and the Global Night Commute
27th May 2006
On my most recent birthday, I went
to a screening of a movie called Invisible Children with my
father. I attended a follow up event called the Global Night
Commute on the 27th of May.
Both events were designed to raise awareness of the child soldier
problem in Northern Uganda.
A guy called Yoweri Museveni led a rebel group that violently
overthrew the government in the 1980s. Museveni installed himself as
president and has ruled ever since. He has won several
"democratic" elections. "Democratic" is fully
deserving of inverted quotes as there was wide spread vote rigging. Museveni even had his political opponents thrown in jail on
trumped up charges during the build up to the elections. He
recently had the constitution of Uganda changed so that he could remain
in power beyond the statutory two terms.
For more information about how Museveni came to power, I recommend
you read a book called Child
Soldiers. It is written by a lady called China Keitetsi who was herself a child soldier in Museveni's rebel army. She
obtained refugee status and now lives in Denmark where she is spokesperson
for child soldiers everywhere. Her website can be found here.
A group called the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) wants to overthrow
Museveni and install a "Christian style government", whatever
that is. The LRA is led by an religious extremist called Joseph
The LRA is extreme even by rebel group standards. Soldiers
cover their body with an oil to protect themselves from bullets.
Anyone unlucky enough to get shot is written off as a faithless
heathen. Murders, human mutilation and rapes are all common.
The worst atrocities performed the LRA is the abduction of children
as young as five. The children are brainwashed and forced to fight
for the LRA. 30,000 children have been abducted so far.
Many of the children are forced to kill members of their own families
as a show of loyalty. This makes it very difficult for any child
lucky enough to escape from the LRA to reintegrate with their remaining
family. "You killed my sister. How dare you return
here!" is a common sentiment. I was pleased to learn that
some families are showing an enormous amount of grace and forgiveness
and are welcoming the child soldiers back into their families.
Every night, 40,000 children walk up to 20
kilometers to avoid being kidnapped by the LRA goons. They gather
together in safe places - such as hospitals and car parks - and sleep
the night away, safe from the LRA.
The Global Night
On the 29th of April, thousands of people all across the U.S.A. took
long walks and slept outside to raise awareness of the child
commuters. I participated in a similar event which was held in
Auckland on the 27th of May.
I caught a train into the central city at about 5:30 pm so that I
could meet up with fellow participants in Auckland's Aotea
The event kicked off with a two hour march around
the central city. About one hundred people turned up for the
march. The event organizers made a whole heap of placard boards,
one of which I carried. I felt a bit silly carrying the board
around and just a little self-conscious. I guess I haven't been
on enough protest marches in my time.
The reactions to the march were many and varied. Highlights
for me include:
- A drunk guy yelling "What bloody war?" at me
I replied with a highly stupid "The child war in
Uganda. Read the newspapers". "Child war" is
a bad way of describing it and it is not covered at all in the
- A bunch of teenage kids joining in the march
They seemed a little drunk, but their enthusiasm was far
greater than mine. The frequently shouted suitable catch
phrases such as "Stop the child abduction" and "End
the war" and thrust their placards in peoples' faces.
They soon got bored though and left the parade.
- Night clubbers
We passed many nightclubs along the way. The scantily
clad young ladies would generally give us a cheer, while the
beer-toting boys would only stare - perhaps fearful of expressing
- The Stare
The most common reaction was the stare. Either at one of
our signs, or at something fascinating on the sidewalk - like a
chewed piece of gum or perhaps an interestingly shaped crack in
The Invisible Children movie was shown
in Aotea Square when we returned from the walk.
There is this one shot in the movie that shows a little boy talking
about a brother that he has lost. The directors had previously
stated that they it was very rare to see a Ugandan kid cry, so the
sight of this little boy breaking down was heart-wrenching. I
don't mind saying that a couple of tears rolled down my cheeks.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one crying.
Once the movie had finished, the organizers
opened the floor for some questions.
As a further show of support for the night commuters in
Uganda, we spent the night in Aotea Square.
A young lady called Grace played
some songs and people organized Frisbee throwing games and informal
soccer matches. Jenkins, a refugee
from Uganda, was an absolute demon on the soccer field. I'm sure
I'll get involved in some soccer games in Uganda and I'm sure kids
half my size will run circles around me.
Some people from Amnesty International were
also present and helped people write letters to various
governments. I didn't write a letter, despite being loaned a pen
and given some paper. Not sure why. Maybe I was enjoying
talking to people so much. Maybe I felt I was doing enough by
heading to Uganda for six months. Maybe I was just lazy.
I tried to get some sleep at one point during
the evening, but just couldn't do it. The fact that one lovely lady
had acquired my sleeping bag did not help the situation...
The event finished at about
6 a.m. We had a group photo and headed
off home. I caught a lift back with a South African gentleman I
had met who - rather strangely - lived only two streets away from my
People People People
I was a little nervous and apprehensive about going to the
Global Night Commute. I went by myself and arrived not knowing a
single soul. It would of been nigh on impossible for me to have
done this eighteen months ago.
One of things I learnt during my mental health
problems was the idea of normalizing experiences. It is normal to
feel nervous and apprehensive when you're going into a group of people
you hardly know.
I was glad that I went.
The most enjoyable parts of the Global Night
Commute was talking to people, which was what I was so nervous and
apprehensive about to begin with!
I met a young Ugandan fellow called Jenkins.
Jenkins is a refugee from Uganda and has been here for nine
months. I spent more time talking to Jenkins than anyone
else. He was more the happy to answer my barrage of questions.
They ranged from the trivial:
Malcolm: Will I be able to take pictures
of giraffes for my niece?
...to the political...
Malcolm: Were the recent elections
democratic in name only?
Jenkins: Yes. There elections were rigged by Museveni.
...to safety orientated...
Malcolm: Will I be safe in Northern
Uganda? Or will my white skin make me an obvious target for
Jenkins: My own town is safe, but there are many areas that you
should not go to.
...to fashion tips...
Malcolm: My wardrobe is getting very
tatty and I was hoping to buy custom made clothes for myself in
Uganda. Do they still do that?
Jenkins: They certainly do, but expect to be charge $50 for a $10
pair of pants!
... to the personal, which I shan't record here.
If all of the people in Uganda are as nice as
Jenkins, then I'm sure I'll have a wonderful time.
I also got chatting to a gentleman from South
Africa called Cyprian. Like Jenkins, he had only been here for
nine months or so. He told me all about the current political
situation in South Africa. He told me about the bred-in racism in
South Africa and how he couldn't help but think of the white man as
"Boss". Very sad.
He felt that racism was slowly leaving South
Africa, but would take a long time to completely go away.
I also chatted to:
Numerous Amnesty International
A born again Christian lady called Grace
who provided the musical entertainment.
A Malaysian lady who was just about to
finish her university degree and wanted to open a vegetarian restaurant.
Several people involved with the Invisible
Children campaign in Uganda.
I am tempted to visit the various programs they have set up in
Northern Uganda over a long weekend sometime. It is a very
good program to get involved in, but I have committed myself to
the GVN program and that will be my top priority.
Many other fine people
The evening was a nice one and I'm glad I went. It would of been
nice if more people had turned up, but it was good hanging out with the
folk that did.
I made a couple of purchases from the
Another bracelet to add to my already overburdened
The bracelet was made by people in Northern Uganda. All
the money raised is funneled back into the region.
A copy of the Invisble Children
A lot of people in Southern Uganda do not know of the problems
in the north. One person related the story of the sister of a
Uganda journalist who did not know of the situation despite being
only five hours drive away.
I'm going to take the film with me to my base in Southern Uganda and
show it my fellow volunteers and anyone else who wants to see it.
The version of the film I have is a rough cut. The full
version will be released in cinemas in about an year.
If you want more information about the Invisible
Children campaign, be sure to visit their website.
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2005 and 2006 Malcolm Trevena.
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