James Pirtle is a trial lawyer and owner of The Sentinel Law Group, PLLC, a Seattle law firm and he is an attorney on the ground for Legal Advocacy Worldwide (LAW), a non-profit devoted to financing direct legal advocacy on behalf of the oppressed abroad, including the state-sanctioned persecution of the LGBT community in Africa. This blog chronicles how his involvement in the defense of Thomas Kwoyelo, a former child soldier in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda, developed into a broad international human rights practice with crusading Ugandan attorney John Francis Onyango. This blog begins with their involvement in the Kwoyelo case and continues with updates and developments in the human rights cases. Read from the bottom up to see how it all unfolds.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blog Post 15 - Back to Africa

I flew out of Seattle what seems like innumerable hours ago.  There are a variety of things that still need my attention at home which led me to feel not entirely enthusiastic about leaving.  Nevertheless, travel was interesting and relatively seamless minus the duration.

From Seattle to Amsterdam I sat next to a Lithuanian dentist that practices in Bellevue.  My detailed regaling of Dominique and Laima’s wedding in Vilnius was quite thrilling to her.  She kept offering me delicious sugary candy.  Turns out we both do pro bono work abroad.  She let me know that her work is in Guatemala is pretty much just pulling out teeth.  Maybe she disburses too much candy.

The layover in Amsterdam was quick and I ran into Mark Chinen and Won Kitane who are both participating and teaching in the Johannesburg program.  We hung around for a bit catching up on our various projects.

I sat next to another interesting woman on the way to Johannesburg, namely a Parisian employment law attorney.  She is on her way to safari in Botswana.  My war crimes and human rights projects were interesting to her so we filled the time with that and I was very curious to get her take on the recent elections in France and the current state of the Euro Zone.  She is a Sarkozy supporter and had relatively unkind things to say about Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.  That invited a longer discussion about the merits and detractors of stimulus and austerity.  She told me that she is and will continue to be a right winger but if she could vote in America she would support Obama.  Curious.  We also pored over her travel books trying to find an elusive bird that she wants to find on safari but all she could recall is that it sounds like “bastard.”  We ultimately did find it, the magnificent “bustard,” the world’s largest flying bird.  To be honest, it is an ugly bastard.

When we finally landed in Johannesburg I found my people and then we cleared customs easily and found our ride.  I asked our driver what makes for Johannesburg being one of the few major world cities that is not on a body of water.  That invited a supremely compelling history of the city and the country.  Our driver, I can’t remember his name, is native and has never left the borders of his country (though he would if I wanted to sponsor him---he otherwise doesn’t want to spend his life savings on a “metal bird”).  He is 54 and gave me his fascinating take on colonialism, apartheid, the shortcomings of democracy, the evils of western powers taking advantage of currency disparity and how the people who are supposed to have been helped by inclusion are as marginalized as ever.  I hope I get to see him again.

I have only been here for a short time but it is closing in on 1 am local time.  I think I am pushing being up for over 30 hours.  Tomorrow I am slated to attend some kind of traditional BBQ.  My stupid power converter I bought in Uganda last year isn’t working here so I’m going to have a power deficit tomorrow (Sunday).  But I’m not too concerned.  As I said, this has been seamless and interesting so far and all I’ve done is travel.  I just treated myself to a shower and single serving whiskey so will now settle into my little cottage and watch some soccer until I fade (I can’t seem to find anything else on TV).