Uganda and Its Invisible Children

by Melanie Lehman

December 1, 2005

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Holocaust

UC Santa Barbara, Fall 2005
(course homepage, web projects index page,
Uganda project main page)

The Film
Invisible Children
About the author
History of Uganda
Uganda in the Media
Uganda-Holocaust comparison
Uganda Project
Main Page

The Film Invisible Children (back to top) [see also the Invisible Children website]

This is a story about three travelers in their early twenties, Bobby, Jason and Larren, who went to Uganda looking to capture a story about the truth in Africa. Bobby, Jason, and Larren left at the beginning of the summer in 2003 and at first found themselves in a desolate Uganda taking video footage of barren deserts, blowing up termite hills, fighting wild African snakes, and throwing up from extreme dehydration. What these three young men didn’t know was that there was a nine month pregnant woman in a neighboring village named Jolie who was going to inform them about the silent secret of northern Uganda. After becoming acquainted, Jolie drove the young men to a Sudanese refugee camp in Gulu, Uganda and it is here that they uncover what they are going to document and show to the world. "Once one has been to these challenging terrible places they’re always strangely drawn back, because there’s nothing that can compare to seeing the raw reality of the basic human need for survival. It disgusts and inspires." – Dan Eldon (Invisible Children).

Gulu is home to the Acholi tribe who is under direct attack and constant fear of the rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). In this small town hundreds upon hundreds of boys and girls, ages ranging from about 5 years of age to 12 years, travel here to find shelter to sleep at night in local hospitals, churches, and bus verandas. These young, innocent victims leave their families at night and travel to a more populated area because they are targeted by the LRA; the children who do this are known as ‘night commuters.’ These children are big enough to carry guns, yet small enough to sneak into schools. The LRA is abducting Ugandan youths and forcing them into virtual slavery, raping the girls, and brainwashing the youngsters into murdering other children who try to escape from ‘the bush.’ (The three men from San Diego found out that ‘the bush’ is the word that is used to describe the place where these Ugandan children are sent on death marches to. ‘The bush’ is more or less the desert!)

Jason interviewed a group of six boys who were hiding out in a secret corridor of the hospital where the three were staying because they are being hunted down, by name, by the LRA because weeks ago they escaped ‘the bush.’ A humanitarian worker named John states in the documentary film that:

…the LRA are abducting the children, taking them to the bush, the first thing they are teaching these kids is how to kill, and their prime targets are guiltless children who are capable of being brainwashed for the LRA’s causes.

Other abductees' stories are similar to the encounter that Jason had with that group of boys at the hospital. A ten year old boy named William told his story of terror as he trembled throughout the interview, clung to the interviewer’s hand, and spoke softly with his head bowed down, about how he walked for so long that his feet began to swell, and how later he was forced to help kill another child in ‘the bush.’ ( Unfathomable stories of abducted Ugandan children make it is apparent that the world doesn’t know about what is going on over there, but the situation is escalating every day!

The LRA is led by a man named Joseph Kony who claims to be possessed by spirits who are telling him to overthrow the Ugandan government and establish a new government based on the biblical Ten Commandments. ( Back in 1991 the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, responded to the problem of controlling the rebellious LRA by sealing off northern Uganda, turning the area into refugee camps in hopes of deterring the LRA from penetrating this area of the north. This operation, known as "Operation North," failed miserably not only because it didn’t eliminate the threat of Kony and his rebels, but also because it drove the rebels to step up their attacks and recruitment of civilians, while spending less and less time going after governmental establishments ( The problem only got worse when five years ago the LRA started receiving military aid from the Sudanese government. And now it is known that the Sudanese government had two prime motivations for providing the LRA with new and better resources. First, the Sudanese government is using the LRA to fight their own war against their rebel group, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), and second, the Sudan has long accused the Ugandan government of aiding the SPLA ( These seem to be reason enough for the LRA to obtain special favors outside their country’s borders.

Jason, Bobby, and Larren came to the realization that the children in Uganda are living beyond fear, that fear to these 5 year olds is an understatement! Now Uganda is in a desperate situation because the people, especially the Acholis of Gulu, are becoming restless and want to avenge not only the LRA but the government of Uganda who failed to save their children. Father Robert Ochola of Gulu spoke fervently about the situation saying:

…of course a missile kills in Israel and it’s all over the news, all over the world. But an Acholi killed, whether by the government or the rebels, and it is quiet… are we not human beings, is an American life or a British life more valuable than an African life?!" (‘Invisible Children’)

Needless to say the threat of complete mayhem and chaos in Uganda is becoming violently clear when their own people are starting to realize their hopeless prospects of peace. Many of the people interviewed in the documentary are surprised that the world is not responding at all to this crisis, because the concept of children forced into fighting as soldiers has been long condemned by governments and their peoples all over the world!

The documentary film made by these three brave guys from San Diego, California, called ‘Invisible Children,’ attempts to start a revolution in consciousness and action around the world. This movement is trying to open the world’s eyes to the heinous crimes that are being committed against the people of northern Uganda for years. Priests, doctors, teachers, mothers, fathers, all acknowledge that "… the first thing to do is to find a way to protect their children. Otherwise, they may shout on the top of the mountain, but it will do no good if they can still take their children" ( The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda is not complying with international humanitarian laws and the government of Uganda needs to take responsibility and control this ever increasingly horrific situation. The children of Uganda are invisible because they roam distant battlefields, away from public scrutiny, invisible because no records are kept of their numbers or age, and invisible because their own armies deny they exist (‘Invisible Children’)

Now what will it take to inspire the people of the world with the power to stop what is taking place in Africa? Who will be the first person with great influence to tell the world about this inhumanity that is taking place in our modern world? This is just the introduction to the long story of the history in Uganda, the wars and conflicts that have been fought, and to the fact that the rest of the world is just standing idly by and ignoring the children of Uganda!

About the Author (back to top)


prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on12/6/05; last updated: 12/14/05
back to top, to Hist 33d homepage, 33d projects index page; Prof. Marcuse's Courses page; H. Marcuse homepage