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November 2017
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Ugandans on Kony 2012`

I wrote an essasy today on the whole Invisible Children/Kony 2012 video phenomenon. Because of a lack of space in the newspaper, I couldn’t put in all the voices that should be heard. While I do think the best way to stop mass human rights atrocities is with worldwide support and action, the heroes of each individual situation are locals who are doing far more than I, an Invisible Children staffer, or any outsider could do. So through the day, I’ll be posting comments/stories about and from Ugandans. Here’s the first, from a writer with the Guardian, an independent newspaper in Uganda.

Robert Madoi: Julius Achon’s ‘Kony 2012′ without
Hollywood subplots

Wednesday, 14 March 2012 00:54

The resolute constancy of the video to draw staggering ululations from the blogosphere has been its very downside as sceptics have least been impressed about its dated storyline. Fascinatingly, ever since the guns went silent in both the Acholi and Lango sub-regions, sport is one of the few things that have come menacingly close to putting out the correct narrative of the pre and post-war northern Uganda on the blogosphere.

But with just hundreds of YouTube views and retweets, clearly the narrative of one dauntless black man doing his best to rehabilitate war-torn northern Uganda wasn’t appealing, even Hollywood-esque. Back in February of 2011, I captured in this very column the compelling story of former Ugandan Olympian Julius Achon. Conscripted into the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a skirmish between the rebels and the Ugandan army (UPDF) saw Achon embark on a run that would start off as mundane and end olympian.

Achon ran away from the LRA rebels all the way to a World Junior Championships title and three Olympics. Whilst training for the last of those Olympics in 2003, he ran into 11 panic-stricken children cowered under a bus. Orphaned by the civil war, they had nowhere to go. The bus was a safe haven. Achon, scarred by the war himself, was touched. He desperately wanted to help.

He ended up doing that and more. His efforts to rehabilitate children whose milieu had been devastated by a two-decade-long war culminated in the inception of the Achon Uganda Children’s Fund in 2007. Achon didn’t have much, he took home just $5000 from some obscure Portuguese running club, but he gravely wanted to make a difference.

When he read about the two cents I had put in for his foundation, Achon got in touch with me via e-mail. He commended my effort before extending an invitation to me to go see firsthand the humanitarian work his foundation is doing in his native district. When would this be, I quickly inquired. It would be in November. Sweet November!

I always take my annual leave here at The Observer in November, so there was no stumbling block. Orum would be my destination in November. I have never been to northern Uganda. But when I was little, I remember my dad going to Atiak (in Gulu) in 1994. I recall being apprehensive about the possibility of the LRA rebels gunning down the helicopter in which dad was travelling. Dad did return back in one piece with some game meat!

Clearly, I needed something to rejig what had turned out to be an enduring attribute of northern Uganda – the worry about the LRA rebels; not the game meat! Achon was now going to give me that something by letting me peer into a foundation that is a touchstone of hope. Lamentably, when November came, Achon forgot to get in touch with me. He must have been busy – we haven’t interfaced in awhile. But looking at uploads on his foundation’s website, I couldn’t be more proud.

The medical facility as well as quarters for medical staff he has been building in his home village had reached beam level. The dream of not having locals trek 42 miles on dirt roads to receive basic medical care had now reached the homestretch. I didn’t get to go down to Orum with Achon, but thanks to the world being a global village I managed to get a lowdown nonetheless.

That he is taking this story of recovery to Uncle Sam – not on Oprah’s couch or P Diddy’s Twitter page, but some Americans open to the narrative of solutions to Africa’s problems being sort of home-grown – is as inspiring as it is transformational. Above all, Achon’s tale points to the fact that sport and sporting personalities have a role, a big role, to play in birthing rehabilitations in Uganda. Hopefully, a few years down the road, a David Obua here and Dan Obote there will author similar howling footnotes as Achon has. 

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