A True believer…
Posted on May 31st, 2005
With the G8 summit just over a month away, the rhetoric is reaching a crescendo, with ever greater and louder pledges. Each headline is bigger than the last, the sums promised even bigger than the one before. And none is proclaiming louder than St Tony, Prime Minister of the Poor.
As St Tony broadcasts from the heights, I feel a motion in my chest… I truly want to become a believer, I want to belong… I want to join the holy throng and become one of the faithful, rejoicing in the salvation for the poor, singing from the Book of Tony, like the lost souls of the born again Oxfam. I want to recite chapter and verse from the revised Good News bible of the IMF / World Bank /WTO as I stand shoulder to shoulder with newest apostles of Gordon Brown’s temple, fearless crusaders for the downtrodden, Bono of U2 and Sir Bob Geldof.
Tony the anointed is obviously a student of the motto keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, which is why he’s joined forces with his arch foe Gordon Brown on this evangelical crusade for the poor. And together they have taken their message to the faithful, mesmerizing former unbelievers such as Bono who referred to them as the “Lennon and McCartney” of poverty reduction…. turning even the stoutest of them like Oxfam into disciples and preachers of the new deal as official government spokespersons on liberalisation of markets in wealthy nations and market access as key mechanisms for eradicating poverty….
Yes I want to believe!
As I try to heed the call for the rich to join the poor, the lamb to lie down with wolf, and the sheep to the slaughter, I find myself stirred to inaction… I know true salvation will be denied to me even when supping at the G8 altar with a long spoon because I can never become a true believer, and find … for my flesh is guarded, my mind suspicious, my spirit doubtful and my body disbelieving… I am doubtful as I read the report from Action AID that found more than half of development funding was phantom aid… I’m suspicious of the promises of new money, as cries from decades gone ring in my ears…I’m disbelieving of the assurances of better days dripping from the lips of Lennon and McCartney” like seductive lyrics of the devil’s music….as the UK government plunders Africa’s health systems for nurses and health workers…I’m skeptical as I read that the World Bank spent $20 billion total dollars on consultants last year even as the outgoing President admitted they hadn’t done enough on AIDS….
I want to believe… but as the new “Bishop” of Brown/Blairs temple of development (doom?) Bob Geldof” unveils Live 8 show plans… I know I’ll remain a pagan….alone in the wilderness…a forlorn worshipper of discredited beliefs, such as debt relief ….but still a true believer!
Action AIDS Report http://www.actionaid.org.uk/wps/content/documents/real_aid.pdf
Posted on May 31st, 2005
I’m increasingly irritated by emails that land in my inbox purporting to show headlines from some journal or other that I subscribed to, only to click on the links provided and find I don’t have sufficient rights to read the story. If I don’t have the rights to read the story, don’t send me the email….or just include stories I have access to! And don’t tell me the technology doesn’t allow for it. There ought to be a law… in fact I’m thinking about having such online journals ASBO-ed for wasting my time.
For those of you who don’t know ASBO stands for Anti-Social Behavior Order, and is the latest wheeze by the UK government to interfere in people’s lives by creating acceptable social behavior contracts…it’s not called the nanny state for nothing… But that’s for another time….No what’s raising my ire is these increasingly asbo sites…you know yourselves…yes you in my inbox…the ones that come at the top of a google or yahoo search claiming to provide information, but only after I’ve registered ….and once you’ve got my email start filling my inbox with alerts, summaries or whatever for articles I have no access to… with triumphant glee…
Fortunately I’m registered to gmail – 2 gigabytes of space, yahoo – 1 gigabyte…..which seems a lot, but at the rate I’m being forced to sign up to more and more websites, I should have used at least 1 gigabyte on account notification emails alone…the other two gigabytes will be reserved for password reminder emails….and I still can’t read stories…there ought to be a law!
Salvation at last – EU Putting money where the mou
Posted on May 25th, 2005
High drama in the development world. Facing defeat for his plan on Africa, Tony Blair’s EU colleagues stepped in at the last moment and agreed to boost development aid to $80bn by 2010 for developing nations. Hope for the beleaguered PM after all; and even better hope for the developing world. All the EU nations, even the newest entrants agreed to increase development aid in the “hope of shaming other rich donors into giving more a pointed rejoinder to the US. This will see the EU’s richest states reach the United Nations’ historic goal of giving 0.7% of national income in aid by 2015, some for the first time.
This is in stark contrast to the USA, who at best have been acting as reluctant participants (players) on the development scene and at worst as party poopers, out rightly opposed to moves to increase funding for developing countries and Africa in particular. The much vaunted flagship program from the US, PEPFAR has increasingly appeared as so much empty hype and rhetoric as the $15 billion dollars promised has failed to materialize… Instead PEPFAR has become embroiled in politics and ideology…the program and agenda were hijacked by the conservative right wing who then proceeded to indulge in international blackmail, using the threat of withholding funding to extort compliance on their reproductive health agenda, i.e. no birth control, choice, or abortion from international Ngo’s that did not want to toe the line …there is a danger the Global Fund may go the same way…
So more power to the EU…All this is truly welcome news on many fronts … it shows off EU consensus and decision making at its best, it gives a much needed shot in the arm to the global developmental agenda, it lays down a firm challenge to the USA and other rich nations to reciprocate; and most especially it is vindication for the British PM who by taking the lead on shaking up development funding in the world, is now looking to be back at his dynamic best. Redemption and sainthood beckons. Go St. Tony!!
Blair Plan for Africa stillborn
Posted on May 24th, 2005
Redemption will take a little longer to come to Tony Blair, newly crowned British PM now that it appears his plan for Africa is still born. A story published in the Guardian said Tony Blair is considering flying to Washington in a bid to rescue his ambitious G8 agenda on Africa and climate change, Downing Street acknowledged yesterday. In April 2005, following a much derided report by his Commission on Africa, Tony Blair called on his G8 fellows to increase aid for Africa from $25 billion dollars to 50 billion dollars a year saying Blair was quoted as saying says there is “no excuse, no defense, no justification” for the plight of millions in Africa today .” Well his G8 partners came up with an excuse, pleading poverty. It was reported that some EU G8 members want Mr Blair to admit in public relative failure of the plan on Africa…and criticise the US….which he is unlikely to do. Instead he will be forced to continue supping from his poisoned chalice and search for other ways to his mend his tarnished image.
Many were skeptical of the Commission on Africa, seeing it as just another exercise in bombastic rhetoric. The Independent reported that “being aware that Bush has no desire to pledge more cash, British officials seem to have set their sights low, seeking rhetorical support rather than concrete action….We want the United States to welcome our plans and to package what they are doing with what we are doing…” London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in it’s annual survey said it looked unlikely that Britain could shift policy so radically as to make a serious difference. The IISS criticised the Commission for Africa, saying “The report was long on ambition, enshrining the intention … to more decisively tackle poverty, governance, corruption, trade and arms control issues in Africa. But it was short on substance and new ideas…”
So it is back to the drawing board for Africa. As for Tony, there’s still hope for redemption. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
1. Hopes fade for Blair’s ambitious G8 Africa deal
2. Blair dash to shore up Africa plan
3. Blair sets off on diplomatic tour to secure support for Africa aid plan
Open Source, Closing Doors
Posted on May 23rd, 2005
Vive la revolution! Information wants to be free. Free at last, Free at last! And so it was for a short time and all was good on the world wide web. So it was with some consternation I received word that the New York Times was going to take it’s most popular Op-Ed/ Editorials columns out of the free world and put them in the jail (prison) of subscription, i.e. they would no longer be free. Why I hear you cry, why? Or maybe not. As if that was not bad enough, I logged on to the Lancet the other day…I’ve been a registered user for a while now and I really enjoyed reading their free online text. But once again I was stymied, as the dreaded coded message “…only available to paying subscribers……” appeared. Where could I turn? To the BMJ of course. Seems it has not yet happened on the BMJ; I could still access news, and quite a bit more. But the BMJ has been warning for sometime that in the near future most content would be restricted to subscribers only.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The internet was supposed to be the great equalizer, leveling the playing field. In the wake of several papers and reports citing the lack of access to research and information, as was one major reason in part for the so called 10/90 gap, a number of research journals made moves to provide their content free to internet users in less developed countries. Some such as the BMJ and Lancet made their information completely free to all, which was great.
The debate on how to maintain their revenues, in the face of falling circulation (real world /physical) has continued raging for quite sometime. Faced with the cold hard reality of losing readers / revenue to free online services, I’ve noticed a trend among online news sites and journals of limiting the amount of free content they are making available….many have moved to create exclusive subscription access services.
Some of the moves seem counter productive. Take the case of the NYTimes.com making some Op/Ed columns inaccessible; isn’t the purpose of publishing one’s opinions to influence said public to ones view. Narrowing the readership by restricting those who have access on the basis of whether they can pay, reduces the number of people who read your opinion and so reduces your ability to influence the masses , thereby reducing the relevance and importance of a columns in one’s general life. Stating the obvious perhaps, but how do you do influence people who are not reading your opinion?
I used to read the Lancet and BMJ regularly; they and similar which journals used to be instrumental in helping to inform my opinion. But as the journals continue their quest to maintain revenue by restricting access to paying subscribers only, I have begun to read them less and less. It has reached the stage where I only occasionally find out about their content, interesting as it is, from listervs.
A letter published in the current issue of the BMJ (ironically) addresses the very same issue Prevailing publishing system is irrevocably broken. Apparently The Director of the Wellcome Trust had the same experience I had when trying to access an article at the Journal of Infectious diseases…even more ironic an article about research funded by Wellcome… “Imagine this scenario. You’re the director of one of the world’s largest medical research charities, and you receive notification from one of your funded investigators in Africa reporting some exciting progress toward the development of a vaccine for malaria. The work has just been published, so you log onto the Web to do a quick keyword search, and a link to the article is brought up on your screen…..Then imagine the frustration when you click on the link to read the message, “Access Denied—access to this journal is restricted to registered institutional and individual subscribers….”
So what’s with the moves to restricting access to information by creating subscription only services? Will it work and does it serve anyone? Supposedly it is to protect their revenue streams. Doubtless driven by the grumblings (with some justification) from legitimate paying subscribers at the free online leeches. The print media dithered too long not quite sure of whether to embrace this whole new fangled internet thing; not sure of how to make money from online information; instead settling for giving it away for free in the interim. And the damage was done. The free, information genie escaped the bottle a long time ago; ably aided by print media themselves. Now even as the main stream media are embarking on their sanctioning moves the explosion of new communication technology such as RSS and blogging are making more information instantly available to the whole world. The world has become used to free information. Can’t get enough of it….and the number of users has exploded…
The moves by the journals taken in context of this upsurge in information sources smack of desperation and echo the frantic efforts of the music and lately movie industry to protect their traditional sources of income and profits. But as I said in the beginning, information wants to be free…So who is served by such restrictive, off-putting moves…certainly not the occasional readers, who now number in their tens of millions prowling for relevant information….not the journals, as they make themselves increasingly irrelevant by pricing themselves out of the market…and certainly not research as information is increasingly locked away from sharing…. A study of research published by the major journals found that just 2% came from the third world, and of that the vast majority was from South America. If the current trend continues, perhaps we’ll see 0.1% being published…..It seems the doors on research information online are closing. Fortunately there’s open source and open access journals. Vive la difference!
1. Terry R. Funding the way to open access. PLoS Biol 2005;3(3):e97. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0030097
2. PLOS Public Library of Science – http://www.plos.org/support/index.html
3.Biomedcentral – http://www.biomedcentral.com
4. Malaria Journal: http://medilinkz.org/healthtopics/diseases/malaria/malariaresearch.asp – hosted on Medilinks, taken from Biomedcentral. An example of the power of open access.
5. The Lancet. http://lancet.com
6. BMJ http://bmj.com
Snake pit policies
Posted on May 19th, 2005
I got to thinking, what would spur world health leaders into action? What could I do? And then it came to me. Admittedly I’m borrowing the idea from South African man, Abel Manamela who was recently acquitted of attempted murder after releasing five poisonous snakes, puff adders no less inside a Johannesburg ABSA bank. He was upset with the bank after his car was repossessed – South Africa snake man not guilty – now that’s one way to get attention. Maybe the same would work at the WHA or in the offices of the World Bank. Would the sight of snakes slithering around the conference area or in the offices get people attention? No one would be allowed to leave until they had come up with a plan. Anyone bitten would not get anti-venom unless they sucked out the poison themselves. Call it snake pit policies, formulated at fang point. A bit like many development programs offered to third world countries….Now I wonder where he got hold of five puff adders….
By the way a search on BBC Online for “South Africa Snake Man” returned this as one of the results: ”BBC News Online asked eight Africans for their views on Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa.” Is this a comment on Tony Blair’s mendacity vis a vis WMD’s and Iraq? And the third result: “Does witchcraft deserve a bad name? What do you think about the practice of witchcraft and if you have used it, does it work?” – perhaps a reference to the recent Commission on Africa, G8 meetings and supposed new approach to development in Africa.
In deep trouble
Posted on May 19th, 2005
My fears that the fight against AIDS and other health problems are not going well appear to have been confirmed. I just posted a story quoting the outgoing Outgoing World Bank chief James Wolfensohn admitting to being “late” in focusing on the dangerous potential of HIV/AIDS while he was president of the bank. Agence France-Presse quoted Wolfensohn as saying. “I think we were late; I knew about AIDS a long time ago. Somehow the penny hadn’t dropped that this was something that was at the whole core of human development … this was a human tragedy, and it could be averted and it could be treated,”
For some reason it sent a chill through me. A tad dramatic you may say…. I have long been critical of the World Bank, though I have given praise where praise is due. I have written about the lack of focus on the real health problems that assail the world, of the limited response to the AIDS epidemic, spending huge sums of money on what I considered the inappropriate white elephant projects that benefited few… all the while sounding like some doomsayer in the wilderness…nay a gloom monger…
And now almost three decades into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the head of the largest lending institution in the world, the leading development agency says they didn’t take the most significant health problem that has faced the world seriously enough. To have my feelings, suspicions confirmed like this… It takes ones breath away! Just what have these so called development experts been doing all this time? This is not the triumphant crowing of “I told you so!” but more the groan of a body blow. This is a serious problem. We are truly in deep trouble when the leaders of the development world are unable to perceive or assess the severity of a problem, and seem to have no clue. The World Bank is not alone, a number of major donor organizations have recently admitted to similar failings. If World Bank and other development experts with all the resources available to them are unable to accurately foresee or forecast such problems, what hope is there for the rest of us?
The same week Wolfensohn was departing the World Bank saw the opening of the World Health Assembly. The WHA brings together all 192 member states of the World Heath Organisation. Yes this is it, the one place where a sense of urgency would galvanize people into announcing bold initiatives, even bolder plans and decisive action to implement them would be taken. With the malaria seemingly out of control, AIDS killing in ever greater numbers and the very real threat of a bird flu epidemic that could very well wipe out remainder of the human population; this is the least one could hope for. If that’s what you were hoping for think again, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
At the opening the WHO Director-General drew attention to what he called the “most serious known health threat the world is facing today, which is avian influenza.” Huh? What the….?!! Okay I said avain flu was a possible threat, but excuse me what about the actual threats such as AIDS, where is malaria or TB in all this? Bill Gates was also a keynote speaker mentioning amongst other things “…his hope for the future, which rests on what he called the “astonishing miracles” of science and technology…” All very nice, and too be fair what else would one expect from a computer geek, albeit a very rich one. But the truth is “astonishing science” has failed to astonish, promising much, and failing to deliver… the vaccine for AIDS or malaria is still a distant hope despite advances in genetic research… and don’t even mention treatment for that ancient scourge TB. It is not astonishing science that is needed, but good old fashioned tried and tested public health and preventive interventions plus financial support and determined commitment from development leaders. Not sexy, won’t get such good headlines but it would save the lives of tens of millions.
Still think there’s hope? Well later in the week the World Health Organisation will consider the controversial question of whether to permit further research on the smallpox virus, which is slated to include a proposal to allow genetic modification of the virus. Now that’s headline grabbing news alright. Hot button buzzwords, genetic modification, viruses…But wait one minute….wasn’t smallpox wiped out? It was…I’m sure of it. So why is it on the agenda? Why are we debating a disease that has already been defeated, vanquished, finished? Oh yes, the global war on terror and the danger of bio-terrorism. It’s good to see they are getting their priorities right. In the meantime nature is waging its own biological war in Angola where a lethal outbreak of Matrburg virus is currently taking place. And let me not mention HI….you get the point. To pass the time delegates at the WHA will also get updates on the status of “other” health problems in the world. I can summarize the status in one word – bad. Let me tell you, if this is an example of what the folks at the premier flagship health assembly are discussing we are in deep trouble indeed.
A Toxic Waste of time?
Posted on May 17th, 2005
Yet another unseemly squabble has sprang up in the AIDS world as the South African HIV/AIDS treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) start a defamation lawsuit seeking a temporary injunction to prevent Matthias Rath and the Dr. Rath Health Foundation from making defamatory statements about TAC.
Mr Rath an individual who vigorously advocates the use of vitamins and nutrients while variously claiming that antiretroviral drugs are toxic amongst other things accusing the TAC and other groups of being front organizations for “big pharma” the pharmaceutical industry and misleading people to believe that “exorbitantly expensive and highly toxic drugs like AZT and nevirapine” can successfully treat HIV infection. His actions not only raised the ire of the TAC, it has prompted the wrath of the WHO, UNICEF, UNAIDS who released a joint statement saying Rath’s claims about antiretroviral drugs being toxic are “misleading and potentially dangerous…
I couldn’t resist the pun… Should I treat this story seriously, or is it a serious waste of time? Most times when I’m commenting on news I try to have a measured approach and a balanced view. But sometimes I find despite the apparent seriousness of the story it is without merits or maybe I just don’t care…whichever I find I can’t devote time to it.
I’ve got to hand it to Mr Rath, with the use of highly emotive terms such as toxic and do I hear mention of “genocide” he surely has found the quickest route to the front pages these days, controversy. And just to make sure Rath also took out full-page ads last week in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune saying his claims are supported by a study by researchers from Harvard University School of Public Health s published in July 2004 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
I mean how often have we heard this? Some slick slimy con man steps up with outrageous claims, making farcical accusations, taking aim at sacred cows, and presto faster than you can say licketty split, classic knee jerk reactions are elicited and headlines rain down from the heavens…. Oh alright, before I abandon my sanity and sink to the level of Rath and his ilk let me examine Rath’s claims rationally and scientifically, something he clearly thinks is not necessary. By the way, if his audience was Africans, why is he taking out ads in the international press?
Anyway the study by the researchers from Harvard did find that people taking vitamins lived longer than those not taking vitamin supplements, but then people with better nutrition generally do live longer than those that are malnourished… nowhere does it mention that ARV’s are toxic. A Randomized Trial of Multivitamin Supplements and HIV Disease Progression and Mortality A Randomized Trial of Multivitamin Supplements and HIV Disease Progression and Mortality
The claim that the TAC is a front for the pharmaceutical industry is laughable…am I the only one that recalls the South African government prodded by the TAC taking big pharma to court for not making ARV’s available. It is a stretch to now think of them fronting big pharma though stranger things have been known to happen. In any case barely any South Africans are getting access to ARV”s.
Even though Rath is clearly a quack, he’s supported by the South African Traditional Healers Organisation. But that’s not the real problem though it’s serious because they are a powerful lobby. Many South Africans visit traditional healers, most of whom lack access to health services. No the real problem is the broken promises of access to treatment and the unfulfilled pledges of cheap AIDS drugs. The people have heard rumours of millions of dollars donated by the global fund, seen mega superstars holding concert for AIDS and yet they still have nothing.
The statement released by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNAIDS said of Rath’s ads “These advertisements, placed in the international press, are wrong and misleading….Misrepresentations of this sort are both dangerous and unhelpful.” Clearly they are worried that people might actually believe Rath and co. And why would people not believe? They have been promised much, seen nothing. People with HIV/AIDS cannot live on promises alone. In the absence of any treatment they’ll turn to whatever they think can help them…be it prayer…unguents…or the claims of a quack like Rath. And so what if the believe? So few are actually getting ARV’s, they’ll never get the chance to experience the toxic effects…it make no difference… as I said a toxic waste of time.
First Do No Harm
Posted on May 16th, 2005
The Marburg haemorrhagic virus outbreak in Angola, the largest of its kind ever, may have faded from the news headlines, but it is by no means over. People are continuing to die; at last count the Ministry of Health in Angola had reported 316 cases, of which 276 were fatal (87% case fatality rate). And more cases continue to be identified.
Marburg virus is a deadly disease that is spread via close human contact. But one clue early on that the spread of this outbreak was different, was the high number of children who were infected, initially more than 60 percent of the victims which was highly unusual. This led epidemiologists to suspect that the transmission of the deadly virus was most likely to have come via unsterilised syringes and needles used in hospitals.
As the fear increased, and the death toll rose, aid workers in one northern provincial town were attacked by the terrified towns people; elsewhere a dozen health care workers were reported to have perished from the disease, including two doctors; others had fled out of fear of catching the disease. Further investigation of several recent fatalities in Uige indicated clear links between home-based treatments using unsafe syringes and spread of the virus. A massive public information campaign, joined by religious leaders aimed at ending unsafe injections have has been started. The World Health Organization said that hospitals in Angola were putting people at risk of catching the deadly Marburg virus by not following proper safety procedures. The WHO has now deployed additional experts in infection control from the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to support the efforts of controlling the disease.
While there are many elements to this outbreak that are striking, such as the high death rate, the extent of the epidemic compared to previous ones, the one that stands out most is its means of spread by unsafe injections. It is also worth mentioning again that one of the early clues was the high proportion of paediatric cases, indicating the possibility of iatrogenic spread (disease which is caused by a physician).
The issue of the role of unsafe injections in spreading disease in Africa is not new. A couple of years ago an acrimonious debate sprang up over the part unsafe injections had played in the spread of AIDS. Without going into too much detail some experts believed contrary to popular belief it was not unsafe sex that was the cause for the rapid and massive spread of AIDS in Africa, rather unsafe injections were the culprit. One of the clues was a report from the South African Medical council of the extremely high rate of HIV amongst children. Once again experts were led to speculate and conclude that only spread via needles could account for such.
A campaign was initiated to get the authorities to recognize the role of unsafe injections in the spread of disease get to prevent the spread of AIDS. The whole debate was about highlighting the danger of unsafe injections and finding ways of providing safe health care for all patients in Africa such as the introduction of non-reuse syringes to prevent the spread of disease. Instead as always it turned into a battle of ideology, one in which the powers that be, chose the path of expediency and rather than test the possibility of other theories went with the same old prevailing view. In the end it all amounted for nothing. The WHO, UNAIDS and other major organizations came out saying that while acknowledging that unsafe injections were a problem in Africa, it was unlikely they had played major part in the spread of the HIV/AIDS…. The acknowledgement that recent Marburg outbreaks spread has been fueled by unsafe injections and the fact that a major clue was the high number of paediatric cases must be an embarrassment when taken in context of the previous debate about unsafe injections.
There are other spectacular examples of unsafe medical practices acting as spreaders of disease such as in the case of Hepatitis C, “one of the world’s largest iatrogenic transmission of blood borne pathogens known to date, [occurred during ]the schistosomiasis treatment campaign in Egypt which had infected 10% of the entire adult population with hepatitis C by the mid 1980s” according to Ernst Drucker.
There are clearly precedents for unsafe medical practices via needle and injection transmission acting to spread disease including HIV/AIDS throughout the world. And yet the established scientific community has refused to countenance this as a possibility in Africa, and continue to deny such things are happening in Africa or could be happening, while at the same time acknowledging how under funded, underdeveloped, under manned Africa’s health systems have become in recent decades.
“Primum non nocere” is part of the oath written by Hippocrates from ancient times and taken by doctors and physicians. Part of the principle is “treat the sick to the best of one’s ability…..” without doing harm to the patient. This is what safe health care is all about.
It is not just about the treatment given to patients, but also the information provided to them about keeping them safe. Do the officials at the WHO and UNAIDS think they might have been short sighted in taking such a narrow-minded view with regards to disease prevention? There is a saying “diseases don’t read books” that is to say diseases do not always follow the text book version. In our quest to fight one must first do no harm but one must strive to treat the sick to the best of one’s ability….and that means using all means to prevent illness and keeping an open mind to all possibilities….
Peace at any cost?
Posted on May 10th, 2005
The brutal conflict in Northern Uganda waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), grinds on with more slaughter of innocents. In recent days there has been a flurry of articles on this conflict, which is variously described as a civil war or an armed rebellion against the Uganda government. It is not a civil war; nothing about a conflict characterized by slaughter of innocents, enslaving of children, mutilation of victims can remotely be called civil and despite what is variously printed in the press about vague claims to replacing the Ugandan government with one run based on the ten commandments, Joseph Kony and the LRA have spent the last 19 years terrorizing people in Northern Uganda.
The LRA has rightly been called a terrorist organization, and it is being taken to court by the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC). There are many well meaning activists, organizations, church leaders and so on who have called for both sides to make peace. Most recently Oxfam called for the Security Council to intervene in northern Uganda http://medilinkz.org/news/news2.asp?NewsID=10656 saying “…”The LRA has committed horrific atrocities [and] in turn, the military strategy employed by the government is not protecting its civilians; instead we are seeing increased suffering and numbers of civilian casualties….”
I don’t envy the Uganda government; they are between a rock and hard place for this is a war that cannot be won militarily. How do you wage war on children… your own citizens….captured and forced to become soldiers against their will and commit terrible atrocities in turn…
I have read many stories about the conflict in the North and they all seem to have this thread of trying to understand the conflict, of trying to understand Kony. I say stop wasting time, stop blaming the Uganda government, understand Kony less and condemn a little more. Calling for peace with someone as evil as Joseph Kony is grotesque. What do you do with someone like that, invite him to form a coalition government, sit around the table chatting politely about the weather. This war has killed tens of thousands and brought misery to millions…it has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world….
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!