Understanding war and its continuation : the case of Northern Uganda
This thesis addresses the question of why, when almost everyone says they wish it would end, suffering such as that in northern Uganda continues. I argue that, contrary to popular presentations, the situation is not primarily one of war between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda, but instead a form of mass torture, which I call Social Torture. The principal victims are the population within the ‘war zone’, particularly in ‘protected villages’ for the internally displaced, where tactics and symptoms typical of torture, including violation, dread, disorientation, dependency, debilitation and humiliation, are widespread. The most visible perpetrators are the Government and LRA, but a range of less visible actors are also involved, not least donor governments, multi-lateral organisations, academics, churches and NGOs. In many instances these can be regarded as complicit bystanders; like doctors in a torture situation, they appear to be there to ease the suffering of victims, but in reality they enable the process to be prolonged by keeping the victim alive for further abuse. This serves a number of interlinked economic, political and psychological functions for perpetrators and bystanders alike, and is underpinned by psychological and discursive processes of justification, most importantly the idea that this situation is first and foremost a ‘war’ between the LRA and the Government. In short, in a situation such as northern Uganda, means and ends are inverted: rather than torture being a tactic with which to prosecute war, here war is the guise under which Social Torture is perpetrated. War continues because Social Torture is not addressed. Given that those who in principle have the most power to do so are implicated in Social Torture themselves, the focus has to shift from the intentions of visible perpetrators to the responsibilities of a far wider range of actors.