By John Harley
“This generation is here to change the world.”
It’s amazing how confidently these words slid off Julie Lockwood’s tongue. Lockwood, along with a group of her peers, arrived last Thursday at UC Santa Cruz to show students “Sunday,” the latest short documentary film from Invisible Children, a nonprofit group working to help orphaned and needy children in Uganda. The event took place at the Merrill Cultural Center.
The documentary focuses on a 15-year-old boy named Sunday, an orphan living in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp to escape the violent conflict that has engulfed much of Uganda for the past 20 years.
The film featured four Americans, including Bobby Bailey, one of Invisible Children’s original filmmakers. The film tracks these Americans’ journey into one of Uganda’s many IDP camps, where the four discarded their modern conveniences to live as displaced persons for 10 days. During this time, they met Sunday, who lost both of his parents to war and is forced to work tilling fields in order to pay for his education.
While the bleak pictures of life in Uganda presented by “Sunday” seem to offer little hope for the war-torn country, members of Invisible Children and many displaced Ugandans have new reason to be optimistic.
A permanent cease-fire was signed on Feb. 23 between the Ugandan government in Juba, Sudan and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the rebel force led by self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony. While the specifics of demobilization are left to be determined in the next few days, this accord verifies a 2006 agreement to end hostilities.
The war, which began in 1986, has since become Africa’s longest-running conflict, with millions of fatalities both civilian and military. The LRA created humanitarian nightmares, employing brutal techniques such as child abduction to bolster their ranks. The Ugandan government, finding isolated agricultural towns to be unsafe for its citizens, forced millions of people into the internally displaced camps to live in dense packs of mud huts where disease and crime run rampant.
Yet with the signing of the cease-fire on Saturday, many are convinced that this could be the end of the 22-year conflict. Still, with the country destabilized for so long, it will certainly be a while before the region returns to a state of normalcy.
“There is still a lot to be done after the war,” said Josh Gilman, who is touring with the Invisible Children team. This includes relocating millions of people currently living in the IDP camps back to their original homes, restarting the agriculture that Ugandans once depended on, and ensuring safety of the citizens who have lived in fear for two decades.
“We’re right now starting to focus on more humanitarian assistance,” said Lindsay Welcher, spokesperson for Invisible Children. “There is definitely going to be a lot needed in rebuilding those communities.”