The Innocent: The Casualties of the Civil War in Northern Uganda by Heather McClintock
The Innocent: Casualties of the Civil War in Northern Uganda is a journey of trust and discovery. A glimpse of truth, revealed by the children and women who have struggled to survive for over two decades in the decimated war torn region.
It is estimated that the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, abducted as many as 66,000 youths, wrenching them from their families and forcing them to become soldiers, porters and sex slaves. Up to 80% of the LRA rebels were children under the age of twenty.
Kony, indicted as a war criminal by the International Criminal Court, is an Acholi, a man of the people, who claims to be defending the rights of all Acholi by waging war against the Ugandan government in the name of the Ten Commandments. For more than twenty years in the north, Kony’s civil war has instead inflicted grotesque carnage and senseless violence chaos upon them, using children and women as its primary victims. At the peak of the conflict, spread out over 80% of the region, two million Ugandans lived in massive refugee camps, lacking access to basic sanitation and resources. To this day, hundreds of thousands still exist in these squalid camps.
Kony is still at large, after multiple military incursions to apprehend and extradite him have failed. Years of stalled peace talks, and his subsequent retraction and insurgency into other regions has left an open wound; and although northern Uganda may no longer be officially at war, the psychology of peace hasn’t settled into the hearts and minds of its populace.
Long-term recovery and reconciliation processes will take time, and aspects of each will be entangled in one another for decades to come. Civil war, major human rights violations and inhumane living conditions are now slowly giving way to reconstruction and development. Basic infrastructure for education, medical and psychosocial support, and landmine clearance and explosive ordnance disposal are paramount for Uganda as they slowly move forward into an uncertain future.
It was in many ways a gift to bear witness to the people of northern Uganda whose lives profoundly touched me. This is a love letter to all the forgotten, displaced, abducted, sexually assaulted, mutilated, abandoned, lost and tortured souls, both literally and figuratively, who desire to be seen and loved in this world of ours. It is my visual “wish” thrown into the collective deep blue unknown, that each of us might hold true to some measure of hope, dignity, and strength in the face of fear, adversity, and loss.
Heather McClintock is a New York City based artist.
To view more of Heather's work, please visit her website
To buy a copy of Heather's book The Innocent: Casualties of the Civil War in Northern Uganda by Schilt Publishing, click here.