Annelieke Van De Wiel

Annelieke van de Wiel (Survivor Corps in Uganda): Annelieke started her academic career by studying modern history, religion studies, anthropology and human rights at the University of Utrecht. After a student exchange program in Buenos Aires she started volunteering at the asylum Application Centre at Amsterdam Airport, assisting asylum seekers and refugees who had just arrived in The Netherlands with their asylum application. Then she studied public international law at the University of Amsterdam, focusing on human rights and national and international refugee law. She became President of the University of Amsterdam Student Association of International Law, and also interned at the UNHCR national office in The Hague.

Pre-departure thoughs

18 Jul

Weeks of hecticness, of too many things to leave behind in proper order, errands to run, of papers that need to be finished, of emails that need to be sent, people to say goodbye to and then, all of a sudden, there are only a few days to go before departure. As always I have been a bit ambitious in what I thought could be done in a few days. It’s deep in the night. I’m sitting in the attic of a friend’s house in Amsterdam, struggling to finish a big paper in just a few days. I try to focus on the here and now but my mind is already elsewhere: it’s travelling to London, to Dubai, and finally: to Kampala and Gulu, where I will live and work for AP for several months.

I do not feel comfortable introducing, describing or even analysing a situation in a region where I have never even been. Not yet. I did my research but as it stands, many of you probably know more about it than me. (I case you don’t, let me refer you to this excellent, very comprehensive report by Refugee Law Project on the background and impact of war in northern Uganda and a more recent and future oriented report on reconstruction after the war.) For this reason, I hope you don’t mind me starting off this blogging sequence with some very self-centred pondering. I can’t wait to write about the things around me in Uganda as soon as I’m there. But right now I’m still in this empty echoing attic room, and it is just me and my doubts, my insecurities, my hopes, my eagerness and my determination.

To be honest with you, I have been going through a bit of a mental struggle the last few weeks, which I think has unconsciously also kept me from posting this first long announced blog. Doubts and insecurities bugged me every time I sat down and wrote the first few lines. Not doubts about me wanting to go or about the project I’ll be working on, because that’s what the abovementioned eagerness and determination refers to, but doubts about the usefulness of me going and about whether I am ready for the tasks ahead. Researching the situation in northern Uganda is not an uplifting undertaking. The ordeal but also resilience of the people of violence-torn northern Uganda is something beyond my comprehension. It makes me feel silly, inexperienced and green. Why do I want to go? What on earth do I think I can change or contribute? And even if I would just go there for experience and learning –my own benefit- isn’t that in some way immoral and perverse? What seemed so natural, and what made so much sense when I first embarked on this fellowship, became, during the last weeks, confusing and has been making me feel restless.

In the end I decided to just share these pre-departure thoughts with you. I admit I wasn’t too sure about writing these things down in this first blog –knowing exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it is just so much cooler- but I have made the conscious decision to, in this and the following blogs, be as honest with you as I can.

So why do I want to go? Because yes I want to help change things for the better and yes I want to learn, to experience, to grow and to become a better person better fit and better able to contribute something to matters that strike me personally as particularly weighty and important: means to improve universal respect for people’s right to live a life in peace, dignity, security. Stuff every single person is equally entitled to. I want to see and understand and become involved. More involved than I am now, than I can be now.

I think we are all connected, and injustice being done to people far away is injustice being done to me personally and us all. This reflects the pedantic terminology of human rights books and treaties, but I feel it to be true. I studied “human rights” in the context of international human rights law and while being fully convinced of their importance, I want to incorporate a full awareness of their value and significance in my daily existence, so I can join in the global efforts aimed at securing them. I might be inexperienced, green, naïve, it might in some way be immoral. Despite all of that, it is what seems natural to me. Yes, it starts to make sense again. I accept my insecurities and doubts but also this drive. Lo and behold, my restlessness is receding, I regain focus. I am ready to go. As ready as I can be.

Next time less about “me”, I promise. As this is my first blog, I would like to warmly invite you to continue reading the following ones on my work and the situation in northern Uganda and share with the other readers and/or me any remark, criticism or question you might have (whatever you write, I will respond). Next posting from Uganda! For now: thanks for reading this blog and take good care.

Posted By Annelieke Van De Wiel

Posted Jul 18th, 2008


  • Juliet

    July 20, 2008


    Welcome! So good to have you here!

  • Annelieke

    July 21, 2008


    Thanks Juliet, your warm welcome and introduction to Kampala makes it seem like I’ve been here for much longer than just a few days..

  • Teo

    July 22, 2008


    Good luck on this!
    I have a feel that questioning and doubting is innate to any former student of comparative studies, be they legal, sociological or political. Yet in the face of real life situations, this is usually strongly counter-balanced by real-life decisions and actions.
    This is to say that I can fully understand your line of thought and am equally certain that things will become much clearer once you’ve set foot in Kampala.

    Once again, good luck, and keep posting! 🙂

  • Jaani

    July 22, 2008


    Some honest and confronting reflections. It sounds like you have a big journey ahead of you, and I wish you the best of luck.

  • Annelieke

    July 22, 2008


    Teo, thanks for your comment. I guess you’re right about the inescapability of (self-)doubt. Ah, at least one thing that’s certain! And I also agree that taking decisions, or making choices, and just “going for it” is what everything eventually depends on, and the only option really.. I will post more soon as things are indeed “clearer”.

  • Larissa

    July 22, 2008



    Hi Friend! I am really looking forward to reading your blog, and I have the utmost faith that you will learn much from the experience. I too have struggled with that, but the point is not to let self-doubt stop you from doing anything; the point is to reflect on what you are doing and the reasons behind why you are doing what you do. If those seem good enough to you, you are not doubting yourself; you are reaffirming your dedication and willingness to ‘give it all you got.’ So, good luck, and be safe!

  • ineke schipper

    July 29, 2008


    Hoi Annelieke,

    Met respect je eerste blog gelezen.
    Dankzij je bescheiden opstelling en je ingetogen wijze van presenteren, denk ik dat je veel kan leren en met deze ervaringen veel zal kunnen bereiken. Heel veel succes en doe voorzichtig!

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