Mexico: End Drug War & Redirect Funds to Regional Development?

This webinar looks at Mexico’s recently released regional development plan, that Mexican President López Obrador (AMLO) says will create jobs and opportunities for young people and other potential migrants to remain home in their own communities in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

We will discuss the related topic of the drug war and whether AMLO’s rejection of the of the “Merida Initiative (the U.S. funded counter narcotics program at the center of the U.S. backed “war on drugs”) represents a paradigm shift in a conflict that has spawned 120,000 murders and 40,000 more disappeared.

Things are moving fast – highlighted by Trump’s recent threat of tariffs on all Mexico goods. Tonight’s webinar is a chance to get up-to-speed by listening to and posing question to some of Global Exchange’s best allies on both sides of the border:

Laura Carlsen, journalist and director of the America’s program. She will assess the importance of Mexico’s rejection of the Mérida Initiative, new regional job creation plans and what the U.S. response may look like.

Zara Snapp, Co-founder of Instituto RIA. Zarah will share a close up view of the marijuana regulatory process in Mexico’s Congress — a process she closely accompanies.

Armando Gudiño, veteran drug war opponent from the Los Angeles office of Drug Policy Alliance. He will talk about California’s leadership toward ending the drug war and why we should support Mexico’s reform initiatives.

Bill Hing, Professor of Immigration Law at USF and founder of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. Bill will describe the importance of immigrant labor to the U.S. and the region and why targeted development strategies bring benefits. He will also talk about how drug war criminalization hurts immigrants and why/how that can change.

Ted Lewis of Global Exchange will moderate the event.


It’s that time of year again. 2018 has drawn to a close and we look ahead to what the new year could bring. We resolve to make changes, from improving our health to investing in our relationships, ditching the smartphones, engaging in community, and learning new skills. What if you could tackle all these resolutions in one?

We invite you to travel with us — a human rights organization. We’ll give you the opportunity to take a deep dive into the complexity of world issues, to tap into established local networks, to access insider knowledge, to learn a lot, to have a lot of fun and make new friends along the way.

So make 2019 the year you travel, and let us help make it the one where you return healthier, more connected, more knowledgeable, and more empowered. 

Here are four brand-new trips to kick-off the new year:

Vietnam: Beyond War’s Toxic Legacy

February 21 March 3, 2019

Explore the quaint and history packed streets of Old Hanoi, sampling the freshest and most complex flavors of Vietnamese cuisine along the way. Enjoy an overnight onboard a cruise in Halong Bay, visiting floating villages and small beaches while meeting with local villagers and enjoying fresh seafood. Explore the legacy of war, from trails and tunnels used decades ago to current projects addressing remaining cluster bombs and lingering health impacts of Agent Orange — and so much more! **This delegation is confirmed **

Bolivia: Indigenous Identity

February 22 – March 3, 2019

On this 10-day program from Santa Cruz to La Paz and amazing places in between, we will meet with Indigenous communities on the front-lines of the struggles against resource extraction, water privatization and climate migration. We will end our journey by taking part in the Anata Andino, an Indigenous carnival festival with over 100 rural communities participating in giving thanks to mother earth.

US/Mexico Border: Migration, Militarization & Human Rights

April 7 – 13, 2019

Participants will explore how US immigration policies and trade agreements have impacted immigration and migration. We’ll learn about the impacts of decisions made by the current US administration, meet with diverse groups, community organizations and individuals from both sides of the border to hear firsthand about the reality of the Southern Arizona borderlands.

Japan: Following Our Waters

May 8 – 14, 2019

Did you know that Crystal Geyser is taking spring water from Mt.Shasta, packaging it in plastic bottles and shipping it all the way to Japan? Join a group of Mt. Shasta environmental activists to see, firsthand, where our waters have gone while engaging with Japanese community leaders.

We hope you’ll join us in 2019 to celebrate 30 years of building a connected global civil society dedicated to a peaceful and just future for all!

By Ted Lewis and Janice Gallagher

  • A body of independent experts (GIEI), appointed by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, rejects the government’s conclusions about key elements of last year’s attacks on unarmed students during which six people were killed and 43 forcibly disappeared. The report underlines coordination between local, state, and federal police, as well as the Army during the hours of the attacks and cites official obstruction of justice in the months since the crimes took place.
  • Families of the disappeared reaffirm ongoing struggle and announce major mobilization on September 26th , the first anniversary of the state crime.

Here are ten takeaways from the experts’ 560-page report:

1) Yes: it was the state

Mexico’s own police forces killed six people, disappeared 43 students, and wounded more than 40 on the night of September 26th, 2014. While the involvement of a (police-affiliated) drug cartel is alleged, it is undisputed – even by the Mexican state – that members of two different local police forces perpetrated this violence.

What remains in question is the involvement of federal forces – specifically the federal police and the military. The expert group found that the federal police detained one of the five buses the students were traveling in – a fact denied by the Mexican officials. The experts also found that the military participated in the monitoring of the student movements, and that members of military intelligence were present at two locations where the students were killed and disappeared during the course of the evening.

2) The students were stalked and then killed and/or disappeared by local police forces

When the students attempted to return to their school, about 1 ½ hours away, local and federal police forces blocked their exit and attacked. Police and military forces followed the movements of the students throughout evening of September 26th: they observed the students from the time they left their school at 6pm, until the local police first attacked them at 10pm – and until the attacks ended after midnight.

In one case, the students locked themselves inside one of their bus after being stopped and surrounded by the police. The police then broke off branches from nearby trees, broke the windows of the bus, and threw pepper spray and tear gas inside the bus. The students came out with their hands up, and were forced to lie on the ground. The municipal and federal police forcibly disappeared all the students on this bus, while military intelligence observed.

3) The attack was coordinated and sustained

The attack did not happen in an isolated burst of violence – rather over the course of more than three hours in nine different locations.

The attack was not chaotic: different police and military forces regularly communicated throughout the night, and the expert group suspects that a policeman in downtown Iguala was issuing commands to the various participating groups. The records of communication from that group, called C4, went missing during the height of the attack. There are different explanations of why these records are missing: perhaps they were communicating on an encrypted network, or perhaps the Secretary of National Defense has control of those records.

At no point did municipal, state preventive or soldiers intervene to protect students or other civilians. In a widely reported case, members of the military refused to help a student with a bullet wound to the face who had sought medical attention at a health clinic.

4) Students wanted to raise money and arrange for transport – not disrupt a speech

The students had planned to peacefully commandeer several buses on the night of September 26th, and also to ask for donations from motorists along the highways.

The expert group reports that the practice of commandeering buses and fundraising from motorists “has been traditional amongst the different normales [rural teachers’ colleges] in Mexico,” and had happened for years generally without violence, arrests or legal charges being brought. Bus companies, in response to these practices, developed guidelines for their drivers: they pay them their salary during the time when their bus is taken over, and in turn expect them to stay with their bus.

Despite initial reports claiming the students wanted to disrupt the speech of the mayor’s wife, whose brother is a leader with local criminal group Guerreros Unidos, her speech was in fact over before the students arrived in the town of Iguala.

5) The state’s explanation that the disappeared students were incinerated at the Cocula trash dump was demonstrated to be patently false, even scientifically impossible.

In January 2015, the then-Attorney General of Mexico, Jesús Murillo Karam, claimed that the state had solved the case: the “historical truth”, he said, was that the municipal police had handed over the 43 students to the Guerreros Unidos criminal gang, who then killed them and burned the bodies in the Cocula trash dump.

José Torero, a leading fire expert engaged by the expert group, found that the destruction of 43 corpses in an open air dump would have required many conditions that simply did not exist: 500 cords of wood or 100s of tons of tires; very high heat that would have scorched the surrounding earth and vegetation (they were not scorched); and a fire that would have burned for more than two and a half days — far longer than any of the “witnesses” claimed it had taken. In addition, such a large fire would have produced a plume of smoke hundreds of feet high visible for miles around. No local residents reported seeing such a thing.

6) The official investigation has been discredited by errors, lies, destruction of evidence and the likely use of torture to obtain testimony

It started when officials identified mass graves said to contain the bodies of the Ayotzinapa victims. Closer investigation revealed that those graves held other murder victims.

Then, as former Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam sought to gain control over the politically explosive case, the lies deepened and the story about the incineration of bodies at the Cocula trash dump (entirely based on likely coerced testimony) was presented as fact. That lie now stands in ruins as does the entire edifice of the official story.

Faith in the authorities was further undermined by revelations that various CCTV video recordings made on the night of the disappearances – which had been sent to the state investigators handling the case – were destroyed.

7) Widespread practice of enforced disappearance by state forces facilitated the attack

Why did state officials think they could get away with this attack on unarmed civilians? Human rights groups have recently documented what they call “a cycle of impunity and violence.” In this cycle, crime rates continue to increase as the justice system falls further behind in punishing those responsible for committing crimes, especially if those responsible work for the government. This impunity emboldens perpetrators to commit more crime. This cycle has landed Mexico at number two in a worldwide impunity index, and in a recent survey, Mexicans reported that a perpetrator had been indicted in only 7.5% of all crimes.

8) Devastating impact of survivors and families:

The poor handling and dishonesty of the official investigation has added to the pain experienced by the families of the Ayotzinapa disappeared.

At the press conference held by the Ayotzinapa families after the GIEI report launch, Mario César Gonzalez Contreras, the father of one of the missing students commented that, “it became very clear that the garbage dump at Cocula was government theater….the [state version that our children were burned at the] dump has always tortured the families of the 43 disappeared.”

Another family member summarized: “the first death was when we knew our son had been disappeared; the second when they [the state] wanted to turn over the first graves they found; the third death happened when they found even more graves; the fourth when they [claimed our son had been burned in] the Cocula dump.”

9) Context of war on drugs fuels corruption and violence

The state of Guerrero, like all of Mexico, has been deeply affected the drug war. Iguala, where the abductions took place is, according the report, “an important place for heroin trafficking.” The dynamics of the drug war have ensured the profitability of the illicit drug trade and frequently have led to the kind of state-criminal collusion seen in Guerrero. The GIEI report recommends further investigation of the possibility that one of the busses commandeered by the students was (unbeknownst to them) carrying a load of drugs. In the opinion of the experts, this might explain the unprecedented ferocity of the attack on the students.

If this theory –that the students inadvertently commandeered a bus with drugs or cash — is true, the implications about the nature of the Mexican state and U.S. sponsored drug war are politically explosive, given that state actors committed the violence and led the cover up that ensued.

10) The case fueled massive protest – and the report could reignite citizen outrage

Last fall the Ayotzinapa case fueled a massive backlash against President Enrique Peña Nieto. Enormous solidarity marches took place across Mexico and around the world and Peña Nieto’s standing tumbled. Peña Nieto survived with support from Washington, but this new report comes at a moment when his hold on power is further weakened by a falling peso, low oil prices, a resurgence in drug war violence, and the fact that he is entering the traditional weaker second-half of his six year term. Representatives of the Ayotzinapa community who spoke at a press conference Sunday invoked the example of neighboring Guatemala where persistent street protests recently brought down a corrupt president.

Ted Lewis is the Human Rights Program Director at Global Exchange.

Janice Gallagher is a postdoctoral fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. She works on issues of governance, human rights and violence in Latin America.

Note: This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post

Last June, I traveled to Honduras to confer with civil society leaders about organizing a five-nation, “end the drug war” caravan — all the way from Central America to New York City.

The “caravan” aims to stir debate in places profoundly damaged by the drug war and to bring people and their stories from those regions along the route to New York City just prior to the convening of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drug Policy (UNGASS) next April.

We knew this trip was guaranteed to be challenging. Honduras has been hit very hard by the drug war. The dramatic profits available to those who traffic in prohibited drugs have fueled the growth of criminal organizations, spurred violence, underwritten pervasive corruption, and bolstered the institutionalized impunity that enables all of it.

But there was a big, hopeful surprise awaiting us in Honduras: the stunning emergence of a powerful civil revolt against government corruption that took to the streets while we were there, and that has been calling for the President’s resignation ever since.

As I was preparing to travel I had read of allegations that funds were pilfered from the country’s social security and health system. This seemed really bad, but I was so focused on travel details and our safety that I failed to understand the depth of discontent that this would unleash.

We were, after all, mapping out an itinerary that included San Pedro Sula — currently one of the world’s most violent cities. From there we’d head to a community meeting with Garifuna leaders, seven hours (and hundreds of kilometers east of my comfort zone) in the sweltering, mafia-dominated lowlands near the Caribbean coast.


On reflection, it’s not really surprising that discontent has boiled over in Honduras. Extreme poverty is widespread and just a few oligarchs control most of the country’s lands and wealth.

Decades of a heavy U.S. military footprint in the country — and more recently, Hillary Clinton’s back-channel support of a 2009 military coup — have encouraged the enemies of democracy in Honduras.

Since the 2009 coup, gang violence has surged — adding to the economic pressures that prompt thousands of desperate families to emigrate, or sometimes even send their kids north alone, despite the terrible risks involved.

But the trigger for this summer’s peaceful uprising was the revelation that hundreds of millions of dollars were stolen from the national health system, much of it channeled directly to ruling party political campaigns. Thousands of Hondurans died needlessly due to shortages of medical personnel and medicines. These are the facts behind the outrage that has propelled multitudes of discontented, torch-carrying citizens into the streets.


As we traveled and spoke with organizations and leaders across Honduras we encountered deep opposition to the militarization and corruption of public life that have accompanied the drug war.

We were especially interested in speaking with Garifuna and other indigenous leaderswho have been among the most outspoken critics of the drug war — even as they have confronted smugglers encroaching on their ancestral lands.

The Garifuna are descendants of escaped African slaves and indigenous peoples who intermarried and settled along Central America’s Atlantic Coast in the 1700’s. They were once isolated, but in recent years have come under intense pressure from unscrupulous tourist development and sprawling African Palm plantations.

Last year, Garifuna in the tiny settlement of Vallecito found a drug-smuggling airstrip built and being operated on their territory.

Miriam Miranda, leader of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) stepped in to document and protest the intrusion. OFRANEH pressured the government to shut down the airfield. The army eventually complied, dynamiting large holes to disable the dirt runway.

But that was not the end of the story. The smugglers returned and started filling the hole with logs and dirt.

When OFRANEH leaders began to document the refurbishing of the airfield, they were seized at gunpoint by sicarios on motorcycles. They were released long hours later, but only because other members of their party had eluded the gunmen, alerted media, and triggered an international campaign for their freedom.

Now, a year later, OFRANEH boldly maintains a permanent encampment on the site to keep traffickers away.

This year, as protests were mounting across the country, OFRANEH held their national leadership meeting at the remote encampment. They invited us to come there to talk with them about working together to end the drug war.

We agreed about a lot of things: The drug war is a disaster and it is past time to break the taboo on speaking honestly about its impact on people, families, communities, countries, and entire regions.

They explained how parasitic criminal organizations that grew from the hyper-profits of the prohibited drug trade now run other enterprises, like extortion rackets and human trafficking. They launder ill-gotten funds through investments in mining, hotels, agriculture and other superficially legitimate industries.

The OFRANEH leaders are interested in promoting an international discussion of how we could starve the beasts of the drug war through realistic regulation of drugs that aims to dramatically reduce the illegal trade.

We talked about how human rights, public health, and harm reduction practices should be the guideposts of any new, reformed drug policies. But to be clear, no one thought ending the drug war or dismantling the powerful criminal organizations whose money and influence derives from it would be easy. Nor will it be easy for Hondurans to restore democracy and curb the power of the oligarchy.

Open public debate and scrutiny is needed to reveal the truth about the drug war: it is a deadly, decades-long international mistake that cannot be solved by any country on its own. Pragmatic drug policy reforms require concerted international cooperation.

Such reforms will not resolve all the deep tensions roiling Honduras and other countries, but freezing the drug war profit machine via incremental regulation of today’s illicit markets is a critical step toward reducing violence and weakening the networks of corruption and impunity that undermine democracy and deny justice.

The morning I left Honduras I took a taxi from my hotel in San Pedro Sula to the airport. I was in the mood to chat and asked the taxi driver if he ever felt scared doing his job in this most violent of cities. He told me that, “Yes,” he was often afraid and that (pointing to a police car), “the worst part is that you can’t rely on the authorities for help because many of them were working with the criminals. Do you know about the war tax (impuestos de guerra)?” he asked.

“Every business in this city”, he explained, “has to pay a tax to the gangs.”

“Everybody pays”, he emphasized.

“Whether you run a sandwich stand, a dry cleaning shop, a hotel, or a travel agency, you have to pay–or die. In our case, we have about 150 members in our taxi collective and we have to pay 10,000 Lempira [about 500 dollars] a week.”

“What terrifies me,” he continued, “is that the authorities are involved.”

“Let me explain,” he said.

“Every week we take our ‘contribution’ to the local jail. I am not joking,” he insisted.

“But it is even worse than that.” he told me. “One week we had trouble getting our payment together and we arrived late to the jail. The guards told us visiting hours were over and we could not enter. We started freaking out because a missed payment can mean sudden death. So, we called the cell phone of our contact inside the jail. A few minutes later the guards came back out and invited us in to deliver the ‘tax’ payment.”

“So,” he said, “You can see who is really running the show.”

As he dropped me off to catch my flight I was still thinking over the nightmarish implications of what he’d told me. For people trapped in this criminal maelstrom there is really no way out.

The enduring lesson of the 13 years of alcohol prohibition in the United States in the early 20th century is that, whether we approve or not, people will seek out mood-altering substances. We can regulate alcohol, but trying to eliminate it simply incentivized crime and fueled the growth of domestic mafias.

In the early 1930s the U.S. ratified an amendment to the Constitution to rectify the mistake.

Today, there is a growing consensus that the international war on drugs is a similar fool’s errand.

The United Nations Special Session next year is a good forum to push this conversation ahead, but it will take a longer, concerted effort to democratically change minds, hearts, and policies.

That’s why we will travel from Honduras to NYC next year. We invite you to join us, in-person, on-line, and around the world.

For more information: ted(at) or

You may have heard there is a World Cup going on in Brazil right now. And depending on which news sources you’ve been following, you may have also heard there is much more to this World Cup than sport.

But it’s not just the World Cup: the Summer Olympics will come to Brazil in 2016, and many of the same injustices of the 2014 World Cup remain very much in play for the 2016 Olympiad.

All of these issues may be hard to put into context, especially from a continent away – but that’s why we’ve developed a Global Exchange Reality Tour to Brazil to witness and learn about them firsthand.

For the World Cup alone, 14 billion dollars have been spent out of Brazilian taxpayers’ pockets while FIFA, the corrupt, dictatorial, and ever-secretive governing body for international soccer, will escape from the event with 4 billion dollars in revenue tax-free.

Some of these billions of taxpayer dollars have been used to build or renovate World Cup stadiums up to “FIFA standards” that will sit idle or offensively underused after the World Cup, rather than building badly needed schools and hospitals in a country that is still very much developing.

The cost has not just been monetary: 8 workers have died in the fevered rush to complete stadiums on time and up to FIFA’s standards, attempting to make up for delays in red tape, bureaucracy, and inefficiency.

Through all of this has been the continued endorsement of the event by major U.S. corporations, as well as hordes of foreign tourists who have flocked to the shores and cities of Brazil by the hundreds of thousands, many of whom are pleasantly unaware of the true realities of these mega sporting events.

Overall, more than 30 billion dollars will be spent on producing both the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil in the face of poverty, inequality, and widespread social issues. Hundreds of thousands of marginalized, low-income favela residents have been forcefully evicted from their homes and communities to make room for sport-related infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, police violence and the militarization of public space have attempted to combat deep-seated societal issues at their surface symptoms rather than their underlying causes. The state of Rio de Janeiro’s hallmark “pacification” program, developed after Brazil won its World Cup and Olympic bids and designed to both drive out drug cartels from favelas and finally incorporate favelas into city grids, is now being questioned and criticized openly as violence increases and human rights abuses by police continue.

Despite old claims that mega-sporting events like the World Cup and Olympics bring long-term economic gains to host countries, recent studies have shown that this idea is actually false. The games benefit a small circle of people at the top, while the rest of the country experiences no such gains.

The organization of Brazilian civil society in opposition to the World Cup despite their national obsession with soccer is the most telling sign of just how far off this mega-sporting event has become. That 60% of Brazilians feel that the World Cup is bad for the country in a population as soccer-crazed as Brazil is nothing short of remarkable.

While Brazil was booming economy during the first decade of the 21st century and the country continues to assert itself as a growing player on the geopolitical world stage, some important underlying issues in Brazilian society persist: poverty, a wide gap between rich and poor, a deep need for better education, schools and hospitals, a perverse presence of corruption within all ranks of government, damning environmental realities, and some of the world’s highest rates of violent crime. Some indicators have seen improvements in the last decade, but hardly enough to shrug them off as solved. And despite the country’s firestorm rate of economic growth in the new millennium, this growth has slowed considerably in the last few years.

With a Global Exchange Reality Tour, you can experience this other side to the World Cup and Olympics first-hand. See the opportunity-cost of these mega-events in person and gain a better understanding of the true impacts they have on host countries – particularly developing countries. De-stigmatize the perception of favelas by interacting with their residents and observing the sustainable nature of their development, while discovering why a favela is a favela and not a slum or shantytown, as they are often jointly referred to as in Western media.

Photo: Catalytic Communities

Photo: Catalytic Communities

Witness firsthand the areas of forced removals and bulldozed homes in the name of sport, directly next the legendary Maracanã stadium and the planned Olympic Village in Rio. Dialogue with community leaders, favela activists, and local NGO’s fighting for their rights and standing up against the powerful interests of FIFA, the IOC, foreign corporations, the Brazilian government, and wealthy developers. Get a glimpse of a burgeoning nation-wide social movement, both inside and outside of the favelas, that may continue to push Brazilian society towards reform, transparency, and better governance.

Then move away from the city lights and urban plights to visit an MST camp (Landless Workers Movement) outside of the city of Rio to learn about one of the most successful social movements in the entire world. See how this amazing group continues to work towards – and win – rural reform victories, in an outnumbered fight against powerful agribusiness interests and deep-seated historical land inequalities, a legacy of aristocratic land-holdings and marginalization of low-income land workers.

We may indeed look back and see that the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics stood on the crux between an old and a new. Like in the Middle East, we are witnessing the rise of a burgeoning civil society in Brazil that is young, tech savvy, and fed up with business as usual. The injustices of the World Cup and Olympics have forced long-standing social issues in Brazil into the limelight like never before and have instigated a larger social movement that may not fade once the competitions are over. And it us now offering us the chance, as a global community, to re-think and adjust our approach to the way we go about producing, thinking about, and discussing these mega-sporting events.

All that being said, it’s quite a time to visit Brazil on a Reality Tour.

Today we are excited to participate in Blog Action Day, an annual event when bloggers from around the world gather to write and discuss one topic. This year’s topic is “Human Rights.”

Global Exchange Reality Tours has a vision that meaningful, socially responsible travel, can and does, change the world. By offering experiential educational tours, Reality Tours has connected people to issues, issues to movements, and movements to social change. Many of the highlights of our Reality Tours include meetings with local human rights activists who work tirelessly to support their communities.

Below, hear from our in-country coordinator in Uganda Brian Ourien about some of the most pressing human rights issues that face Ugandans today.


Human Rights in Uganda
The Ugandan constitution provides for the protection of every Ugandan’s human rights, with emphasis on providing an enabling environment for all to flourish. The greatest challenge, though, is the poor implementation of these laws, leaving huge gaps that allow abusers to take advantage of vulnerable people, mostly women and children.

Domestic servitude is the most common form of human trafficking. Many children are brought into the city and other urban areas by relatives and friends of relatives with the promise of a better life. Many of these children end up working as domestic servants in the homes of their urban relatives, and are sometimes sold off to work for people who are not even remotely related to them. This means that their dreams of getting a better education and a better life in the city are replaced by despair and some of the most decrepit living conditions.

Sex trafficking is a growing form of injustice in Uganda’s cities and towns. Despite its being illegal, prostitution seems to be growing. There is also a growing number of underage girls (some as young as 10 years old) being roped into illegal brothels, mostly set in the slum areas of the capital Kampala.

Child Soldiery in Uganda
With more than twenty years of conflict in Northern Uganda, children became the prime target for rebel groups, abducting and conscripting them into rebel ranks. The children were trained into mindless soldiers who executed terror with little or no mercy and remorse.

Over the years these children have trickled back into the country – having escaped with the most harrowing tales imaginable, while others were rescued by the Ugandan army and brought back home to eagerly-waiting families. Soon enough the difficult process of reintegration begins.

Often shunned by relatives, some of whom suffered at the hands of the child rebels, the returning children struggle to find identity and acceptance in the communities they once called home. Some of the children spent more than ten years in the jungles of Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic and now return to a ‘normalcy’ they have never experienced. Their violent approach to life and their short tempers find no place in a community already burdened by years of violent abuse at the hands of ruthless rebels.

Fueled by conflict over land long uninhabited and whose boundaries have been washed away by years of abandonment – whose previous owners found their only refuge in displaced people’s camps for more than twenty years, northern Uganda grapples with post-conflict issues.

From unclear farming boundaries and contested homelands to emotional trauma and economic strife, northern Uganda seeks to break free of the past and to build a future in which children will once again be free to grow in a world bursting with possibility and the promise of a bright future.

Brian also shares with us how travel to Uganda can expand Westerners perspectives:
2010.07.21-065Reality Tours is a great opportunity for participants to get immersed in the work of organizations fighting to secure the rights of vulnerable people in Uganda. Reality Tours participants get to hear, first hand, the stories of those who have faced grave injustice and whose life paths have been unfairly changed by selfish people.

Above all, the most memorable and important moments is the connection that grows between the participants and the people in the host organizations. There is always a heart-warming sense of family and unity when travelers visit the many organizations with rescued victims of violent oppression.

Thanks so much to Brian for taking the time to share his thoughts with us!

Take ActionTake Action!

  • Learn more about human trafficking in Uganda and other countries; Read about the socio-political situation in Uganda and Learn about child soldiers;