Democracy Lab Highlights, March 23, 2012

DemLab Weekly Highlights, March 23, 2012:

Nowruz (Persian New Year) was celebrated throughout many Asian countries this week. Above, Kyrgyz women wear traditional costumes at festivities. 

Tom Finn profiles Yemen's new leader and the challenges he faces in keeping the country united.

Christian Caryl explains why it's time for the U.S. to take pointers from the rest of the world in the fight against corruption.

Jackee Budesta Batanda reports on an initiative enabling Ugandans to tell their own stories to their compatriots and the world.

Peter Passell assesses the economic reasons for the failure of the war on drugs.

And Mohamed El Dahshan shows how Egyptian artists are challenging military rule in the streets of Cairo.

And here are this week's recommended reads:

A new study of transitional countries around the world by Germany's Bertelsmann Stiftung warns that "[p]olitical freedoms are increasingly being curtailed in many countries around the globe."

Writing on the Jadaliyya website, journalist Salah Al-Nasrawi argues that Arab journalists deserve more of a voice in Western media organizations.

A new Brookings Institution report suggests measures for resolving the oil dispute between Sudan and South Sudan that threatens to pour fuel on the fire of regional conflict.

The Institute for War and Peace Report offers an insightful report on a presidential election in South Ossetia, paving the way for a possible showdown between the breakaway republic's envoy to Moscow and a former KGB general.

A new study by the UK's Overseas Development Institute explores urban displacement in Jordan and the obstacles it poses to humanitarian assistance.


Democracy Lab

Reclaiming our stories

The Kony 2012 film has stirred up a huge amount of controversy and discussion. One of its most interesting side effects is the way that it has provided us Ugandans with an opportunity to recapture our own narrative.

In Uganda, there is a continuing drive to rewrite the historical narrative of the country. There is a need to challenge the official narrative that has been in place since the current regime came into power in 1986. This version of our past mostly views the government solely as a savior, hardly mentioning the gross violations of human rights for which it bears responsibility. People are beginning to ask questions regarding the Lord's Resistance Army conflict, and the survivors are beginning to tell their stories of what really happened.

In response to Kony 2012, a group of internet-savvy Ugandans led by Javie Ssozi have come together to discuss a plan of action. The result is "Uganda 2012," a website that aims to recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda. The site provides a forum for Ugandans to tell their own stories, based on their own experiences, through voices, words, videos and photos.

The group plans to produce a film, also titled Uganda2012, tapping the creativity of Ugandan filmmakers, photographers, activists, writers, poets and artists in order to tell the real story of Joseph Kony's tragic legacy in Northern Uganda. It will also document the work of the many amazing Ugandans who have worked tirelessly to rebuild the region. The film will be released on April 18 (two days before the #KONY2012 "Cover the Night" action).

Initiatives such as these encourage me to think that we as Ugandans are finally getting together to broadly document and publicize our work. Furthermore, bringing the narrative back to us is one way of ensuring our prosperity, ensuring a world where young people see people like themselves doing amazing work.

So while the hunt for Kony continues, the demand for the true stories also grows. The truth that Ugandans have demanded for years will start coming out.

Just as many people have argued earlier, the LRA is only one symptom of the many governance failures in Uganda. I would like to see this new desire for public discussion go beyond capturing Kony and address the cyclical conflicts that have plagued Uganda for decades.

For many Ugandans, the need for truth and justice is growing into an unquenchable thirst. Until the real stories start coming out and a genuine process of reconciliation begins, we will be left merely with well-intentioned charitable initiatives that do nothing to address fundamental domestic problems.

Jackee's twitter handle is: @jackeebatanda