In a recent issue on Ethnography and Theology in the online multimedia journal Practical Matters, Dr. Todd Whitmore, of the University of Notre Dame, provides an analysis of a memo he received while conducting fieldwork among the Acholi people in Uganda. Whitmore’s analysis of the memo, which was dated from the 1980s and attributed to President Yoweri Museveni, finds that it implies “co-genocide on the Acholi people, first on the part of key figures of the NRM and then also on the part of the leadership of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).” Whitmore’s article, “Genocide or Just another ‘Casualty of War’? The Implications of the Memo Attributed to President Yoweri K. Museveni of Uganda” was criticized by Nick Young in the Ugandan paper the Daily Monitor, where he argued that Whitmore, like others from the West, was too quick to “press the genocide button:”
Beyond doubt, Museveni’s modernising, civilising vision, combined with a sense of the north as being backward and peripheral, led to bad policy, badly implemented, increasingly corrupted by the arrogance of power, increasingly compromised and diverted by greed and militaristic adventures.
But this does not add up to genocide any more than two plus two adds up to 22.
The world needs less genocide talk, not more. Bad outcomes result less often from Grand Evil than from a mess of venal sins, ambitions and dreams, working in combination with real conflicts of interest. Upping the ante by waving the Grand Evil banner does not help in sorting out the mess.
Whitmore responded with a commentary, also in the Daily Monitor, highlighting his extensive analysis of the memo and adherence to the UN convention on the Prevention of Genocide. He writes:
I did not “promptly hit the ‘genocide’ button.” In fact, I was given the document in 2006. Four years of research preceded my release of the document. Interestingly, the response I get most frequently from Acholi respondents is, “Why did you wait so long to release the document?”
Read Whitmore’s entire response here.