Fleeing the aggressive reach of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and their brutal leader Joseph Kony, on an average night in northern Uganda tens of thousands of children head for the city centers to avoid capture. They find refuge on the floors of aid agencies or in the streets. In recent years, the civil society was almost completely destroyed by the LRA, itself made up almost entirely of kidnapped children. Piecing together what has ...
Fleeing the aggressive reach of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and their brutal leader Joseph Kony, on an average night in northern Uganda tens of thousands of children head for the city centers to avoid capture. They find refuge on the floors of aid agencies or in the streets. In recent years, the civil society was almost completely destroyed by the LRA, itself made up almost entirely of kidnapped children. Piecing together what has been broken is proving to be a nearly impossible task.
Polish journalist Wojciech Jagielski inserts himself into this hellish landscape and finds a way to speak of these children and their wounded world. In The Night Wanderers, Jagielski shows his readers the horror of children who have been abducted from their homes and forced to kill their own family members; children who, even after they have escaped the LRA, carry the weight of their own acts of murder on their young shoulders. Jagielski portrays Uganda through their eyes as well as his own. Carrying on the rich tradition of Ryszard Kapuściński, Jagielski digs himself deep into the Ugandan landscape and emerges with a compassionate, incisive, painful, magisterial account of a world that is just starting to pull itself out of the horrors of war. The original Polish edition of The Night Wanderers is shortlisted for the Nike Prize, considered to be the most prestigious literary award in Poland.
Uganda has been ravaged by civil war, and Joseph Kony's militant Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) continues to perpetrate one of the gravest humanitarian crises of our time—this is the context for this brave, devastating work of war reportage. Perhaps one of the most horrifying aspects of the LRA is that it kidnaps children and uses them as soldiers, forcing them to kill, or, in the case of female children, to become "wives." Renowned Polish journalist Jagielski begins his story in Gulu, in northern Uganda, where he has access to a center devoted to rehabilitating the children who have escaped. In one eerie scene, the children at the center play a "war game" wherein some are cast as "guerillas," some as "soldiers," and others as "the people living in the village under attack." The game is boisterous and innocent enough, but, as Jagielski points out, it is easy to forget that all but the youngest children have killed people. Individual narratives are lent structure by passages detailing the history of Uganda, including an illuminating look at current president Yoweri Museveni. The facts are chilling, and Jagielski handles them with integrity and a minimum of stylistic flourish, treating the subject with the dignity it deserves. Map. (Jan.)
WOJCIECH JAGIELSKI is a reporter at Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s first and biggest independent daily, where he specializes in Africa, Central Asia, the Trans-Caucasus, and the Caucasus. Jagielski is the recipient of the Dariusz Fikus Award and the Letterature dal Fronte Award (Italy) for his book Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya, which Seven Stories published in English in 2009, the first of many collaborative works to come.