In Part 1 of the Violence and Its True Sources Series, I discussed the context for increased violent and dysfunctional behavior by elephants.
Ugandan born animal ethologist and wildlife management consultant, Eve Abe, did her doctoral research on the parallels she saw between the experiences of Uganda’s orphaned male elephants and the young male orphans of her own people, the Acholi.
Just as poachers and others decimated the elephant population, destroying their social network, civil war and brutal violence in Uganda destroyed Acholi families and villages. Young men were “recruited” from Acholi villages by soldiers, often after witnessing the death of their parents or worse, being forced to kill their own parents.
“I started looking again at what has happened among the Acholi and the elephants I saw that it is an absolute coincidence between the two. You know we used to have villages. We still don’t have villages. There are over 200 displaced-people’s camps in present-day northern Uganda. Everybody lives now within these camps, and there are no more elders. The elders were systematically eliminated. The first batch of elimination was during Amin’s time, and that set the stage for the later destruction of northern Uganda. … the families there are just broken. … All these kids who have grown up with their parents killed no fathers, no mothers, only children looking after them. They don’t go to schools. They have no schools, no hospitals. No infrastructure. They form these roaming, violent, destructive bands. It’s the same thing that happens with the elephants. Just like the male war orphans, they are wild, completely lost.”
Just as we need to view the violence on the part of the elephants in the context of the destruction of their society and families, so too do we need to view the violence and destruction on the part of young male war orphans in Uganda in the context of their war experiences.