Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: The Wizard of the Nile by Matthew Green

In The Wizard of the Nile, journalist Matthew Green, on leave from Reuters, documents his quest to interview Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in the jungles of central Africa.  Green’s trips to Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Sudan in search of Kony and his elusive band took place from January to July 2006 and in the end Green succeeds in meeting Kony.  Throughout the book the author also intertwines conversations and stories of escaped child-Soldiers, their views, and hope for the future.
The important part of the book to me was the transformation of the authors beliefs (and mine) that Kony and the LRA were the reason for instability, suffering, and death in the region to a more inclusive view of the cratered landscape and acknowledgement that both the government and the LRA were guilty of atrocities.  The author pointed out that the LRA is supported in part by the local population because the government has marginalized the Acholi people and even if Kony was captured or killed it would not resolve the grievances of the Acholi (p. 313).  90% of the population outside Gulu, who are mostly Acholi, had been forced into tent camps by the government for their security (p. 310).  Musuveni was also accused of using the same tactics of recruiting child Soldiers (p. 203).
Outside powers such as Sudan and the United States are also implicated for their involvement in the conflict.  Sudan provided funding, aid, weapons, and intelligence to the LRA in their fight against the Musuveni led government of Uganda.  Sudan in the 1990s became a center for Islamic terrorism after the establishment of an Islamic state in 1989 and Sudan sought to create Islamic states throughout Africa (p. 201).  In response the US backed a coalition of Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Rwanda in 1996 to contain or stop the influence of Sudan (p. 207).  Although the coalition fell apart after fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the US continued to support Uganda in its fight against terrorism.  In 1999 Uganda and Sudan agreed to stop supporting their enemy’s rebels, however, the LRA continues to receive some support from Sudan (p. 170). 
In the final chapter of the book the author ties all his discoveries and experiences together to try to make sense of his search for the much-hyped “wizard of the Nile” and muses that perhaps Kony is just what he says he is: just “a man, a human being” set up by the Ugandan government to divert attention from the real issues in Uganda (p. 303).  The author determines that while Kony denies participating in any atrocities and blames the government for its crimes, that Kony is still guilty.  However, the author also concludes that Musuveni has used the LRA as a scapegoat and the US and international community has overlooked government atrocities and use of child-Soldiers in order to form an alliance against terror.

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