- Oprah Winfrey.
Northern Uganda on the Oprah Show
Ever since Oprah heard about the genocide happening in Sudan and Uganda's young nightwalkers, she says she's had trouble sleeping at night.
"There is a holocaust going on right now in Africa," Oprah says. "Everybody who hears it today, can no longer say, 'I didn't know that was going on.' Maybe you feel like you have no real power to change anything, but the truth is, you are the only hope that all of these people have."
Oprah hopes that viewers will "rise up against the madness" and help stop the atrocities happening in Africa. "If we don't listen and do something now, we're all going to have blood on our hands... If this was happening to your child, wouldn't you want the world to help?" she asks.
To lend a helping hand support, Oprah urges you to support organizations working in Africa.
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First published: April 27, 2006
The humanitarian crisis in Northern Uganda is finally starting to reach the ears of a significant number of the international community. Millions of people watched with shock as the Oprah Show featured the atrocities which have been happening in Gulu, Northern Uganda, courtesy of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony. Almost twenty years after the war commenced in Northern Uganda, the details of the genocide were finally being aired to millions of viewers all over the world. The brutal, cult-like LRA has led to the displacement of thousands of Acholi's (a tribe in Northern Uganda) and has also abducted child soldiers; forcing them to engage in rape, murder, kidnappings, cannibalism and torture. Those who refuse to commit these horrors are themselves raped, murdered, tortured and kept as sex slaves.
There have been numerous efforts at raising awareness of the Gulu situation and its urgent need for peace including the efforts of GuluWalk founders, Canadians Adrian Bradbury and Kieran Hayward as well the American creators of the Invisible Children project. Night Commuter walks were held in many cities all over the world as a result of the projects above. There have also been documentaries made including Uganda Rising - the Canadian produced, directed and written documentary film which will world premiere at HotDocs International Film Festival, which takes place in Toronto, Canada, April 28th-May 7th, 2006. In 2004, a Ugandan filmmaker and actor based in the USA - Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine made a poignant and haunting documentary Beware Of Time which among many things exposes the hardships of the quiet, but brutal war ravaging the people of Northern Uganda.
Organizations like Uganda-CAN, War Child Canada, Friends For Peace in Africa, Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief, Uganda Conflict Action Network and Act for Stolen Children played their part, not only in fundraising for the people of Gulu, but also in raising awareness about the situation.
But nothing can beat coverage on the Oprah Show. Lisa Ling, former The View host and currently an Oprah Show correspondent who was in Uganda six days before appearing on the show, carried back with her a horrific and stomach-turning documentary which showed what has been happening in Gulu. Ling profiled horrors which have been going on for two decades, atrocities which Oprah Winfrey who had just come back from Auschwitz, called a holocaust. She called it one of the greatest human rights crises.
When Bobby, Jason and Larin returned to America, they turned their emotional video diaries from their journey into a documentary called Invisible Children. The students jumped into an RV and began traveling across the country, showing their film to as many people as possible.
Sign up for the Global Night Commute.
"There is a holocaust going on right now in Africa," Oprah said. "Everybody who hears it today, can no longer say, 'I didn't know that was going on.' ...Maybe you feel like you have no real power to change anything, but the truth is, you are the only hope that all of these people have."
Oprah Winfrey - "Everybody who hears it today, can no longer say,
'I didn't know that was going on.'"
Ever since Oprah heard about the massacres happening to Uganda's children night walkers, she said she had been experiencing difficulty sleeping as the images of the children of Gulu haunted her. Oprah hopes that viewers will "rise up against the madness" and help curb the atrocities happening in Africa. "If we don't listen and do something now, we're all going to have blood on our hands ...If this was happening to your child, wouldn't you want the world to help?" she asked.
Lisa Ling profiled 14-year-old Evaline, who was kidnapped from her home by LRA soldiers when she was 12 years old. Forced to endure severe beatings regularly and forced to fight and work as a mule in her captors' army, her life almost came to an end when shrapnel from a bomb disfigured her face. On the show Evaline, who was sponsored to the USA by an American family in order to have her face reconstructed, held a handkerchief over her mouth which has already undergone about 4 surgeries and will undergo 2 more.
During one violent gunfight, a bomb dropped from a plane. One of the rebel commanders used Evaline as a shield, pushing her body in front of his own. When the bomb exploded, shrapnel tore into Evaline's face leaving her bleeding and disfigured. "I ran and fell under the trees," she says. "I was scared. I looked to my left and I saw two girls who were dead. One woman in front of me was also dying."
Ling also mentioned the night commuters, the children, some who walk for as long as two hours a night -to camps run by the Ugandan government and non-governmental organizations. Once there, the children, some of them as young as two, agree to be locked in a cage and protected from the pillaging LRA. In the morning, the children return to their homes and work in the fields.
The threat posed by the violent LRA rebels in Uganda is so great that thousands of children join a nightly exodus. They leave their remote village homes just to avoid being kidnapped.
The show also profiled three American college students who had travelled to Uganda, where they had stumbled upon the night walkers face-to-face. A segment of their documentary The Invisible Children introduced viewers to two brothers - Jacob and Thomas who were forced to flee after witnessing the murder of their other brother by the rebel army, LRA. When talking about their dead brother, Jacob broke in to tears. One of the saddest moments was hearing him say that he would rather be dead than to live in the deplorable conditions he was in. The American students encountered thousands of children living like Jacob and Thomas. In one hospital, they saw 1,000 sleeping children crammed into two small rooms.
Jacob and Thomas, brothers who had recently escaped from the LRA. The young boys were being hunted by their captors and were forced to hide in a small room during the day. At night, they slept next to hundreds of other nightwalkers in a bus park.
But for each Evaline, Jacob and Thomas, there are thousands who are in the same position. There are thousands of orphaned, homeless, raped, maimed, mentally and psychologically disturbed children. There are thousands of children with no bright future to look forward to and no home to go to. They were living normal lives, going to school and doing mundane things like farming, when their lives were disrupted by the LRA rebels. Other children have known no moments of peace. For the children who were forced to kill people, perhaps these are the ones who need immediate medical and psychiatric attention for they are the most likely to become dangerous and psychotic adults. It must be also remembered that it's not just the children who are affected; many adults especially women are also affected by this war.
In January 2005, Lisa traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to reveal what's happening to women in the middle of this war-torn nation. Lisa spoke to women in the village of Bukavu about the brutal beatings and unimaginable acts of sexual cruelty they suffered at the hands of the military.
Perhaps it will take Lisa Ling's documentary on Uganda to completely end what is happening in the North. Perhaps it is Oprah's involvement in this humanitarian crisis which will change things and get heads of states and the UN making a difference. Whatever it is, once the war is completely over, down to the smallest skirmish, then we will have to take into consideration the physical, mental, psychological healing of the people of Gulu as well as rehabilitation and rebuilding of the area. Ending the war is not the end of this holocaust. It is just the start of a long healing process which has been undone by two decades of war. Like the offspring of the Jews who were massacred in concentration camps; like the offspring of the slaves in the Caribbean and the American continent we cannot allow what has happened to be forgotten. It should be remembered so that this never happens again. The Gulu war should be the last to ever occur on Ugandan soil.
Originals of most images used are from: www.oprah.com
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First published: April 27, 2006
Jane won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named one of the new voices of Africa after reciting one of her poems. In 2004, she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto's Black storytellers and in February 2005, her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit.
She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, art and playwriting and is becoming a household name in Toronto circles. Please visit her website at www.nteyafas.com.