Apr 122006
Authors: Meg Burd

For the children of Uganda, nightfall brings out very real monsters. Monsters that rape, mutilate, beat, kidnap and brainwash children into committing atrocities themselves.

Uganda’s forgotten, the stories of these children and the story of the now two-decade-long civil war in Uganda was detailed Tuesday night in the film “Invisible Children,” shown in the basement of Edwards Hall and accompanied by a brief but vitally important talk by Joyce Acen, a CSU student who lived in Northern Uganda.

Called a “forgotten war” by humanitarian groups across the world, the documentation of these horrific conditions in Northern Uganda provided an important and shattering look at the ongoing suffering of young people, some around the same age as CSU students, that needs to be seen by the world.

“The world doesn’t know,” noted one of the activists interviewed in the film.

Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole, three friends from California, filmed it to document the stories of these “night commuters,” children who flock to the dangerous and dirty conditions of the Ugandan city of Gulu in an attempt to avoid being kidnapped or attacked by rebels in rural areas.

Initially the three traveled to Sudan with hopes of documenting the ongoing humanitarian crisis that is taking place there, but after days spent in 130-degree heat and little more than a few termite hills and snakes to film, they traveled across the border into neighboring Uganda. There, in a country ravaged by a civil war that has been taking place for over two decades, the three young filmmakers found their story.

Coming from rural villages, the children in the video scramble in the dark to find some sort of safe haven in the cities, sleeping on mats on the dirty ground.

Finding a place to sleep in the city does not guarantee safety, however. Brainwashed in some cases by rebel forces by being forced to witness experiences of perpetrated violence against their own families, these “night commuters” often find violence spilling into their minds and actions.

Acen, an ecology student who grew up in a village near Gulu, noted the civil war in the northern area disrupted many long held traditions in village life, severing important ties that helped children and adults find security in their environment.

In the rural communities before the war, Acen notes, community life was often centered on chiefdoms and clans. “In a village, you often found those people were related,” Acen said in a brief informative speech after the film. “Children in this community are particularly valuable.”

With many villagers relocated to camps supposedly to ensure their safety, Acen said conditions seem to be getting worse.

Acen believes it is time the international community took substantial action to end this worsening crisis.

“The U.N. has documented the situation but it ends up as paperwork and nothing is done on the ground,” she noted. “Our only hope seems to be in appealing to the international community.”

Acen and the producers of the film feel it is essential that action be taken on behalf of the children and others in Northern Uganda. The three filmmakers have founded an organization, Invisible Children Inc., in hopes of effecting important changes.

Some CSU students hope to spread the message of the film by wearing white ribbons, a symbol for the right to life and awareness about child abuse. For anyone interested in spreading awareness, these ribbons can be found at the Edwards Hall front desk.

Likewise, local and international activists hope to raise awareness of this often forgotten crisis by participating in the “Global Night Commute” in the Old Town Plaza.

For more information on the film and the Global Night Commute, visit www.invisiblechildren.com

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