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.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blog Post 18 - Leaving South Africa

Things have been generally mellow over the last few days though my anxiety about what I need to do in Uganda has been building.

The remainder of the classes were interesting though I did duck out of the last one so that I could visit the Origins Center at Wits which chronicles human history to its, well, origins, with artifacts, fossils, and ancient art.  Fascinating.

One of our last dinners entailed worms and ostrich.


post worm

We also went on Safari on Saturday and saw most of Africa’s awesome beasties.  Offhand, I recall zebra, wildebeest, springbok, elephant, rhinoceros, lions…there are probably more.  I tried to load videos but with it taking an hour for about ten seconds of video to load, I rapidly lost interest in the project.

Zebra on the Safari

On Sunday, Melissa Muir and I (mostly her, I just helped shop and chop things) put on a bit of a party at the guest houses.  Most everyone remaining showed up and some nice words were shared about Anna Dey and me as we two are the ones that are leaving.  I felt rather sad about it all because these people are wonderful and I made some exceptional relationships in a very short amount of time.  I lament not coming to Uganda first so that I could have had this lovely experience afterward.  But obviously, that would not have worked, and off I go.

I did get to see Mario one last time.  I love that kid.  I think he is the younger brother I never had.

Mario and me
Today I flew from Joburg to Kigali in Rwanda where, like last time, there were difficulties with the aircraft so I found myself stuck.  I found an airport worker who looked a little shady and bribed him to take me someplace where I could smoke.  He agreed and snuck me off into an antechamber at the airport.  We passed a few women who looked suspicious and they had some words, but I did get to have at least part of a cigarette.  You see, as soon as he left, the women set upon me clucking disapprovingly and chased me off in a cloud of aerosol air freshener.

Once I finally boarded I sacked out immediately and woke up when we landed in Entebbe.  Fortune smiled (I think) when I breezed through passport control and they did not make me buy a new visa.  I hope that doesn’t bite me on the way out.  Francis let me know earlier that he was not going to be able to meet me and Charles is out of town.  I figured I’d make it work somehow.

“Somehow” turned out to be easier than I thought as I saw someone with my hotel’s sign trying to find another passenger.  Turns out said passenger missed his flight and they were more than willing to take me in his stead.  They did try to extort me which I wasn’t standing for and I got my ride for the appropriate price.

It wasn’t long after we, the driver and I, left the airport…say maybe ten minutes or so…that we ran into a police road block.  They pulled us over, demanded we exit the vehicle, then spread us and searched us up against the taxi.  I got the usual question, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m an attorney.”

“I don’t care.  What are you doing here?”

“I’m an attorney here on business.”

“What business?”

“I consult with African law firms to help them understand changes in international law.”

That worked, but I don’t feel particularly comfortable being dishonest to people with machine guns.  I didn’t think it wise on the spot to tell them that I am here to try to get an accused war criminal released.  They let us go.  Unfortunately, that will not be the last of my encounters with Ugandan law enforcement.  But I knew beforehand what I was getting into.  And planning to do.

Now I am back at the Grand Imperial Hotel and treating myself to a well-deserved and long-missed Nile Special.  I don’t like this room as much as the last one I had when I was here, but maybe I am simply already missing my sweet digs in South Africa.

Nevertheless, I know that I am about to have my favorite breakfast and tea in the world tomorrow morning; I will meet with Francis, and then we’ll get this party started.