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The Short Hard Life of Alfred Olango: From U.S.-backed Persecution to U.S. Police Execution

The El Cajon Police shooting of Alfred Olango is one of the most recent police shootings of unarmed Black men 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, a longstanding U.S. ally and military partner who has ruled Uganda with an iron fist since 1986.

Much of the press, including The Daily Beast, have reported that Alfred Olango survived the reign of Idi Amin. However, 38-year-old Olango would have been little more than a year old in 1979, when the Tanzania People’s Defense Force and the Uganda National Liberation Army drove Idi Amin from power.

A Ugandan American friend of the Olango family who preferred not to be identified by name confirmed that Alfred Olango’s father had worked for the governments of Milton Obote, then Tito Okello, whom General Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army overthrew in 1985. The friend also confirmed that the family is from the Acholi people of northern Uganda.

According to federal court records, the Olangos fled to the United States after Museveni, who became president in 1986, threatened to kill the whole family. In a grimly ironic gesture, the Ugandan government ordered its embassy in the U.S. to investigate the killing of one of their citizens.

Other news outlets claimed that the Olangos fled from the Lord’s Resistance Army. The Washington Post wrote, “Olango fled to the United States in 1991 amid an uprising by militants, including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by the notorious Joseph Kony, in his home in northern Uganda. Kony, whose militia terrorized northern Uganda and its neighbors for years, was featured in a viral video in 2012 but has since been chased deeper into the jungles of central Africa.”

That viral video, Kony 2012, was idiotic propaganda for the introduction of U.S. Special Forces in Africa, but Joseph Kony did wage guerrilla war on his own Acholi people, particularly on those he thought were collaborating with President Museveni, whose troops had occupied Northern Uganda after seizing power in 1986. What the Post and other outlets fail to report is that President Museveni also waged war on the Acholi from 1986 to 2006 – in the name of fighting or protecting them from Kony – and that Museveni’s war was far more destructive and lethal.

In the mid-90s, after the Olangos sought asylum in the U.S., Museveni drove 90% of the Acholi, nearly two million people, into concentration camps, and claimed that he was doing so to protect them from Kony and the LRA. The camps were thatched roof huts tightly clustered together away from the land they traditionally farmed. In 2005, the World Health Organization reported that, in the camps, 1000 Acholi were dying every week of violence and disease – above all malaria and AIDS, which Museveni’s soldiers spread rapidly and in many cases intentionally in the camps. That was, they reported, 1000 beyond normal mortality rates.

During the 20 year occupation of Northern Uganda, the U.S. provided military aid and training as it built the Ugandan Army into a U.S. proxy force on the African continent, and that aid continues; the U.S. is the largest bilateral donor to Uganda. The Pentagon 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 Olango family friend who wished not to be identified or to speak about Northern Uganda for the record did say that he thought the press has been making too much of Alfred Olango’s criminal record, even though his last arrest was five years ago in 2011. “I think we’re getting away from what is really important here, which is that his parents lost their son, and Alfred was killed. Yes, he had some trouble with the law, but he had changed and that was behind him. He worked hard, and he was a loving human being very devoted to his family.”

“And it’s also clear that the sister called for help and made it clear that this was a very mentally disturbed person because his close friend had just died suddenly. So the police came knowing that this was, at that time, a mentally disturbed person. The sister also stressed that he didn’t have a gun, and still they came ready to shoot and they did.”

The Huffington Post reported that Olango worked as a cook and that he “was developing plans to open a restaurant with his family that would share ‘the wonderful tastes of Africa with Americans.’”

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Ann Garrison is an independent journalist who also contributes to the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, the Black Agenda Report and the Black Star News, and produces radio for KPFA-Berkeley and WBAI-New York City.  In 2014, she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize by the Womens International Network for Democracy and Peace.  She can be reached at ann@afrobeatradio.com.

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