A picture, they say, paints a thousand words. If this is true, then the statement made by a collection of stark and striking images portraying the daily existence of the estimated 1.6 million people displaced or affected by a ghastly war between the Ugandan government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda, is total.
The sobering realities of a conflict notorious for its brutality towards civilians, and in particular children, have been documented by the Ugandan photographer, James Akena. Since early 2003, he has captured through the lens of his cameras everyday life of the inhabitants of the many Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps and the task of rehabilitating former child soldiers and abductees.
Speaking at the official opening of his works at the Brunei Gallery of London University's School of Oriental and African Studies in November, Akena said: "I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony, the suffering I have documented should not be forgotten and must not be repeated."
For nearly two decades, the government of President Yoweri Museveni has failed to defeat the LRA whose top commanders were recently indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Akena first started detailing the humanitarian situation in the IDP camps in February 2003. "My first visit to Lalogi camp changed my life," he says. "It was then that I decided to start taking pictures to show the world what was happening to my people in Northern Uganda." Over the following two years, Akena visited more than 10 different camps and rehabilitation centres in the region.
The exhibition, sponsored by the World Food Programme which facilitated Akena's visits to the camps, has already been displayed in Geneva, Brussels, Munster (Germany) and at the UN headquarters in New York. Following its run in London, it will travel to Scandinavia and then to WFP's headoffices in Rome (Italy).
Addressing a specially invited audience to the London exhibition...