(The english version of this story it’s here)
Dal Nostro Inviato Speciale
Massimo A. Alberizzi
Nairobi, 16 novembre 2016
Una storia torbida, fatta di avance sessuali, aborti clandestini, pedofilia e soprattutto il palcoscenico del film della Disney, Queen of Katwe, appena uscito nelle sale americane. Un kolossal che probabilmente sarà candidato ai premi Oscar.
Un paio d’anni fa il fotografo freelance bresciano Damiano Rossi, che da parecchio tempo lavora in Uganda, viene chiamato dalla direzione della scuola di arte e danza Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy di Kampala in Uganda, a illustrare la vita dei ragazzi e delle ragazze che la frequentano. Damiano non chiede nessun compenso ma lavora per beneficienza.
Poco più di un anno fa a Los Angeles la direzione artistica della Disney decide di produrre un film sulla vita di Phiona Mutesi, una ragazzina nata negli slums della capitale ugandese e diventata campionessa mondiale di scacchi.
Poche settimane dopo alla porta di Sosolya si presentano gli scout della società di casting diretta da Dinaz Stafford, alla ricerca della ragazzina che possa interpretare il ruolo della Mutesi. Vengono valutate le qualità artistiche, l’impostazione della voce, la presenza, la spigliatezza. La scelta ricade su Madina Nalwanga, una tredicenne disinvolta e vivace. La mamma di Madina, nel film, verrà interpretata dalla famosissima e bellissima keniota-messicana Lupita Nyong’o, premio Oscar per la miglior attrice non protagonista nel 2014 per la sua interpretazione nel film “12 anni schiavo”, e, in quello stesso anno, dichiarata dalla rivista People “La donna più bella del mondo”.
La famiglia della ragazzina è poverissima. Vive nello slum di Kabalagala, alle porte di Kampala: il padre è autista di boda-boda (i moto taxi) e la madre pulisce le toilette in un supermercato.
Cominciano le riprese, in Uganda e in Sudafrica. Mark Lezon Mugwanya (ufficialmente direttore artistico della Sosolya) presenta Damiano alla Dinaz.“Tu conosci bene le ragazze, ti chiameremo per scattare foto sul set”, gli promette la casting director. Damiano non sarà più contattato.
Le riprese vengono ultimate sulla fine del 2015 e Mark chiede a Damiano, di fare foto e video di Madina, rientrata nel frattempo nello slum dove vive: “Questa ragazza diventerà famosa, venderemo le immagini e tu devolverai parte del ricavato per finanziare l’accademia Sosolya”. Il fotografo così segue Madina nella sua vita di tutti i giorni. Il materiale che ne ricava è un’esclusiva assai interessante. Senza un agente però è difficile piazzarlo. Così Damiano chiede consiglio al suo amico veterano d’Africa, anche lui fotografo, Piero Pomponi, che gli suggerisce un agente ben introdotto negli Stati Uniti e in Canada: Georgia de La Garza. Georgia, vedova di Paul de la Garza giornalista del Chicago Tribune, è anche un’attivista della difesa dei diritti umani.
Quando sente la storia di Madina si insospettisce: perché finora per tutelare i suoi interessi non ha scelto nessun agente? Così, d’accordo con Damiano, si rivolge a un prestigioso avvocato di Hollywood, Stan Coleman(1). Coleman scopre così che il tutor di Madina è Mark e che la ragazzina è stata pagata 30 mila dollari per girare un film che ne incasserà decine di milioni.
Stan accetta di prendersi cura di Madina e dei suoi interessi e chiede di vedere il contratto che la lega alla Disney. Ma il documento è sparito: Mark sostiene di averlo smarrito, ma non è credibile. Quando Madina, durante un incontro se n’esce con un “sono musulmana”, Mark la blocca. “No, no”, interviene davanti a Piero e Damiano. E poi li assicura: ”Si sta convertendo”.
Stan Coleman insiste per avere copia del contratto, Mark promette che glielo consegnerà, ma il documento non salta fuori. Pressato ogni giorno tira fuori varie scuse. Intanto che passa il tempo Damiano e Piero vengono a sapere che Mark è stato messo in carcere per abusi sessuali. Solo voci, che però li spingono a indagare. Nel frattempo tengono informata Georgia di quello che sta accadendo.
Qualcuno consegna ai due fotografi alcune mail assai imbarazzanti. Sono indirizzate all’organizzazione non governativa italiana ISP (Insieme Si Può) Africa e a Davide Franzi che ne è il responsabile in Uganda. Uno dei messaggi, in particolare denuncia abusi sessuali sulle ragazzine del Sosolya perpetrati da Mark e dal suo braccio destro Davis, condizioni igieniche e sanitarie precarie e trattamenti severi riservati ai bambini. Una volontaria indo-canadese, Shilpa Darivemula, invia un messaggio assai dettagliato e chiede a Davide Franzi se ha notizie di Grace. Elena Quante nel sul messaggio aggiunge la speranza che quanto scrive possa servire a incriminare Mark.
Georgia, informata di tutto, cerca di fare in modo che nella tournée prevista in USA e Canada in settembre Madina venga accompagnata da Corrinne Sanger, una volontaria americana del Centro, sua amica del cuore. Non ci riesce: Madina parte con Mark, il suo tutor. Quando Corrinne viene informata delle investigazioni in corso scoppia a piangere e singhiozza: “Lo sospettavo”.
Piero e Damiano incontrano Grace Nakwang, citata nella mail a Davide Franzi. Lei che con il marito lavorava come volontaria a Sosolya è felice che finalmente qualcuno si occupi della vicenda. Racconta di abusi sessuali, giochini erotici, che contemplano modifiche degli organi genitali delle ragazzine. “Mark è stato arrestato parecchie volte. Ma gode di amicizie importanti e riesce a uscire dal carcere immediatamente”. Grace è talmente disgustata che accetta di spiegare in un video quanto sa.
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E’ la prima testimonianza cui se ne aggiungono altre tre di giovani che ora sono maggiorenni. Le proponiamo in video: Gloria, che ora ha 24 anni, non ha paura ha denunciare che il direttore artistico ha più volte tentato di abusare di lei. “Dormivamo tutti assieme in un lettone. Lui e tre di noi tra cui Madina. Mark in pigiama, noi in calzoncini corti”
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La terza testimonianza è di Angela.Ero minorenne, racconta, e Mark voleva continuamente abusare di lei e portarla a letto.
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La quarta testimonianza è di un’altra allieva: Jacklin. Terrificante:.”Avevo 17 anni e sono rimasta incinta del mio boy friend. Al 7° mese mi hanno fatto abortire clandestinamente in una clinica. Mark mi ha dato i soldi per pagare l’operazione. Il mio piccolo è uscito dal mio corpo già morto”.
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I due fotografi italiani si mettono in contatto con Davide Franzi che è in Italia. Gli spiegano che ci sono strane voci sul conto di Mark e che ci sono mail che lo chiamano in causa. Gli chiedono perché non ha indagato invece di agire con faciloneria. Franzi tergiversa. Poi ammette di essere stato superficiale.
Ma c’è qualcosa che lascia interdetti Damiano e Piero. I due scoprono che il 19 giugno mentre stava a partendo per l’Italia Franzi era stato raggiunto da Mark che gli aveva fatto firmare un contratto come manager di Madina: durata 10 anni con 30 per cento sugli introiti della ragazzina. Il contratto è retrodatato al 5 agosto 2015.
Davide Franzi, tre giorni dopo aver parlato con Piero e Damiano corre in Uganda, è il 20 settembre incontra i due fotografi. Intanto i video con le testimonianze e le mail che svelano gli abusi sessuali vengono inviati a Georgia de la Garza che chiede aiuto all’FBI. “Mark è legato a dei balordi e ha frequentazioni pericolose. Gli italiani sono in pericolo. Escano immediatamente dall’Uganda”. Stesso suggerimento arriva dall’ambasciatore italiano, Domenico Fornara. Anche Franzi fugge immediatamente e dopo 24 ore torna in Italia, mentre gli agenti dell’FBI, appostati fuori da un cinema di New York dove si proiettava una prima privata di “Queen of Katwe”, falliscono un tentativo di catturare Mark.
Piero e Damiano, ormai informati che il direttore artistico goda di ottime amicizie e protezioni tra i balordi del sottobosco di Kampala, non vogliono lasciare l’ex colonia britannica in aereo. Così il 22 settembre inforcano le moto per raggiugere Nairobi, dove arriveranno solo la sera del giorno successivo. Mentre Mark dall’America tenta un rientro frettoloso a Kampala. Intende forse fermare le denunce, magari facendo una “sorpresa” non proprio gentile ai due fotografi, ma non riesce ad arrivare a Kampala prima del 23 sera. Esattamente nel momento in cui Damiano e Piero si stavano rifugiando a casa mia nella capitale keniota.
Massimo A. Alberizzi
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 ———-
Da: Elena Q <elena_quante@….>
Data: lunedì 26 settembre 201
A: “damymivo@….” <damymivo@….>
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!
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