaps they are bowing to international pressure…My views on Kony and his henchmen are well known…
Last year I in Peace at any cost I wrote “I understand the desire for peace, but should it be peace at any cost? In my view if the price is Kony and his lieutenants get away, it is just too high. What message will this send to the survivors, or future generations? That monsters can get away with committing such crimes with impunity? As one who has lost relatives to such evil people I say if there is to be any long lasting peace, then all those who seek peace in Northern Uganda should join in bringing Kony to justice. Let he and his henchmen be tried in open court, at least they’ll get something that they never allowed their victims – a Fair Chance. But Kony should not be allowed to escape justice. Ever!”. I stand firmly by those words.
I cannot profess to fathom what forces have compelled the Uganda government to come to some arrangement with Kony. In my opinion, Uganda is making a deal with the devil, a deal they will come to bitterly regret. As it is Kony may yet escape justice in Uganda, which will be a tragedy of immense proportions. The only message this kind of message this kind of deal sends is that killing and committing atrocities pays. I am gladdened by the fact that he will not escape justice totally. The warrant issued by the ICC still stands, LRA – ICC Most Wanted and they have said that regardless of whatever agreement is made, they will seek to arrest him and bring him to justice. The US government has also come down firmly on the side of human rights. A statement issued by the US embassy in Kampala stated: “President Museveni announced that he is willing to extend amnesty to the LRA leader Joseph Kony – and potentially the rest of the LRA leadership as well. The United States respects Uganda’s decision on this matter, but we believe those who have committed atrocities in this long-standing insurgency should be held accountable for their deeds.”
The desire for peace is a strong one, but if one needs to know what chances there are of peace, then you better know the devil you are dealing with. If people think they can trust the LRA to make peace, they better think again. The LRA have been given many chances to come to the table to make peace and each time they have eschewed it in favour of committing more war and bringing more misery to Northern Uganda. Kony himself will not even admit to what he has done, and caused to be done in his name, the decades of war, misery and atrocities, tens of thousands dead, children abducted, millions displaced. All well documented and well known. Instead, so emboldened is Kony by those who would seek to appease him, he has been making outrageous statements to the effect that he has never been involved in atrocities. Such a person can never be trusted. Amnesty, or official pardons are not the answer. Nothing less than bringing the leaders of the LRA to justice will suffice to bring closure to the millions who have suffered over the last twenty years.