Dancing Around Genocide

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In a world where justice had a chance of prevailing, both dictator Museveni and the LRA’s commander Joseph Kony would be hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and convicted on crimes against humanity.

[Black Star News Editorial]

This week War Dance, a documentary that highlights the suffering of Acholis in northern Uganda, is in line for an Oscar award.

Uganda has suffered war for more than 20 years, confined mostly in the north. Fighting pits Uganda’s government under U.S.-allied dictator Yoweri Museveni and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). It’s one of the most perverse wars in the world. The combatants rarely engage each other in direct battle, even raising questions about whether they are actually partners in Uganda’s genocide. The victims are hundreds of thousands of Acholi civilians.

More than 20 years ago, the Uganda government ordered civilians in Acholi, northern Uganda, to abandon their homes, their farms and their livestock within 48 hours, using radio announcements. The government forced 2 million civilians into squalid concentration camps, creating mass deaths and impoverishment. Museveni’s government claimed it was the only way to protect civilians from the LRA, which was kidnapping children to boost its ranks, while also mutilating civilians during its terror campaign. There are also credible accounts of terrorism and brutality against civilians by the governments soldiers, including mass murders, rapes and mutilations which were then attributed to the LRA.

As recent as 2005, the World Health Organization in a survey concluded that more that 1,000 people were dying every week from hunger and diseases in the government concentration camps; this translates to 52,000 a year or 520,000 over the last 10 years. Some of the camps have existed for more than 20 years. In other words, the government has been responsible for “protecting” possibly more than a million Acholis to death.

War Dance, directed by Sean Fine and executive produced by Albie Hecht, documents the plight of some of the young Acholi boys and girls in the camps, and their preparation for and participation in a national musical contest. It’s a heart-warming and captivating film.

The movie has many weaknesses: Some of the scenes were clearly staged and a Uganda government employee, Emmanuel Olobo of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was also a translator, raising questions about objectivity and the extent of the dictatorship’s involvement in other aspects of the film; what's shocking is that Olobo's name is even listed on the credits at the end of the film, although he is not identified as a government official, until recently based in the Uganda embassy in Washington, D.C. as First Secretary, where he worked under Ugandan ambassador Perezi Kamunanwire, Uganda's chief apologist to the U.S.

The film's most glaring weakness is failure to adequately expose the Museveni regime’s role in creating the concentration camps and forcefully forcing Acholis, women, men and children into the camps (for more background please see the Human Rights Watch Report  "Uprooted and Forgotten, Impunity and Human Rights Abuses

In an e-mail message, Fein said, “Mr. Olobo did do some initial translation work AFTER we returned from Uganda. Our field translator was actually a former child soldier who know works for the ICC in Uganda. Mr. Olobo was not in the field with us so he had little influence on the film. He is also one of three translators that we used in the post process as well as having an Acholi professor give the final film a watch to make sure there was nothing wrong.”

He continued in the message: “We paid great attention to the translation for accuracy and I can assure you that Mr. Lobo had no sway on our filmmaking. He simply watched a scene and translated it word for word. Then his work was double checked as well. It seems that you might have been implying that we were swayed by the government in our filmmaking and I assure you this never happened.”

The message concludes: “I would appreciate it if you were going to print something suggesting a government had a hand in our film that you would first ask us. I appreciate your review of the film but I just want to get the facts right.”

It is wrong for an independent filmmaker to have a government official involved in such a manner without disclosing it because it raises many questions as to whether the government was involved in other levels: Why not then have an LRA translator also involved since the Museveni government and the LRA are combatants and both are agents of the Acholi genocide?

 in Northern Uganda,"  http://hrw.org/reports/2005/uganda0905/uganda0905.pdf

War Dance, whether it wins an Oscar or not, will invite more welcome media scrutiny on the Uganda atrocities, which have been drowned by other tragedies such as Darfur’s and Eastern Congo’s: More serious scrutiny might finally expose the role of foreign apologists and governments, including the U.S. and the U.K., in arming and uncritically supporting the Ugandan dictatorship which maintains the concentration camps. The LRA's own brutality has been very well exposed: Yet, LRA is not the sole agent in Uganda's silent genocide.

In a world where justice had a chance of prevailing, both dictator Museveni and the LRA’s commander Joseph Kony would be hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and convicted for their roles in crimes against humanity.



For a critique of how Uganda's genocide has been ignored please see and http://blackstarnews.com/?c=122&a=3666 

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