Legacy of the Lord’s Resistance Army

Once again it has been almost 4 months since my last post..!! It’s not that I’ve haven’t been busy, quite the opposite in fact, things haven’t stopped since Christmas which now seems like a very long time ago..!

So what’s been happening..? Well, in January I was in Bangladesh completing a project for an Australian NGO on the impact of climate change in the Sundarbans region which was an eye opener. It was my first time in Bangladesh and I really liked the place, Dhaka is crazy whilst the coastal regions are beautiful but facing some very real issues due to climate change compounded with the ever increasing devastating cyclones. I’ll hopefully be putting something on this blog very soon after the stories have been used in their campaigns.

Then I had a commission from The Sunday Times Magazine in London in outback Australia, which again is embargoed until it’s published, hopefully soon, so will be writing something up after that.

Then a few weeks ago I returned to northern Uganda to complete a story about how the north is recovering now that the Lord’s Resistance Army have moved their murderous ways into DRC, south Sudan and the Central African Republic. For me, this was a story close to my heart. I first went and reported on the LRA nearly 10 years ago as a very green photographer but the stories and images I saw there had a huge impact on me and knew I’d like to follow it up in the future. It’s taken some time but I jumped at the chance to go back to what is now thankfully, a peaceful if traumatised region in a beautiful country. This was my fourth visit to Uganda having completed a story on HIV, the LRA and proposing to my wife whilst gorilla trekking so it remains one of my favourite countries..!!

My original story can be found here LRA and I have used a number of these images to introduce the context of the latest story. It was a very short trip, so a real challenge to put a story together but we were well prepared and knew what was needed. The main aim was to produce images for two newspaper journalists to highlight the situation and what the NGO is doing to help there. On top of that, I was asked to produce a multimedia piece so time was the biggest factor. Making sure I had the images needed in the bag, I’d then focus on getting as much video and audio as possible. It was a huge learning curve once again as every assignment is different but next time I’ll make sure I’ll:-

A:- Shoot much, much more B-Roll as this makes editing far more interesting/easier.

B:-Audio, audio and more audio..!..I know audio is the key to a successful project and I need to spend more time learning how to juggle recording ambient, the person being interviewed and the person translating all at the same time. ┬áThe sound on the 5D even with a Rode stereo mike is just not usable when compared to recording on a separate recorder, a Tascam in my case. In this case I recorded the translator on the Tascam which sounds good and I hoped to record the sound of the people being interviewed on a Rode mic attached to the camera but the his and weak sound means it is almost impossible to match the two together to get decent audio. The ideal situation would be to record the interview properly then do the translation separately if time wasn’t an issue.

C:- Invest more time on Lynda.com and other training courses learning Final Cut Pro and Motion to make the project more animated.

Next trip hopefully there will be enough time to do a proper interview with someone who can narrate the history and give context to the story, spend more time shooting b-roll and have a clearer plan how I’m going to collect decent audio..that being a perfect world of course..!

I’ve uploaded the presentation here and also some images in case you don’t have time to watch so any comments please just let me know..genuine feedback is always very welcome..

Legacy of The Lord’s Resistance Army

For over two decades one of Africa’s most violent rebel groups, The Lord’s Resistance Army have been terrorising northern Uganda.

Their initial aim was to defend the rights of the Acholi population but this quickly disappeared as they embarked on a brutal campaign of child abductions, murder, mutilations, rape and looting. Over 30,000 children have been abducted, forced to fight and kill each other and family members which has resulted in over 90% of the population fleeing to live in squalid displaced persons camps.

The LRA finally left Uganda in 2006 heading into Sudan for peace talks leaving an uneasy peace in northern Uganda allowing people to start returning home to their villagers. Lazira is a small village of 350 people in Agago District where people now feel safe enough to return. They fled to Patongo IDP Camp in 2002 at the height of the conflict. Many people were abducted from Lazira village by the LRA and were forced to attack their own people and many other similar villagers all over Uganda. Most have now escaped the LRA and have returned home and are trying to integrate back into the community they once terrorised.

The peace talks however failed and now the LRA are roaming the countryside of the DRC, South Sudan and Central African Republic, continuing their reign of terror on communities there.

Ongom Donsiano (36) who was abducted by the LRA in 1998 from Luziro village in Northern Uganda. He was sent to South Sudan for training and became part of an elite fighting unit. He became a sergeant and then a commander and gave orders for attacks on civilians. He decided to leave the LRA and contacted the Ugandan army giving them information which led them to defeat the LRA in the area surrounding his home village of Luzira. He is now the head of the Luziro Farming Collective.

Odoch David (21) who was abducted in 2000 for 3 years from his home village of Luzira in Northern Uganda. He was taken to Kitgum where he was trained to fight then sent to the frontline and operated in both Uganda and Sudan. He was involved with a large attack on a Ugandan military base in Kitgum. He escaped after being surrounded by government forces and taken to the nearby town of Patongo. He returned home to Luzira where he found out his father was dead and his brother had also been abducted. He now has a wife and 3 children and lives in Luzira village.

Abur Carla (28) who was abducted by the LRA from her home village of Luzira in Northern Uganda in 2001 for 6 years. She was forced to become a fighter, loot and abduct other people. Many abductees were also forced to kill fellow abductees and villagers. She managed to escape in 2007 during a government forces attack and fled to Patongo town. She has now returned to live in Luzira village.

On the road to former Operat IDP camp from Patongo town in a Caritas vehicle during a rain storm.

Patongo IDP Camp on the outskirts of Patongo town which at its height housed over 50,000 people who fled their villages from potential LRA attack. Many people have now resettled back to their original villagers but a number still remain.

Patongo IDP Camp on the outskirts of Patongo town which at its height housed over 50,000 people who fled their villages from potential LRA attack. Many people have now resettled back to their original villagers but a number still remain.

Akidi Mariana (72) in the former Patongo IDP Camp in Northern Uganda where she lived for 5 years having fled her nearby village of Luzira after attacks by the LRA. She lived with six other members of her family in this hut. Pictured with one of her sons Okot Bosco Muleke (27).

Patongo IDP Camp on the outskirts of Patongo town which at its height housed over 50,000 people who fled their villages from potential LRA attack. Many people have now resettled back to their original villagers but a number still remain.

Patongo IDP Camp on the outskirts of Patongo town which at its height housed over 50,000 people who fled their villages from potential LRA attack. Many people have now resettled back to their original villagers but a number still remain.

A mother and child in the village of Luzira in Northern Uganda. The village was abandoned and people fled mostly to Patongo IDP Camp nearby following attacks by the LRA. They stared to resettle back in Luzira from 2007.

Akidi Mariana (72) outside her home in the village of Luzira in Northern Uganda. She resettled back home in 2007 having lived with her family in Patongo IDP Camp for 5 years having fled attacks by the LRA.