Dec 24, 2016

FILM: Kony abductees speak out

Bamuturaki Musinguzi
The East African
December 24 2016


In the film, the four friends escape captive service in the guerrilla army and are currently trying to reconstruct their lives, leading quiet lives in Kampala after being granted amnesty by the government.

The Kony war of northern Uganda and its effects on society has been captured in a documentary film Wrong Elements.

The 135-minute film acted in Acholi and English is directed by the Franco-American novelist Jonathan Littell and produced by Veilleur de Nuit.

Littell is best known for his Holocaust novel, The Kindly Ones that won him the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2006. He believes that it is important to discuss the past even if it is painful and then move forward. Wrong Elements shows the healing power of film.

The documentary features three young people; Geoffrey, Nighty and Mike, and their mutual friend Evelyn Lapisa. They were among 60,000 children abducted by the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army from schools and homes and coerced into violence as child soldiers or sex slaves. Most of them were hardly 13 years old.

In the film, the four friends escape captive service in the guerrilla army and are currently trying to reconstruct their lives, leading quiet lives in Kampala after being granted amnesty by the government.

As ex-child soldiers, Geoffrey and Mike are now earning a living as boda boda (motorcycle taxi) riders. Nighty, who was abducted at age 13 and married off to the LRA top leader Joseph Kony, says she had one child with Kony and lives with the child in Gulu.

She recalls the challenges of getting married an early age and life in the “big man’s” compound. Kony is reported to have sired over 100 children with different women.

Nighty, an impoverished mother has also given birth to her second child with an army man who is not providing for the family.

Geoffrey and Mike recall their capture, the time they spent in the bush fighting in Kony’s army, which involved often returning to the scenes of battles, committing atrocious human rights violations and looting sometimes with gruesome shocking details.

The film was recently screened at Century Cinemax, Acacia Mall in Kampala and in one shocking scene, is Geoffrey is talking with a mother whose two children were hacked to death by LRA soldiers in her compound. “I thought they were cutting wood,” the grieving mother recalls.

Geoffrey, who was among the attackers, seeks her forgiveness. And her willingness to forgive him is moving.

The theme of the documentary is that the perpetrators of the murders are remorseful while the victims are ready to forgive in a reconciliation gesture so that society can move forward.

The three also return to the site of their now-destroyed base camp in South Sudan and recall how they narrowly survived a UPDF helicopter gunship onslaught in “Operation Iron Fist” in 2002. They reminiscence of the life, looting, games played and jokes shared in the camp.

“It was a stupid life,” Geoffrey admits, quickly adding: “but it was also interesting.” The title Wrong Elements comes from a 1987 quote by the late Acholi spirit medium and rebel leader Alice Lakwena who said: “War is supposed to get rid of all the wrong elements in society.”

Although the ex-rebels are remorseful and determined to put the horrors of war behind them, their reintegration into society is complicated by the pain of the thousands who suffered devastating loses at the hands of the LRA. They are still viewed as “wrong elements. ”

The movie probes LRA’s methods that prey on young innocent minds, psychological, moral and spiritual aspects of the returning abductees and the mystical powers of Kony.

The Ugandan army and its international partners continue to hunt for Kony in the jungles of the Central African Republic as he is also wanted for war crimes at The Hague.

“I would like it (the film) shown in Gulu in my presence for people to know what we experienced in the bush,” Mike said after the screening in Kampala. “If it is shown in Gulu the people will understand and many families will forgive us after watching it. I myself haven’t overcome this experience and I have a wound that hasn’t fully healed.”

Geoffrey disagrees, arguing: “This film will bring back bad memories to the victims and those who lost loved ones. I don’t want it shown in Gulu because there are people who are still looking for us.”

“We have had a lot of bad experiences. Even when I returned, many people wanted me dead. I am a lucky person. I am now a grown up and I believe we cannot solve our problems by killing. We need to develop our country,” Geoffrey adds.

“With this film, people will try to recall and forgive us. When we returned there was a lot of stigma and finger pointing. For us women we can’t get married because people say we are possessed by evil spirits.

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