hope and change in 2008 politics

peace without sickness, failure without denial, and democracy without restriction

Hope and change have gained a great footing in not only the 2008 Presidential elections in the US, but also in the communities of Northern Uganda. Peace talk negotiations and a cease-fire in fighting have allowed children to return home, families to rebuild, and communities to begin creating lives without fear from conflict. The conflict in Northern Uganda is often tagged as a “civil war,” but largely centers on a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). (Read more here) Thousands displaced, abducted, lost – hundreds killed. The peace talks have been going well and two weeks ago (April 10th) Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA, was supposed to come out of hiding to sign the peace agreement. He did not show up and his spokesperson claimed he had been sick. Sick or afraid? Kony and his top officials are now on the top of the International Criminal Court’s arrest list. It seems he may have been sick with fear of being held accountable for his long-running violent resistance.

The election count in Zimbabwe has been delayed. After many have called for the results to be released from the election, electoral officials have decided to recount 23 out of the 210 seats. This will take 3 more days. There is fear that the recount will include vote-rigging, something that would not be new in Zimbabwean elections under Mugabe. It is well known that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has gained the majority over Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. There are fears that the recount could reverse that majority. Hope for change in Zimbabwe is stalled yet again and there is no guess as to when election results will actually be released. Now hundreds of opposition supporters, fleeing “state-sponsored” violence, have been detained. Most will be charged with inciting election violence as the scapegoats for Mugabe’s government response to political opposition.

Opposition candidates have been arrested, people stayed away from the polls, rising cost of food and decline in wages have lead to a popular discontent with the Egyptian government. People are more concerned with getting bread on the table than on turning out in the polls. The main opposition party in Egypt has been officially banned and their candidates have been arrested and detained so that they cannot campaign. The hope for change has been squashed by the current government, but not without at least some opposition. The Muslim Brotherhood, with its candidates banned, boycotted the elections and clashed with police. There is fear in the government that they will lose more support to the “pro-Islamist independents” who seem to have the backing of the people. The US is not the only country where the rise in power of Islamic groups has produced an unfounded fear and caused actions that are far from democratic.

Kenyan politicians have reached a deal to allow a coalition government. Mwai Kibaki will remain President and his opponent, Raila Odinga, will serve as Prime Minister. It is not clear how the people will react to this evolution. The next major task of the coalition government is to work on relocating the hundreds of thousands of displaced peoples as a result of their “election” or move to power. Nearly 140,000 people are living in tents and depend on food handouts to live. Adding difficulty, there is disagreement in the parliament as to what actions should be taken first: returning the displaced or preaching co-existence and reconciliation. The historical rifts in Kenyan politics will need to be handled as soon as possible if Kenya is to move forward with the stability of the past.

In all four cases there is an extensive past to learn in order to fully understand the current situations. Each case represents a direct outcome of former colonial systems perpetuated (especially their failures), oppressed populations, and a push for democracy that seems to be historically flawed in its practice and exportation. Hope and change may just become buzz words for the 2008 election year, but they also have the great potential to live up to the aspirations of many looking for a new way of handling governments and societies.

displacement

Surrounded by the dead and decaying behemoths of industrialization and the monsters of the modernized, civilized, material world, as cars and trucks alike race down the expressway next door, we, the youth, stop to build a cardboard tent city in a once barren parking lot in the middle of the massive, jutting, Chicago jungle. In that empty and barren parking lot of Soldier Field, we filled the void with our hearts, our minds, and our bodies to raise awareness and bring an end to a war. With the warring interests of commercializm, business, capitalizm, and the fast paced, go-go american society, we will break for a brief twenty-four hour period to be displaced. Displace me!

Next week I will be entering my third decade of being, staying alive. Now you may wonder how can that be such a feat in today’s world, but there are so many places where this luxury is not present. On the other side of the world, a place many people relegate to disease, conflict, and poverty, there is a war that has paralleled my time alive on this earth. In that time so many have lost their lives, most of them children, but yet here I am, here I stand – alive and well and trying to understand what they have experienced in all those years when I had no idea.

The civil war in Northern Uganda is entering its twenty-first year. The longest running war in Africa is seeking an end, and soon! Roughly ten years ago the people of Northern Uganda were given 24 hours to pack up and leave their homes to enter Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps. The government thought this would be a solution to the conflict with the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). However, all it did was exacerbate the situation and increase the amount of death and suffering caused by the war. Last night, in 15 major cities across the US, people gathered to remind US and world leaders that there are over 1.5 million displaced Ugandans suffering from a nearly invisible war. No one should be invisible, no one’s troubles should go unknown for so long, no war should continue for such a long time. I can only imagine those my age in Uganda who know nothing but war, who know no home except for an IDP camp, who only know a life of suffering. If this war could end from a handful of the american populace displacing themselves, then we will truly know the power of people who care.