Join us for a seminar by Dr Laury Ocen, a Postdoctoral Fellow at MISR on Wednesday, May 23, 2018.
Title: "Territorial Militias and Quotidian Memories of Civil War in Northern Uganda: Discourses of Resistance and Legitimacy"
In a meeting between President Yoweri Museveni and Lango elders in July 1987, about the state of rebellion and insecurity in northern Uganda, Museveni in a witty vignette responded that if a house is assailed by a deadly cobra and an army of red ants, it is only realistic that the house owner should ignore the soldier ants and deal with the cobra first. He was referring to the loose rebel groups in Lango, Acholi and some parts of eastern Uganda that were fighting his government in proxy wars that targeted civilians and softer military positions in order to delegitimize his government internally and externally. He was also referring to Karimojong cattle raiders who were abroad on rampage throughout the region. Museveni’s priority was to deal with issues that “fundamentally” threatened state security, rather than those aiming to weaken state legitimacy by other means, such as, targeting the social and economic security of civilians. This paper by default, questions what it means by state security, arguing that the loose, small-group militias that Museveni ignored and allowed to proliferate with reckless abandon caused mayhem that had serious ramifications on governance and security. Unfortunately, their memories have been beclouded in the commemorations of larger groups like the LRA of Joseph Kony, HSMF of Alice Lakwena, and UPDA of Odong Latek.
The paper contends that discourses of state-society relations, resistance and legitimacy, power and space are teleological issues that constitute memory and representation, yet without a proper analytical paradigm that integrates micro and macro processes of insurgency, the history of war and peace in northern Uganda remains incomplete.