Foiled by Libya

So, this weekend I’ve holed up in front of my computer, wrapping up my paper on the United States and the International Criminal Court.  After spending weeks with piecemeal research and months of hypothesizing, I’m putting everything on paper (once it’s printed).  My paper starts with an introduction to the ICC, followed by page after page of American grievances.  I’ve talked about Clinton and Bush, and I am just working on the supposed lane-change of the Obama administration.  I’m gathering research on the review conference from this summer.

My thesis:  despite the near-fact that the U.S. will not be joining the Rome Statute, the Obama administration should embrace the ICC by working alongside the Court and acknowledging its usefulness.

Yesterday, the Obama administration did just that.

Time to re-work my thesis.


What’s Happening in Uganda Tomorrow?

On Friday, Uganda will be holding presidential elections.  Even eight months ago when I was in Uganda it was big news.  So, what’s going on in Uganda?

Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda for over twenty years and leader of the National Resistance Movement, will be running for re-election yet again.  He is running against a slate of opposition figures, chief among them Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change.  But what’s important about this election?

Despite having won every election since seizing power, Museveni’s victory margin has been diminishing.  In the last election he only won with 59% to Besigye’s 37%.  With notable corruption and a diminishing economy in addition to failure to secure the north and west against rebellions, Museveni faces the possibility of winning only a plurality in tomorrow’s election.  According to Ugandan law, if there is no clear majority than the front-runners compete in a run-off election.  If this is the case, it is likely that the less viable opposition figures such as Norbert Mao and others would throw their support behind Besigye, ushering him into the presidency.

That said, Museveni is consolidating control.  In both 2001 and 2006 the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that the elections were flawed with corruption and vote-rigging, but both upheld the election returns for various reasons.  This election season there have already been rumors that the NRM has been buying votes in certain regions.  There are even cases of Museveni personally handing out envelopes of money to prospective voters and of Parliament receiving funds that slant towards NRM victory.  This in addition to a possible repeat of Museveni’s announcements a couple of years ago that any districts that did not vote for him would risk not receiving national funds for programs.

It looks like Museveni is setting up the elections in his favor.  Regardless, there may be some room for the opposition to sneak a victory.  But, even if that happens, he may not relinquish power.  Besigye has been exiled before and accused of treason, a strong run against the President could result in similar consequences.  With the vote taking place tomorrow, I’ll be keeping my eyes on how things unfold.

42 Days

Forty-two days into this year, and it’s shaping up to be a momentous calendar.  I’m scrambling to include the numerous huge changes in my classes as I also roll out history and civics.  I’m going to take a step back and look out my favorite window – the international stage.

On January 9th, people across southern Sudan voted in a referendum for secession.  A month later the results were in – 99% for independence.  We are in the middle of seeing the world’s newest state emerge after a decades-long civil war and continued oppression and violence.  It’s a sign of hope for the countless other victims in the surrounding area (I’m looking at the DRC and CAR specifically, but sadly most of the region in reality).

On January 15th, after just 29 days of student protests, Tunisian dictator Ben Ali surrendered power and flew to Saudi Arabia.  Amidst the protests, solidarity actions took place across North Africa and the Middle East.  Tunisia is supposed to hold elections in the coming months and has an opportunity to take a huge step forwards from there.

On February 11th, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak gave up power after 18 days of youth-led protests.  This came close on the heels of Tunis and after a week of escalation including a brutal police crackdown, attempted military peacekeeping, mass arrests and beatings of journalists and activists, and even more arrests, beatings, and murders of civilians.  Egypt also has the potential to move forwards here and – as what some have called the “fulcrum” of the region – a chance to move other countries forward too.

This doesn’t even touch on rising protests in the rest of North Africa/Middle East, student actions in Puerto Rico as well as England, and huge elections in Uganda.  I will be busy keeping an eye on all of these.  Needless to say, this day is one of those momentous occasions.  Tunisia’s and Egypt’s transition will be a lodestar for the so-called “Arab World,” especially Egypt.  Southern Sudan’s viability will be a signal for transition with stability across an unstable region.  If I knew any better, I’d say 2011 is going to be a 1968.

The Unofficial Teacher

So, it’s unofficially official – it seems.  I’m about to close out my fourth week at my school.

Week 1 – learned close to 200 names (there were only a handful I still couldn’t get by week’s end), and heard about some rumbling drama in which my teacher grappled with parents and administration.  Taught a full day on my second day.

Week 2 – Graded scores of tests for the first time. Taught a little, and went to my first staff meetings.  On Wednesday, my mentor teacher went on administrative leave.  I spent two days winging it as I wrapped up the week. Led a controversial debate on SB1070.  On Friday, I found out my mentor teacher resigned, and I’d stay another week for transition.

Week 3 – Working with a sub to supervise me. Began the lesson planning process.  Managed to put together three study guides, two worksheets, and two group projects for the unit.  Began the grueling task of grading ~220 one page essays.  Numerous conversations with teachers, administrators, university supervisor over my status as student teacher.  Find out I might be able to stay.

Week 4 – Meet the permanent substitute under whom I will be teaching.  Instead of co-teaching and lesson plan-sharing, determine that I will be planning lessons on my own and in full control of the class.  My permanent sub leaves for a family emergency – back to temporary subs.  Engage in meetings with other teachers to ensure that my upcoming units will be sufficient for standards and such.  Try to get into Spirit Week.

And that’s it.  I’ve spent about two hours overall putting together two crack units that should last the next few weeks – but still need to fill those lesson plans with information.  Ideally, putting together some powerpoints and audio supplements by Tuesday or Wednesday.