By: RACHEL SWATEK
A Carleton student is spending the summer in Uganda in hopes of bringing back stories of the nation’s journey to rebuild after decades of civil war.
Journalism graduate student Sarah Petz departs this week for Gulu, a city in northern Uganda. She will spend two months in the city creating a radio documentary about the land disputes that threaten lasting peace in the region.
“I hope that in a broader sense that my documentary will kind of stress the need to pay attention to post conflict regions and the challenges that they face,” she says.
At least 1.5 million people were displaced in Northern Uganda during the country’s civil war, according to the World Health Organization. After the conflict, many families returned home and found strangers living in their houses and working their farms — nearly seven years later the region is still plagued with land disputes.
Petz explains that many land boundaries were blurred or lost during the country’s civil war. Today families face forceful evictions when oil and mineral deposits are found are found on their land.
She wants to understand and share how this national crisis affects individuals and families. To do it, she will profile rural communities near Gulu where households rely on farming land that is subject to conflict and illegal evictions.
“I think it just speaks to just a better understanding of what life is like there after the civil conflict,” she says. “I hope ultimately, to draw more attention to the need to pay attention to regions after [a] conflict is over.”
The aspiring foreign correspondent then hopes to share her documentary on Canadian radio stations to draw attention to the issue.
During her stay in Uganda, Petz will work at a radio station in Gulu that uses radio as a tool for peace building in the region. She hopes this internship will be a launching pad for her dream of becoming a foreign correspondent.
“I think I always had this pipe dream of being an international correspondent,” she said “but I originally came from a small town in Manitoba and I always thought that I’d end up at a community paper, and [I thought] that aspiration was maybe out of my reach.”
Petz said she became interested in radio and peace building when a journalist from Gulu spoke at Carleton last fall. She has been interested in the region since then, but did not think she could accurately tell its stories from Canada.
“With foreign reporting I don’t think you can phone it in,” said Petz. “You’re losing such a large part of the picture by not being there.”