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Uganda Rising

23 Feb 2006

Stolen Children in Uganda’s Hidden War

“When elephants fight it’s the grass that gets injured”
- An African proverb

Uganda Rising is a Canadian produced, directed, and written documentary film that brings awareness to a twenty-year conflict and humanitarian crisis that has devastated the Acholi people of Northern Uganda.  Called “the world’s most neglected humanitarian crisis” by UN’s Jan Egeland, the film chronicles a struggle that dates back to the 1800’s.  Directed by Jesse James Miller and written by Pete McCormack, Uganda Rising will premiere at this year’s Hotdocs International Film Festival

Since 1986, a war has been raging in northern Uganda between the current government, lead by President Yoweri Museveni and a rebel army known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  It’s leader, Joseph Kony, a Christian prophet instructed by spirits, has focused his attacks on the Acholi people, a group to which Kony himself belongs.  Over 80% of the LRA is made up of abducted children from the Acholi tribe.  Kony is ruthless.  Stories told by ex LRA children of torture, mutilation and rape are difficult to swallow.  Many are kidnapped from classrooms, usually around 13 years old and forced to kill other children and their families.  The girls are used as sex slaves fathering many of Kony’s 200 children.  They are hunted by Museveni’s army and since 9/11 placed on the international terrorist list.  Children have become terrorists.

The film dates the beginning of the struggle back to colonialism in the late 1800’s and Britain’s divide and rule policies; one that seeks to create divisions between cultures and keeps them fighting against each other.  Attempts at peace have continually failed.  In an effort to protect the Acholi people, who are caught in the crossfire, Museveni forcibly moves them into overcrowded camps, with little food and no land for farming; their survival dependent on the World Food Program.  But with over 1.5 million displaced Acholi’s living in the camps, they are difficult to protect. 

Every night over 40,000 Acholi children walk one and a half hours before dark, into the nearest town, looking for a safe place to sleep; in alleys, under verandahs, their blankets and straw mats in tow. Arising early the next day they return to the camp in time for school.  They are called the night walkers.  Afraid for their safety, this has been a daily ritual in their lives for the past twenty years. Despite the conflict, the children seem resilient.  One child speaks of wanting to become a lawyer to protect his people.  They laugh and talk as they walk, fearful, yet somehow hopeful that change will come.

The film features interviews from high profile human rights experts such as Mahmood Mandami, Samantha Power, Noam Chomsky, Honourable Lloyd Axworthy and northern Uganda peace negotiator Betty Bigombe who has been involved in peace negotiations with the Uganda government and the LRA since 1994.

The humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda is finally starting to reach the ears of the international community.  Produced by Act for Stolen Children, this riveting film will certainly bring further public awareness about the country and its urgent need for peace.

See also the Uganda Rising website

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