The spirits don't wait until night to haunt Agnes Akello – they terrorise her as she sweeps her compound. They trigger flashbacks to her five years with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). One moment she's handcuffed by a dreadlocked soldier; the next she caves in an infant's head. Sadly the story of Agnes and her time with the LRA is typical of the 8,000 girls the rebel group abducted between 1986-2006. Taken away from their families, they were raped, beaten, and forced to kill. But war is only half the story and, as the media spotlight moves on to the next conflict, few journalists document the ensuing developmental challenges.
This project – using an innovative graphic novel format – tells the other half of that story. This short video illustrates how Agnes' story could look in graphic form. This multimedia feature immerses readers in the stories of 4 women – focusing on their abduction and life with the LRA, and also on the challenges they still face. Many returned with children, with no means to support them and having never received an education. Many are now infected with HIV but none can afford antiretroviral drugs or access them due to shortages. Many still suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder like Agnes.
Working with a Ugandan artist, each chapter features illustrations depicting the woman's experiences with the LRA, before documenting through illustration/video/photography the life she has led since her escape. But these narratives are not limited to those of the women. The crew also meets doctors, counsellors, and NGO workers. This project has two goals: empower these women by allowing them to tell their stories and, in the wake of the overly-simplistic Kony 2012 video, educate readers about the challenges they still face.
Cover photo: © Marc Ellison
- Tales from Uganda's female former child soldiers (Al Jazeera) (EN)
- The haunted child soldier: An interactive graphic novel (Toronto Star online) (EN)
- The haunted child soldier: An interactive graphic novel (Toronto Star print) (EN)
- Ugandas vergessene Kindersoldaten (Die Zeit) (DE)
- Graphic Memories (Microsite) (EN)
- StoryBench: How a photojournalist is using cartooning in international reporting (EN )
- Glasgow Herald: The Scottish photojournalist who turned the horror of life as a child soldier into a graphic novel (EN )
- Journalism.co.uk: The digital graphic novel - A different approach to storytelling (EN )
- J-Source.ca: Marc Ellison on digital storytelling and parachute journalism (EN )
- University presentation: Graphic stories, graphic novels (EN )
- Journalism.co.uk: Is comics journalism making a comeback? (EN )
- Podcast: Are comics breaking into the mainstream for journalism? (EN )
- Christine Alaba: "Mama - why did you let them kill me?"
- Jennifer Ateng: Trauma counselling is a journey
- Grace Achara: Life would have been harder without this skill
- Lucy Lapoti: Grace still has a bush mind
- Mary Aluku: I'm calmer now and can deal with the insults
- Grace Achara: It's not easy to start a life with nothing
- Jacinta Acan: God took me away from my home
- Mary Aluku: A basin of seed cannot solve the problems of 30 people
- Thomas Prince: 20 years of war = 50 years of aid
- Richard Okidi: We don’t learn how to put down our shield after conflict