Friday, December 20, 2013

Children and Conflict

The breakdown of civil war in any country will inevitably see the same kind of child soldier. The targets by the so called rebel leaders being children compeled to kill one another, their own families, fighting as soldiers in an armed force deliberately composed of children committing atrocities with such malevolence and unrestrained evil is an experience no child should go through.

 Just as seemingly contradictory standpoints are common in every human setting, the transition of any child from civilian to soldier is a painful experience. Learning to adapt to new settings, vulnerable with no experience of battle comes with a lot of pyschological pressure.   

I was abducted one afternoon on my way home from the farm. Life was terrible, it would rain hard on us on cold nights. I was tied up with other abductees and forced to carry looted food to a hideout in the bush, sometimes given loads to carry and forced to walk distances  I was not used to. If I slowed down or became weak, I was beaten. That is when I realized that things were not good. 
In days to come the new recruits had to quickly learn how to live in their new environment. How to sleep without shelter,where to fetch water, how to cope with the long walking distances and much more. They easily get killed if they tried to escape, were not able to walk any longer or refused an order..
  We are removing the civilian type of life from you. we want to change you into a military person continued Martin. Instead of giving me a gun, I was given a  lockwire. Then we got some six people and I was told to use the lockwire to beat these people. 
And I had to do it, because if you dont do it you are the next person. 
Such horiffying experiences are common during ab abductees initial time with the revels but if the abductee was ready to take on his new role as soldier, the situation could improve.The time you are threatened is when you are still new but when you are a real soldier, a good fighter, already you have been trained, you are now respected.

James a 17  year old school drop out from Northern Uganda (a child) surprised me when he came to the conclusion that vigilante attacks sometimes even against their own people, can be legitimate when no other options are open, when the political climate has stifled any oppositional effort, when you can do nothing. With this in mind, I consider myself fortunate to have escaped all this psychological pain and use this blog as a sensible expression of sensitization.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Create or Criticize

It had been ages since I laid eyes on my long lost friend Mill. Our meeting over dinner was shadowed by good old tales to the extent that time seemed insurmountable. During our interesting conversation I could not help but question silently, what if this and that story was turned into a screenplay? Wouldn’t it make a great movie?  The same is true of African stories. Our continent is rich of tales but sadly the few recorded ones are either left in shelves to dust and read by minority or are written by others not of African origin who may not get the story exactly as it happened or may write it in a different angle as reflected by his or her culture. 

 Looking at African movies which have become blockbuster hits in Hollywood for example Last King of Scotland (about Idi Amin), Blood Diamond (sierra Leone) just to mention but a few, they all seem to revolve around a central theme and many Africans whose subject is closer home tend to sharply criticize the movies on the basis that the events were not recorded or told as precisely as it happened.  But then I am left wondering, if we are keen to criticize what are we doing about it? Why don’t our lovely or sad stories hit Hollywood or the major film industries worldwide?

As I delve in the screenwriting process dubbed “African stories written and told by Africans” a number of challenges hit the desk. Who are the major audiences? What do they expect of me? Who is behind production?  The bitter truth in the top notch film world is hard to swallow but there is a system or procedure set up that far and wide has to be followed no wonder most movie genres about African  true stories seem to take a particular path.

The bitter truth to swallow is that there is a rule and the screenwriting rule has to be followed and in that case may end up distorting a lot in order to either suit particular audiences or the money makers. Another issue revolves around production. I must admit that I am not an ardent fan of Nollywood movies and this is because of the level of production. 

The theme may be central and good but fails at execution. Though successful, Nollywood is a clear example of what we need to be able to tell our stories in our own way by our own people. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The current state of Northern Uganda

With the viral video on You Tube produced by 'Invisible Children' about Northern Uganda advocating for the capture of rebel Leader Joseph Kony having a great impact on the world, this is to bring us to speed with the current  state of that region . The sounds of guns, cries and screams which were the order of the day two decades ago,  are just but memories that will linger on forever on the minds of the victims. 
Joseph Kony
       Northern Uganda is currently  peaceful. Although the memories of Kony's war are hard to erase from  nearly every family in Northern Uganda, it has led to bitter tastes in the mouths of many. People hardly talk about the sad moments and as soon as they do talk about the war or Kony, tempers either flare or a very somber mood prevails which is understandable. 
  It is not unusual to see graveyards within homesteads.  Many are trying to shed the past behind literally reconstructing their lives by indulging in various activities like farming, building just to mention but a few however, that cannot be said of everyone.

During the war, many were displaced and resorted to living in camps for refuge which came with relief food as well as  other social amenities. Areas like Olwal are still highly concentrated with people still living in the displaced camp centers. Although most are trying to leave the camps and go back to reconstruct their homes others view it as trying to make a mountain out of an ant hill especially the old since they have lost hope and  camps provide them with food and access to medicine or other needs. Living out of the camp therefore is another story all together as starting life from scratch is not as easy for not only the old but also the young, so the dependence syndrome is very high. 

Camp in Gulu
International organisations are quite a number as well as local Non Governmental Organisations and they have provided for many children opportunities to study as well as psychologically motivate the child soldiers or women impregnated during the war period. To note is that they youth are really trying to come to terms with reality as most engage in sporting activities.

Night life booms  since many night clubs and social places are stemming up to cater for the high demand of not only residents in Northern Uganda but also travellers as well as employees from different areas of Uganda and worldwide. The prevalence of HIV is also another thing which has to be talked about, I may not have the correct statistics but can boldly state that it indeed has spread there like wild fire.
Infrastructure especially roads are really bad and this makes transportation a major setback.The needs of many people in Northern Uganda really stem from an individual's as well as communal perspective. I believe education is the solution to many problems as a high percentage of children are not in schools and this would eventually spring a generation of uneducated children implying that the vicious cycle of poverty would not come to an end soon if the trend goes on.
      As child Soldiers and other soldiers are returning home, settling them within the community is also another issue. Not everyone has a receptive heart needless to say forgiving and as much as chiefs and elders in communities are doing their best to use traditional practices to enable people forgive each other which work best compared to modern courts. Whatever the case, Northern Uganda is much more peaceful than ever but what is needed most is reconstruction.

African Wood

At the mention of Nollywood, Riverwood, Ugawood and many other WOODs, the film industry comes to mind. Nollywood takes the crown for producing more films annually than Hollywood and Bollywood combined.

However, given the so many movies, how many have been awarded and attained international fame? Besides that the quality of production is still wanting. Without being so critical, I must agree that the African film industry came at a time when we needed it most and it has become a source of entertainment to many given that we can relate to  ideas presented. With this slight notion in mind, one asked, how come African movies however good they are hardly receive international fame? An interesting answer was given.

An interesting answer was given..Who awards the film stars, producers, directors and the entire filming crew? It is the dominant nations and that is what they want to maintain, Dominancy! So however much we struggle so long as the star is not from one of the dominant nations chances of recieving an Oscar or Academy award hangs in the balance...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Health does not negotiate!

An expectant woman  had to walk six miles from her home to a district health center and ended up giving birth at a police station as health workers chased her away because she could not raise the required amount of money prompting her to report the case to the police. As a result, she delivered a pair of  male twins prematurely at the police station. Unfortunately, the twins died of coldness.

Another lucky expectant woman had to give birth in darkness because there was a black out at a general government hospital with no back up power  that prompted midwives to use  a mobile phone torch to assist the woman. when a minister’s driver is highly paid compared to a doctor,  it makes me question why our leaders do not consider that health is wealth and women are the mothers of our nation.  Given that we have very good medical training facilities why don’t we make good use of the few doctors we have and treat them as king and queens to avoid brain drain!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Looking at a glass darkly, Northern Uganda befits this notion. Decades of terror that led to terrific brutality cannot be erased from the minds of many

but memories were refreshed when it was revealed that 100 American troops had been sent to Uganda to help capture the rebel leader Joseph Kony, the man behind  atrocities in Northern Uganda and neighboring countries like Congo, Chad and South Sudan who has ever since been at large. 

Society welcomed the news with mixed reactions several questioning  America’s intention saying that the help comes when the dust has settled  while some scholars claim that oil discovery, the black resource is of tremendous interest and this comes as a bargaining chip. 
At the end of the day, the nation’s fate lies in the hands of policy makers.  Many opinions were aired but the bottom line is that the rule of law shall always prevail and  our leaders actions determine the fate of the nation. We hope for the death of self interest and  corruption at the expense of even distribution of resources for the development of our country.

Sidelined Benefit

    Someone well known to me opted to quit school saying that there was no meaning in seeking formal education.  Unfortunately he is only 16 years old.   

My life span at the university sometimes makes me wonder whether what I pick in class adds value to my life yet majority of life’s lessons are in living life itself.  The education system has become wanting as students are trained to be job seekers rather than job creators.   Theory is hailed more than practical and experimental learning and the job market has been blamed to be biased especially when many competent people are competing for few resources.

With our curriculum designed ages ago dating back to colonial times, is it fitting for us to continue with this type of learning yet times are changing tremendously? Vocational education has been under-looked yet it proves promising and undoubtedly a major solution to the flooded formal white and blue collar occupations. How about a blend of both formal and vocational education? 

Surprisingly, many have the notion that vocational education is meant for book failures. This attitude has to change if we are to push for an industrialized Africa.