Our Special Correspondent and Editor
Massimo A. Alberizzi
Nairobi, 16th November 2016
A murky story, made of sexual advances, illegal abortions, child abuse and especially on the stage of the Disney movie, Queen of Katwe, that just came out in theatres. A blockbuster movie that could be nominated for Oscar awards.
A couple of years ago the freelancer photographer Damiano Rossi from Brescia, who worked in Uganda for a long period of time, was called from the direction of the school of arts and dance Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy in Kampala, in order to illustrate the lives of boys and girls that attended the school. Damiano did not ask for any compensation but worked for charity.
Just over a year ago, in Los Angeles, Disney’s artistic director decided to produce a film on the life of Phiona Mutesi, a girl born in a slum in Uganda, that became the world’s chess champion.
A few weeks after, the scouts of the casting company, Dinaz Stafford, knock at the Sosolya door in search of a girl who could play the role of Mutesi. The artistic qualities are evaluated, the item setup, the presence, the ease. The choice falls on Madina Nalwanga, a lively thirteen year old. The mother of Madina, in the film, will be interpreted by the famous and beautiful Kenyan-Mexican Lupita Nyong’o, Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2014 for her performance in the film “12 Years a Slave,” and, in that same year, declared by People magazine “the most beautiful woman in the world”.
The girl’s family is very poor. They live in the slum of Kabalagala, on the outskirts of Kampala, the father is a driver of boda-boda (motorcycle taxis) and the mother cleans the toilets in a supermarket.
They start filming in Uganda and South Africa. Mark Lezon Mugwanya (officially the artistic director of Sosolya) presents Damiano to Dinaz. “You know the girls very well. We’ll call you to take pictures on the set,” promises the casting director. Damian was never really contacted.
Filming was completed the end of 2015 and Mark asks Damiano to take pictures and videos of Madina, that had returned in the meantime in the slum where she lives: “This girl will become famous, we will sell the pictures and you will deliver part of the proceeds to fund the academy Sosolya “. The photographer follows Madina in his life everyday. The work that came out of it is very interesting and exclusive. Without an agent, however, it is difficult to sell the pictures. so Damiano seeks advice to his friend veteran of Africa, also a photographer, Piero Pomponi, which suggests a well-connected agent in the United States and Canada: Georgia de La Garza. Georgia, widow of Paul de la Garza journalist of the Chicago Tribune, is also an active advocate of human rights.
When she hears the story of Madina, she becomes suspicious and doesn’t understand why Madina still doesn’t have an agent to protect her interests. So, she agrees with Damiano, to ask the help of a prestigious lawyer in Hollywood, Stan Coleman (1). Coleman finds out that the tutor of Madina is Mark (the director of the school) and that the girl was paid $ 30,000 for a movie that will collect tens of millions.
Stan agrees to take care of Madina and her interests and demands to see the contract that binds her to Disney. Unfortunately the document has “disappeared”: Mark claims to have lost it, but he is obviously not believable. When during a meeting Madina declares: “I am a Muslim,” Mark blocks her. “No, no”, he intervenes in front of Peter and Damian, assuring them: “She wants to convert to Christianity.”
Stan Coleman insists on having a copy of the contract, Mark promises to deliver it. The document of course never appeared. At that point Mark was put under pressure every day but he brings out various excuses. Meanwhile, passing the time Piero and Damiano receive information accusing Mark been put in prison for sexual abuse. Just rumors, but this reports push them to investigate. Meanwhile Georgia was kept informed of what is happening.
Someone delivers to the two photographers some very embarrassing emails. They are directed to the non-governmental Italian ISP (Insieme si può, Together We Can) and to Davide Franzi who is in charge of the Ngo in Uganda. One of the messages, in particular complaint of sexual abuse against girls in Sosolya perpetrated by Mark, and accuses towards Davide for poor hygienic and sanitary conditions and severe treatment. A voluntary Indo-Canadian, Shilpa Darivemula, sent a very detailed message and asked Davide Franzi if he had news of a common friend, Grace (the lady who will testify in the video published here down). Elena Quante, one of the sender, in her message adds the hope that what she writes may serve to incriminate Mark.
Georgia, always informed of all that was occurring, tried to make sure that in September, during the planned tour in USA and Canada Madina was escorted by Corrinne Sanger, an American volunteer, her best friend. Unfortunatly she didn’t make it. Madina left with Mark, her tutor. When Corrinne finds out of the investigations that are going on Sosolya she bursts into tears and says she suspected everything.
Piero and Damiano meet Grace Nakwang, mentioned in the email to Davide Franzi. She and her husband use to work as volunteer in Sosolya and seems to be happy that finally someone wants to take care of the question. She tells of sexual abuse, sex toys, contemplating changes on the genitals of young girls. “Mark has been arrested several times. But enjoys important friendships and relations. He is able to leave the prison immediately. ” Grace is so disgusted that accepts to explain on camera what she knows.
Grace is the first of various witnesses. After three other young girls, who are now adults, decide to talk with the journalist. Gloria, who now is 24 years old, is not afraid to denounce that the artistic director Mark, paid the money for the abortion of another pupil, Jacklin (her interview is down here). Gloria said that was usual for them “to sleep together in one big bed. He and three children, including Madina”.
The third witness is an other student of the college, Angela. I was minor – she confirmed – Mark wanted to continually abuse of me and take me to bed.
The fourth witness is another pupil: Jacklin. Her quote is terrible. “I was 17 and I was pregnant with my boyfriend. At 7 months they made me have an abortion illegally in a clinic. Mark gave me the money to pay for the operation. My little came out of my body already dead”.
[embedplusvideo height=”367″ width=”600″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/2fDEwWP” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/tKr9zN3QeMY?fs=1&vq=hd720″ vars=”ytid=tKr9zN3QeMY&width=600&height=367&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep7465″ /]
The two Italian photographers phone Davide Franzi who is in Italy. They explain that there are strange rumours about Mark’s behaviour and that there are emails that call him into question. They ask him why has he not investigated in depth instead of acting with carelessness. Franzi tergiversate. Then he admits he was superficial.
But there is something that leaves dumbfounded Piero and Damiano. They discover that on June 19th Franzi was leaving the country to go to Italy and he was reached from Mark. He wanted him to sign a contract for him to be the manager of Madina: the duration of the contract was 10 years with 30 percent of the revenues of the girl. The contract is backdated to August 5th, 2015.
Davide Franzi, three days after talking with Piero and Damiano, runs back to Uganda. It is now September 20th, he meets the two photographers. Meanwhile, the video with testimonials and emails that reveal the sexual scandal are sent to Georgia de la Garza who asks for help to the FBI. “Mark is bound to the nerds and dangerous acquaintances. Italians are in danger. They should leave Uganda immediately “. The same suggestion comes from the Italian ambassador, Domenico Fornara. Also Franzi escaped immediately and after 24 hours he returned to Italy, while FBI agents stationed outside of a movie theatre in New York where they were presenting a private preview of “Queen of Katwe”, fail an attempt to capture Mark.
Piero and Damiano, now informed that the artistic Director should have good friendships and protections among the thugs of the underworld of Kampala, they do not want to leave the former British colony by plane. So on September 22nd they jump on their bikes to reach Nairobi, where they will arrive only the next day at evening hours. Mark from America tries to return to Kampala as soon as possible. He probably attempts to stop the accuses by surprising the two photographers, but fails to arrive in Kampala before the evening of the 23rd. Exactly when Damiano and Piero were taking refuge at my house in the Kenyan capital.
Massimo A. Alberizzi
(La versione italiana di questa storia si trova qui http://www.africa-express.info/2016/11/16/avance-sessuali-minori-aborti-pedofilia-le-accuse-contro-queen-katwe-il-film-colossol-della-disney/
A shareholder in the firm’s entertainment department, Stan Coleman represents writers, directors, actors and producers in motion pictures, television and on the legitimate stage. Many of his clients have been nominated for or have won Oscars, Emmys, Tonys and Pulitzer Prizes, among numerous other awards.
Stan was a pioneer in the development of the home video industry, and in the convergence between Hollywood and the Silicon Valley. In addition to his practice representing artists, Stan also represents leading publishers and distributors in print, home video and electronic entertainment.
Outside the office, Stan was one of the founders of the annual UCLA Entertainment Symposium, and has spoken or lectured at UCLA, the University of Southern California, Cornell University, the National Association of Broadcasters Convention, the American Bar Association, and the American Film Institute, among others. He has also been featured on television and in numerous periodicals, including the Hollywood Reporter where he was chosen as one of the entertainment industry’s “Power Lawyers.”
He received his Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Cornell University in 1966, and his Juris Doctor degree with honors from the Columbia University School of Law in 1969 where he was a Barney Jaffin Scholar and a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.
———- Messaggio inoltrato ———-
Dear Sir or Madam,
I hereby confirm that the following email may be used for purposes of investigation. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any further Information via phone +49 15XXXXXXXX or email elena_quante@...
I hope the email is on time. I hope it is enough to persecute him
On June the 30th 2013 I came to Hotel International to see the dance performance of Sosolya. I came late that night because I had my hair done. When I arrived, I saw Mark running from police officers. The security guys from Hotel International caught him in front of the main entrance. When I asked around about what had happened, people tried to avoid or downplay things. But apparently, police had arrested him for some issues he had with women and girls at Sosolya. The next morning he was set free because he had paid 50.000 Ugx to the police. Various people told me to not worry anymore since things were settled. I kept worrying because I did not know what was going on.
Meanwhile at school at Sosolya, also run by Mark, teacher Barbara keeps caning the young children aged between two and seven years old. Although prohibited by law, this practice is quite common in Uganda. But since the school at Sosolya is part of an NGO supported by international sponsors, I feel the need to do something about it. The caning gets worse and worse, once, teacher Barbara gives a stick to six-year-old boy to “keep his classmates” quiet. On July the 18th I had a conversation with Mark about teacher Barbara. He tells me that he did not know about it and promises me to fire her.
The same night I talk to Sharon’s mother, who’s youngest son also goes to the school. She told me that Mark had lied when he said he had know idea about teacher Barbara’s behavior. Once there was an incident when teacher Barbara threw a tin can against a baby’s head who needed to go to hospital afterwards. Sharon also tells me that she dislikes Mark a lot because of his behavior towards women and that he is not good with money. But she does not want to tell me more about it.
On July the 20th Susan and I had a talk with Mark at the Yali Festival. Mark said he had no idea about the tin can. When I started to protest against his reaction, he could suddenly remember an accident when teacher Barbara wanted to throw a can to the baby and not at the baby. So she accidentally hit his head with the tin can. But he said talks about teacher Barbara’s behavior had never taken place. Although he usually is at school and some parents had complained about her to him.
The next morning, on July 21st, Susan, some parents, Mark and I have a talk at Hotel International. In this, we talk about teacher Barbara, who he promises to fire from her job since she is a threat to the kids. In this talk, he also tells me that he gets HIV-tested every three months since some of the kids at school are HIV positive. I think this behavior to be strange, since he rarely is at school in the morning and the viruses do not jump from one person onto the other. Yet, back then, I did not suspect him of sexual harrassment.
The following week (22nd-28th July) I get to know Martin. I start to talk to him a lot about Sosolya. On Saturday night, 27th July 2013, we go out together. Then he starts to talk to me about Sosolya: That Mark systematically forces girls into having sex with him. He takes the money meant for their school fees and threatens to not pay for them if they don’t sleep with him. He is said to have forced young girls to have an abortion when he gets them pregnant (illegal in Uganda, so it is not a safe medical intervention like in the USA or European countries). One of those girls is said to be Angela. Suddenly, it makes sense to me why he gets HIV-tested every three months. He also uses the money meant for kids school fees on prostitution. The Italian NGO which also sponsored Sosolya questioned him about this more than once.
Those are some of the things you need to ask Susan about: After I left, Susan gave a hint to the Italian NGO. I think they questioned him again in September 2013 with the result that they stopped giving money to him. Susan also tried to get Ugandan NGO Raising Voices into Sosolya. Some of the girls apparently opened up to them, so Mark stopped running the NGO Sosolya, but did not go to jail and continued his job as a VJ.
After I left, “fired” teacher Barbara who severely injured some of the toddlers and small children came back as a teacher.
This is what I know. All of the events took place in 2013. If you have any further questions, especially concerning about the rumors I heard, the mistreating of the young kids by teacher Barbara which I have seen with my own eyes, please do not hesitate to contact me. Also, if you need any contacts, feel free to call me.
I wish you all the best luck and I hope this email reaches you on time.
I am a concerned member of the community in Kabalagala.
Let me first of all thank you for the great support you give to poor communities in Uganda, it’s amazing what great help you have offered, however, without your awareness all that you do in Kabalagala -Sosolya Udungu dance academy is all in vain and whatever information I am giving you in this e-mail is 100% true and it is not to malice anyone but for justice and wellbeing of the children and youth at the center, I believe it is time to put the darkness to light because I have done my observations and investigations for two years now and I can’t take it anymore!
THE CENTRE CONDITION
- The children at the center can testify to this, there are days when they spend a whole day without having anything to eat at the center and are told by the leaders that there is no money for food that day.
- The center is filthy and has had no running water for the last 2years in the toilets; this has just been restored by Mark because there is a gentleman coming from Italy to evaluate the center.
- Bed bugs, dirty rooms-the management of the center pays no attention to the living conditions of these children/youth.
- SEXUAL ABUSE-what is meant to be a haven for children is actually not, all the young girls in the dance academy have been sexually abused/defiled by their care takers, names mentioned of the abusers are Mark and Davis. I beg that this matter be investigated and stopped because many children are running away from the center, some stay because they have nothing to do and give in sex to the above mentioned names, they carry out what is called systematic rape and turning Sosolya into a raping center. The girls confined in a volunteer lady from Germany about the sexual abuse.
WHERE DO THE FUNDS GO?
Mark, who calls himself the founder of this project takes all the funds for personal use and does not care about the condition of the center what so ever. I quote him, ‘’if we improve the state of this center, we shall not get more funders.’’ He is using the vulnerability of these children/youth to make money for his personal use year after year. In fact he spends it going out with women and pouring all this money on women around Kampala instead of helping the kids at the center.
MARK IS NOT THE FOUNDER OF NCO
NCO was founded by community members of Kisementi to help children around and all the original founders left because of the mismanagement of funds by Mark.
He came into the picture when he was asked to VJ some movies for their kids at the centre after school, this is when he saw this project as a big money making opportunity for him. Lucky enough for him, all the original founders left because their dream had turned into something else, no one could stand up to him for some reason, only a lady called Tina is trying to rescue their original dream but all is being blocked by Mark.
WHO ARE THE BANK SIGNATORIES OF NCO?
There are only two signatories –Mark and his wife (woman he lives with)
Mark’s wife is the senior signatory and yet she never goes to the center what so ever, she works at international hotel-Muyenga and is not involved in the center activities a single bit, all she does is sign the cheque when Mark needs the money.
Before the founders of the project left, Mark had changed the bank account to another bank and changed the signatories to him and his wife and now calls himself the founder (with no transparency).
- Van donated by ISP-This was given to a money lender as collateral security for a loan Mark had taken. A report was given to ISP that it was faulty and sold.
- CHAPATI Project with Hamis-ISP funded this project, Mark asked Hamis that they needed only to take pictures of street vendors and lie that it was done so that they could use it for their personal use, Hamis refused the bad advice and now they fell out with Mark.
- CHAIRMAN’S BURIAL-Mark got money from ISP claiming it was for transport and food for the deceased’s burial but he did not give a single coin for his burial, instead, he told the other leaders to fundraise for the matter since there was no money to transport the group to the burial place. He said he did not get money from ISP for the burial.
- SCHOOL FEES- ISP pays fees for children and most of it does not get there in fact, there are many ghost children in the schools whose school fees goes in his pocket, this is why at one point he was put in prison by parents who discovered this but bought his way out.
- WORLD READ A LOUD DAY- an organization that organizes ‘read a book tell a story festival’ came to the center to celebrate the day above with kids at the center, a budget was made, Mark received the money from different sponsors and did not buy a single book or pen for the day. He said there was no food and money was fundraised from a few people around to buy food for the World read aloud day, he came around later to take pics for accountability of the money he had pocketed.
The organization also wanted to create litclubs (literacy clubs) for kids at the centre but they pulled out because Mark had disappeared with all the money from sponsors for the world read aloud day.
- RENOVATING MULAGO SCHOOL- Mark reported to the center that he was given 5million to renovate the school in Mulago, how much did ISP give????
- MARK CONFRONTS GEORGE- After Mark got to know that ISP approved George’s project, he comes at the center angry at him asking him why he took a proposal to ISP without his knowledge, in fact he said George should give him some of that money, when George told him it was not for personal use but for the project, Mark shouted in front of the children at the center, ‘’George, if you do not give me some of that money, you will die poor.’’
- COMPUTERS donated by a lady in Canada to the children at the center-Mark took one for him, offered some as collateral for a loan again and sold the rest, none reached the beneficiaries. When the lady came to visit, he asked the kids to lie that they had got them. Because the kids are fed up of the lies they told the lady they dint get any computers and the lady pulled out all funds from Canada.
When confronted by some faithful colleagues like George on the matters regarding mis-use of money Mark says, ‘’Don’t worry David is my friend we have worked together for long, we shall fake accountability and get more money.’’
I am begging you to investigate the above matters before you put more money in Mark’s hands because this is a business for him to get money for his personal use and does not care at all for the children at the center. I have nothing against him but this is not right, it is outrageous and going out of hand all the money goes to him none to the center.
I HAVE KEPT SILENT IN THE PAST BECAUSE I THOUGHT IF THIS PROJECT GOES, WHERE WILL THE KIDS GO? BUT ALL THE SAME MARK TAKES ALL THE MONEY AND THE KIDS ARE NOT HAPPY WITH HIM AS WELL. Please look into this matter!!!
Make your investigations about this thief – he has brain washed all of the workmates at the center and makes them lie about how the money was used and yet he does not involve them in how he uses the funds but only involves them in accountabilities. It is said that he also shares the money with Davis, everyone knows this but no one is willing to come up and say the truth!