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Beyond Joseph Kony: 4 Other People Helping Ruin Uganda

Pope Benedict XVI, US military officers and a member of Parliament inflict harm on the people of Uganda.

Kony 2012, the glossy half-hour documentary viewed tens of millions of times in its first three days on YouTube, has brought the state of Ugandan affairs to the attention of an impressive number of Americans who had previously showed no interest. The film, produced by the organization Invisible Children, has raised tons of awareness about Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and some skeptical eyebrows.

The LRA, a Christian fundamentalist militia from one of the most Christian countries in Africa, is monstrous, to be sure, as its record of rape, abduction, torture and slaughter show. For more than 20 years, the armed squadron has done what it considers the good Lord’s work and terrorized, mutilated and kidnapped villagers in Northern Uganda and now over the porous borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

However, it is hardly the only generator of suffering in Uganda. So while everyone is contemplating that country, the discourse would benefit by way of identifying some of the other actors whose actions have harmed the people of Uganda. Here are four of them.

1. David Bahati, Member of Parliament

For a little while, Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill, introduced by Bahati, was a liberal American cause celebre, but the memory has just about faded by now. That’s a pity, because the bill was re-introduced last month.

Initially, the bill set out to strengthen the country’s criminalization of homosexuality (the extant laws having been in place since British colonial rule) to include execution for, among others, “serial” and “aggravated” homosexuals. The bill also contained provisions demanding extradition of gay Ugandans traveling abroad. The death penalty bit was ultimately dropped. Less encouraging is the commutation of this sentence to life imprisonment. Ethics minister James Nsaba Buturo’s revised assessment: “Killing them might not be helpful.” How deeply ethical.

Bahati’s defense of the bill focused on protecting Ugandan children from wealthy Americans whom he alleged were going into Ugandan schools and bribing kids to become gay. This procedure was well documented on film, according to Bahati, who never produced such evidence. He also never explained why wealthy Americans would unaccountably target Ugandan schools, when there are so many American children available for the corrupting.

Bahati’s nauseating appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show to slather a pro-family, pro-respect sheen onto violent theocratic bigotry saw him defending the Ugandan paper Rolling Stone, which had published “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos” along with their names, their addresses, and the banner “Hang Them.” Bahati described the publishers as “young people who are also concerned about the huge problem that we have in our country.” It’s difficult to estimate how many of Uganda’s 32 million people are homosexuals.

Foiled in his previous attempts to pass the “Lock the Gays up Forever” bill, Bahati has brought it back in the 2012 legislative session. According to CBS, “Analysts say it would be passed immediately but that it hasn't been considered only because it lacks the political blessing of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.” We’d better hope Museveni remains generous with his political blessing.

2. Retired General William Ward

From October 2007 to March 2011, Ward was the commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the U.S. military body responsible for operations in Africa. In that capacity, he helped to plan and fund a miserable failure of an attempt to catch Kony that wound up killing 900 civilians in nearby northeastern Congo. Ward’s plan was so deficient that, according to the  New York Times, “The troops did not seal off the rebels’ escape routes or deploy soldiers to many of the nearby towns where the rebels slaughtered people in churches and even tried to twist off toddlers’ heads.”

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