About halfway through Ebony Butler’s harrowing film A Brilliant Genocide, which will be screened at Bard College on October 24, an older woman from Uganda’s Acholi ethnic group describes how government soldiers came to her house, accused her of collaborating with rebels, doused her with kerosene, and set her on fire.
She barely survived. Her two children did not.
Millions of people know about Joseph Kony, the notorious Ugandan rebel leader who recruited thousands of child soldiers, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into killers.
The documentary suggests that President Yoweri Museveni and his army provoked and prolonged the war that transformed Kony from a former Catholic altar boy into a diabolical warlord.
At a screening at Columbia University in October, a student from southern Uganda told the audience that even he was unaware of Museveni’s crimes.
The conspiracy of silence about Museveni is likely explained by the fact that he is probably America’s closest African military ally, and receives lavish development and military aid from western donors.
Most US military aid is classified, so neither Americans nor Ugandans know exactly how much Uganda receives or what the money is spent on.
Kony fled Uganda in 2006, but the human rights situation there remains dire, and Museveni has since inflamed conflicts in other countries in the region, including the Rwandan Civil War and genocide; the wars in Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and the Somalia crisis that radicalized the youth militia Al-Shabaab.
Butler’s courageous, intelligent movie not only breaks the cruel silence surrounding the war in northern Uganda; it also raises urgent questions about the part that successive US presidents—Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, George Bush Jr., and unfortunately even Barack Obama—played in enabling and empowering Museveni who continues “to abuse the rights of Ugandans today” in the age of Donald Trump.
The screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Helen Epstein, Lawrence Kiwanuka Nsereko, Zachariah Mampilly, and John Ryle.
Originally published by nybooks.com