by Ann Garrison
KPFA Weekend News broadcast Oct. 1, 2016
KPFA Weekend News Anchor Lola Acanmu: The El Cajon police shooting of Alfred Olango is one of the most recent police shootings of an unarmed Black man to make national and international headlines and inspire Black Lives Matter protests. Olango and his family fled war and persecution by the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda with an iron fist since 1986. KPFA’s Ann Garrison filed this report.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Much of the press have reported that Alfred Olango survived the reign of Idi Amin, although Olango would have been at most one year old in 1979, when Idi Amin was driven from power and from Uganda.
A Ugandan American friend of the Olango family who preferred not to be identified confirmed that Alfred Olango’s father had worked for the government overthrown by Yoweri Museveni and that the family is from the Acholi tribe of northern Uganda. They fled two wars that ravaged northern Uganda for 20 years, between 1986 and 2006.
During that time, warlord Joseph Kony waged war on his own people, the Acholi, whom he thought were collaborating with their oppressor. President Museveni, at the same time, waged war against the Acholi, often in the name of fighting Kony.
In the mid-‘90s, after the Olangos sought asylum in the U.S., Museveni drove 90 percent of the Acholi, nearly 2 million people, into concentration camps – thatched roof huts tightly clustered together – where they died of malnutrition, dehydration, disease and HIV, which Museveni’s soldiers spread rapidly and in many cases intentionally in the camps.
In 2005, the World Health Organization reported that 1,000 Acholi were dying every week of violence and disease – above all malaria and AIDS. That was, they reported, 1,000 beyond normal mortality rates.
During the Ugandan army’s 20-year occupation of Northern Uganda, the U.S. provided military aid and training as it built it into a U.S. proxy force on the African continent. The U.S. has used Ugandan troops to serve its agenda not only in nations bordering Uganda but also in Somalia and elsewhere on the African continent, as coordinated by AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command. The U.S. has even used Ugandan troops in its own assaults on Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Olango family friend who wished not to be identified and preferred not to speak to the situation in northern Uganda did tell us what he would like Ugandans to understand about what had happened to his friend’s son, Alfred Olango.
Olango family friend: We are getting away from what is really going on right now. That is losing a child – the parents. And being killed. And the other thing that is also clear: The sister called for help and clearly made it that this is a mentally very disturbed person because of what happened to his friend, and no long term medical issues.
So the police came knowing that this was clearly a mentally disturbed person at that time. The sister also stressed that he didn’t have any gun, and still they came and were ready to shoot. That’s the disturbing part of this for me.
KPFA: What would you want Ugandans to understand?
OFF: That’s what I would want Ugandans to understand. And also at the same time, knowing the challenges that he went through and I think this was a young man that was transformed.
KPFA: Transformed by his experience here?
OFF: Transformed in the sense that yes, he had trouble with the law, but on the whole he had changed, for the better.
KPFA: Yeah, the press is making, as they always do – they’re reporting on a lot on these minor legal offenses that were considerably in the past.
KPFA: And that was a friend of Alfred Olango’s family who fled President Yoweri Museveni’s war on Northern Uganda, as the friend also did, and who preferred not to be identified.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.