This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
December 6, 2011 I In Uganda, a humanitarian crisis has been unfolding over the past twenty years. The North, particularly the Acholi ethnic group, has been systematically and economically discriminated against: ―Under the British colonial system, the practice of ethnic division was imposed in Uganda, as a result of which the peoples of the north came to dominate the ranks of the colonial army while generally being economically and politically disadvantaged‖ (Dunn 2007:139). Because President Museveni is from the Southwest, he does not care for the North and negatively links the North with Ida Amin. Around 1987, Joseph Kony started his Lord‘s Resistance Army (LRA) and began guerrilla activity to overthrow Museveni and form a government based on the ―Ten Commandments‖ and local Acholi tradition. The North has been declared a military zone by Museveni, as a war has been fought there between the LRA and Museveni‘s National Resistance Army (NRA) for nearly 25 years. LRA tactics include capturing civilians and creating non-voluntary military forces. Young men and women provided Kony‘s LRA with combatants as well as domestic and sexual servants. Farmlands in Acholiland have been abused. Vast numbers of refugees from Gulu town, in Acholi territories, moved into Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps. Children would walk at night to Gulu town out of fear of being abducted and raped in villages and IDP camps during rural night raids. This population will be the focus of my case study. To further my exploration of this case, I must first examine important theoretical concepts that contribute to my framework, the lens through which I will analyze this crisis. In The Max Weber Dictionary: Key Words and Central Concepts, Weber defines his notion of a
The probability that action will actually be so governed will be called the ‗validity‘ (Geltung) of the order in question‖ (Weber 1978:31). especially social action which involves a social relationship. theoretical concepts. actors tend to act according to these orders only if they have validity. which he fulfills partly because disobedience would be disadvantageous to him but also because its violation would be abhorrent to his sense of duty‖ (Weber 1978:31). Throughout this paper I will examine how the LRA and hiding youth act as separate organizations questioning the legitimacy of certain orders. He further develops the significance of legitimacy in his discussion of ―legitimate order‖ and explains that a person‘s actions are partially ―determined by the validity of an order. Furthermore. I will explore the legitimation crisis the hiding youth faced due to the LRA. II A central theme in this course has been the relationship between structure and agency. Here. However. I will expand on this relationship by tying in crucial. In this sense.‖ we can define social structure to be the result of political and social orders. such as legitimacy and the emblematic function of signs. Weber offers a nuanced understanding of legitimacy as it acts as a conceptual bridge between agency and structure: Weber argues that ―an order is considered valid only if there is a probability that actions complying with it will be guided by a belief in its legitimacy‖ (Weber 1978:285). In Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Trewn 2 . may be guided by the belief in the existence of a legitimate order. While ―[a]n order can roughly be defined as prescriptions for how to act that have acquired a certain independence in the minds of individual actors. actors influence the construction of a social structure as they exercise their agency by reinforcing or disobeying certain orders as a reflection of their political or social legitimacy.―legitimate order‖ to be the consequence of the ―validity‖ of social action: ―Action.
where ―domination‖ is defined as ―‗the probability that a command with a given specific content will be obeyed by a given group of persons‘‖ (Weber 1978:64). To understand how this code works in social practice. and of the normative patters or order revealed by him. heroism or exemplary character of an individual person. Moreover. as it may be expressed. or.‖ we discover that agency is exercised in terms of legitimate orders (Ahearn 2001:7). action can be oriented to an order without conformity as ―the probability of their being recognized as valid norms may have an effect on action‖ (Weber 1978:32). Political legitimacy can be further divided into three subtypes: legal. even in the case of evasion or disobedience. commenting on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of particular orders. III. which refers to Trewn 3 . and charismatic legitimacy: In legal domination. actors navigate the social structure tactfully. larger social and political structures. Thus. Legitimacy refers to a code of meaning about authority. concepts from semiotic theory are useful for understanding how meaning mediates social relations. of ‗legitimacy‘‖ (Weber 1978:31). One key semiotic concept is social index.The most stable order is one ―which enjoys the prestige of being considered binding. In their effort to lead meaningful lives. if we consider agency to be ―how people‘s actions influence. and are influenced by. traditional. legitimacy rests on ―a belief in the legality of enacted rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands‖…Traditional domination rests on ―an established belief in the sanctity or immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of those exercising authority under them‖…And charismatic domination rests on ―devotion to the exceptional sanctity.‖ (Weber 1978:149) The theoretical concept of ―domination‖ is central to our understanding of different types of political legitimacy.
To illustrate the relationship between legitimacy and semiotic activities. and reflexivity to the social dynamics and methods of the RUF. To understand indexicality and reflexivity helps one understand how actors comment on the legitimacy and validity of political and social orders. and pre-conceptualize the reflexivity of another person…an entirely recursive process (Agha 2007:27). The author provides the following anecdote of a child soldier: I recruited other children…After we attacked a village. by waving with his right hand instead of his left may be a form of respect and endearment in a culture. look back on indexicality. it is important to be reflexive. make inferences from indexical signs in their context. I would go into the houses and talk with the children. or relationships between. For example. emblems. I told them that they were in real danger if they didn‘t join…I was very successful and I would come back with many children. In order to understand social identity as indexical. Reflexive social practices are forms of activities often practiced by human beings when one communicates signs in order to communicate about another sign (Agha 2007: 16-17). which presents cases that highlight the significance of legitimacy. Agha explains social indexicality to be the following: ―the contextual features indexed by speech and accompanying signs that are understood as attributes of. social persons‖ (Agha 2007:14). I would tell them that the RUF was great and I would tell them about the movement. and may be reflexively commented on. (Boy) (Denov 2010:105) Trewn 4 . consider an example from Child Soldiers: Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front.some detail or mark that has contextual meaning. while waving one's right hand back and forth as a guest leaves is a way to say goodbye. Understanding the reflexive relationships of a society is crucial to understanding the social relations of any given culture (Agha 2007: 16-17).
he could use his victims to improve his value and increase his safety among the RUF. by collecting many children. through recruitment. Then.‖ Murphy succinctly writes that ―a legitimation crisis refers to the loss of acceptance and validity of the normative structures that regulate the social order of conventions and customs. With this understanding. the young boy would follow his orders to attack a village. suggesting that he is a client to some higher patron. more specifically. the young client was acting as a patron. Essentially. the child soldier exercised agency as he reflexively considered how.‖ Central to a Trewn 5 . by telling the children of the attacked villages that the RUF was great and if they did not join that they would be in danger. more generally. he also acted as a patron protecting his clients given that they follow his commands and buy into his political and. which we can understand by using Weber‘s theory of legitimacy. his legal legitimacy. and the ―legitimation crises‖ they faced in light of LRA terrorism. as he took note of the emblematic signs of his victims and declared them as youth. First. in his handout titled ―Legitimacy and Legitimation Crisis. youth clientalism and patronage manifest on different levels. the political order of the RUF. this young boy likely moved up on the social hierarchy of the RUF and was given control over younger children. In this scenario.The patrimonialism of the RUF grew out of charismatic domination and patriarchalism. he offered protection to the other children on behalf of the RUF if they joined. The child soldier acted reflexively. Thus. Moreover. the political order of authority and community governance. he validates the political legitimacy of his patron and. IV The remainder of my paper will focus on a case study by analyzing the practice of youth hiding in northern Uganda during the early and mid 2000s. Consequently. As a synopsis of Habermas‘s Legitimation Crisis. and the economic order of production and distribution of goods and services.
community. Allen shows how youth in northern Uganda altered their lifestyles and the meaning of ―youth‖ in response to LRA terrorism: To avoid abduction. notions of agency and personhood‖ (Durham 2000:117). in particular. thousands of young people commute to the bigger towns or to the centre of the camps in the evening. the youth in northern Uganda faced a legitimation crisis as the institutions of family. institutional. sleeping in schools and dispensaries. this has sometimes exposed them to abuse…On 1 April 2004.legitimation crisis is the vulnerability of the subjects: ―We therefore associate with crises the idea of an objective force that deprives the subject of some part of his normal sovereignty‖ (Habermas 1973:105). For young women. and by whom. and larger organizational. In Trial Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Lord’s Resistance Army. rights. at the height of LRA child abduction. and consequently lost validity in the eyes of the youth. (Allen 2006:55) Why were youth choosing to commute daily from their villages and IDP camps to town? What structural changes contributed to the shifting of ―youth‖ to being defined by fear of abduction in Trewn 6 . and social structures. knowledge.000 children. During the early and mid 2000s. and government could no longer protect them from the wide-spread yet unpredictable LRA abduction and terrorism.‖ and the answers to these questions differ depending on the context. Youth are constantly considering ―what kinds of power are available and where they can be exercised. Furthermore. The definition of youth changes contextually in relation to ―fields of power. relationships. a survey of eleven night commuter sites in Gulu town found almost 20. on the verandas of shops or at the Catholic missions. Durham points out that ―[y]outh enter political space as saboteurs—as political actors whose politics is to open up discourses on the nature of society in its broadest and most specific terms‖ (Durham 2000:118).
The first group of youth in hiding documented in Invisible Children commute to the Lacor hospital every evening. youth is a shifter identity. and ability to ―mediate. and hiding from the LRA. By performing their desire of ‗youth‘ as independent enables youth to express contextual. youth exercise agency as a tool which allows them to re-conceptualize old meanings and construct new meanings in the social structure as a consequence of changes in legitimacy of structures surrounding them. tactical agency. Nevertheless. in response to this legitimation crisis.‖ youth‘s marginality. Therefore. the validity of these normative institutional structures was lost due to the youth fearing abduction by the LRA. under which they sleep in a tight area that floods a few times a week (Russell 2006). Because they are inevitably shaped by society. between the manifold oppositions. Moreover. or government. This understanding of youth as mobilized suggests that they perform agency. Contrary to popular discussions of youth in impoverished settings as ―pre-social and passive recipients of experience. In a recursive fashion. northern Ugandan youth exercised agency by banding together in groups. Watching this group interact is astonishing because not only do they sleep Trewn 7 . liminality. and suggests that these youth faced a legitimation crisis because they no longer felt safe and protected by their family. The documentary Invisible Children follows the lives of hiding youth in northern Africa in the early 2000s.10). Their creativity and performativity of social identity give youth agency. youth innovatively work within their constraints to gain agency and influence the social structures which shaped them in the first place (Diouf 2005:229). ruptures and contradiction…places them squarely in the centre and generates tremendous power‖ (De Boeck 2005: 3. commuting to Gulu town at night.northern Uganda? Exploring these questions will aid my discussion of the legitimation crisis faced by these youth. positively or negatively. community.
As a terror technique. Also water was sprinkled on us. the LRA rely heavily on terrorism techniques in order to forcibly alter the social structure in which youth try to navigate their lives. a member of the parliament who speaks on the behalf of the children. Joseph immediately desensitizes them through violent indoctrination. peace‖ (Russell 2006). they return to their villages or the IDP camps and reflexively share their horrific stories of abduction and life with the LRA. do their homework together. each night they hide from him and his child soldiers‖ (Russell 2006). ―Later a stone was burnt into ashes with oil ‘moo yaa’ and smeared on to our bodies. shocking the local youth into fear of abduction. commute together and. more generally. stated that ―the message from the children is very clear: survival. she explains. look after each other: ―But we realized these kids were more than mere friend.together. We were told that if we escaped. Once in the jungle. Kony specifically targets youth between the ages five and twelve because they are ―big enough to carry guns but small enough to sneak into schools to steal more children. this group of youth represented an organization and the members exercised collective agency by hiding at night as a means to navigate the social structures horribly influenced by the LRA. Dan Kidega. This abducted girl affirms her perception of the political Trewn 8 . which acted as a terrorist organizational structure. When the abductees escape or are released. While organizations with legitimacy are more stable. the holy spirit [tipu maleng] would bring us back…I believed it‖ (Allen 2006:68). but they eat together. they became a family‖ (Russell 2006). wash off together. One escapee living in hiding shared her story about how she was forced to kill her mother in order to live and was forced to live in the bush (Allen 2006:67). Because of this. In structural terminology. Then Kony said from that time we are his soldiers…They smeared us in this way…also to stop us escaping.
Allen writes. (Allen 2006:64) Why does the LRA. the LRA uses youth members to increase the validity of their organization and their political legitimacy among the Acholi. overhanging question about this conflict between the LRA and Museveni‘s government concerns the length of it: Why has it continued for well over twenty years? While Trewn 9 . The point is that the abduction of children has been a deliberate strategy – a weapon of choice. is at the whim of a commander. like mutilation and death. The very unpredictability of what can happen after capture is part of what makes it so alarming. Allen forces us to further nuance our understanding of the LRA‘s use of abduction as a terrorism technique. These techniques of the LRA have been very effective. Their stories are meant to instill respect and fear. a northern political movement that claims to support the concerns of the North. the LRA use abduction and terrorism to scare the youthful population of the North into validating them as a legitimate mass movement against an oppressive government neglecting the interests of the North. The large.legitimacy of the LRA as valid because she fears the traditional domination of the holy spirit and fearfully respects the legitimacy of the LRA. by demonstrating that returning home. In this way. and exposes how the LRA used terrorism techniques to establish and cultivate belief in its political legitimacy. Like rape. it has been used systematically and selectively to terrorize the population…Releasing some children and adult soon after their capture is part of this process. terrorize the youth in the North who would eventually be the leaders of the Acholi ethnic group? By capturing youth for their organizational projects. as proven through the daily and large-scale night commuting of youth during the early and mid 2000s.
from the conflict.‖ Museveni was able to take advantage of the US need for allies in the post 9/11 era. the conflict represents a larger geopolitical struggle which Museveni is heavily involved in. seeing as the Ugandan armed officials (UPDA) supposedly protecting them at the IDP camps often fled during night raids in a panic. More poignantly. Fearful of abduction in the presence of the UPDA. recent discoveries have shown that Museveni‘s government benefits from the self-perpetuating. For example. The Sudanese government has acted as a proxy as President al Bashir supports the LRA and vice versa. and rarely defeated the rebel forces (Allen 2006:55). political legitimacy. This is a reasonable conclusion by the youth. by deeming the LRA a ―terrorist group. Due to the elongation of the crisis. Additionally. while the Sudan People‘s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the NRA assist each other (Dunn 2007:143). vicious cycle of the conflict. become engaged in the War on Terror and. The institutional structure of government lost its validity in the North as it ceased to protect the northerners in IDP camps and. thus. the youth saw hiding as their best opportunity to navigate their lives in a social structure infiltrated by fear. the institutional structures of family and community also lost their validity in the eyes of the youth: ―The moral Trewn 10 . Youth would commute from villages and IDP camps to Gulu town as an expression of collective agency in a social structure altered by the LRA through terrorism techniques. become a recipient of large amounts of aid from the US. they still remain a small. the political legitimacy of Museveni‘s government has been lost in the eyes of the disenfranchised northern Acholi. extreme political faction that lacks stable. in general. Because of the forceful effectiveness of the LRA‘s organizational structure in transforming the social structures. Acholi youth did not feel safe in the IDP camps at night because they believed that Museveni‘s government lost political legitimacy in competition against the LRA.the LRA utilizes awful terrorism techniques for recruitment and legitimacy building.
e not staying with their parents]. community. They don‘t really get…what people used to get in their communities. As a result of the LRA‘s fear-producing strategies. My argument elucidates the legitimation crisis youth faced in northern Uganda and clarifies the general research problem of understanding the complexities of structure and youth agency in Africa. as my discussion has shown. youth in response to LRA night raids and terrorism no longer validated the legitimacy of the community and family institutions. While youth felt safe within their community and with their family prior to being fearful of abduction. V The youth of northern Uganda in the early and mid 2000s faced a serious legitimation crisis. sitting together around the fireplace and trying to discuss and get the moral education from their parents‖ (Allen 2006:71). and government lost legitimacy in the eyes of the local youth as the LRA gained legitimacy as a force to be dealt with. This case study shows more generally that youth in Africa should no longer Trewn 11 . youth are active in responding to and influencing change in structures. In the face of legitimation crises where certain normative structures have lost validity.path has really been degraded so much that you find children moving from their places [i. youth in Africa respond by exercising agency. Because youth have been traditionally documented as being on the margins of society in Africa following the failure of the nationalist discourse. whether it occurs on the individual. collective. Through use of child abduction and subsequent terrorism techniques. Kony‘s LRA injected fear into the existing social structure. community. the institutional structures of family. Yet. youth have not been envisioned as actors in society. and government institutions. as they lose trust in the family. or organizational level.
African youth should be conceptualized as agents that proactively respond to crises of legitimacy and actively reshape institutional life. Trewn 12 .be viewed as the passive victims of history. Rather.
]. Ed. Murphy. LA. Makers & Breakers: Children in Postcolonial Africa. NJ: Africa World Press. Ed. Durham. 55 min. Inc. Dunn. Trewn 13 . Alicia Honwana and Filip De Boeck. African Guerrillas: Raging Against the Machine. Myriam 2010 Child Soldiers: Sierra Leone‘s Revolutionary United Front. Weber. Asif 2007 Language and Social Relations. Allen. African Studies Review 46 (2):61-87. Diouf. Russell. Ed. NYC: Zed Books Ltd. Thomas McCarthy. William P. Juren 1973 Legitimation Crisis. Dunn. Ahearn. Morten Boas and Kevin C. MA: Blackwell Publishers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003 Military Patrimonialism and Child Soldier Clientalism in the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Civil Wars. Max 1978 Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology.References Cited Agha. NJ: Africa World Press. Identity & Place. Haberman. Ed. Alcinda 2005 Introduction: Children & Youth in Youth – Agency. Anthropological Quarterly 73 (3):113-120. Deborah 2000 Youth and the Social Imagination in Africa: Introduction to Parts 1 and 2. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers. 2001 Agency in Key Terms in Language and Culture. Filip and Honwana. Inc. Makers & Breakers: Children in Postcolonial Africa. CA: University of California Press. Cambridge: Cambridge University. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. Denov. Mamadou 2005 Afterword. Laura M. Alicia Honwana & Filip De Boeck. Tim 2006 Trial Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Lord‘s Resistance Army. Alessandro Duranti. Jason [Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole] 2006 Invisible Children [videorecording. translator. De Boeck. Ed. 2007 Uganda: The Lord‘s Resistance Army. Kevin C. Boston: Beacon Press.