There is a war and a Holocaust-like situation going on in Uganda right now. It is unknown to most Americans, but it is all Northern Uganda knows. Its been going on for 20 years. Children ranging in ages from 5-14 are the most targeted and suffer more than we can imagine.
Joseph Kony aims to overthrow what there is of the Ugandan government and kill the citizens who do not join his rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He began by having his armed followers abduct Sudanese children living in Uganda and force them to join his group of rebels. There was no choice involved. Abducted children were taken into an area known to them as “the bush.” They were tortured, some killed for effect, brainwashed by abuse and religious rituals and then trained to kill with guns and knives.
Children are ideal candidates because they are big enough to carry weapons but small enough to blend into schools and homes to capture other children and kill anyone who protests. Children take other children into the bush to meet the same fate. The statistics of how many children have been abducted and how many continue to be abducted are rough since no official records are kept of births or ages. At least 30,000 Sudanese children have been abducted and tens of thousands make the nightly commutes to try to avoid abduction. These children are invisible to many people and governments who could help. Many captured by the LRA initially came to Uganda with their families to flee the war in Sudan.
Those who hope to remain safe from the LRA commute nightly, often 5-15 miles, to fenced-in areas and other places used as shelters away from their homes. The children have been reported saying that they fear the night. “Camps” are set up so large groups of children, unattended, can sleep. Though the camps are guarded when possible by the UPDF (Ugandan Peoples Defense Force), the protection is mediocre and many abductions still happen.
The citizens on the side of the government are powerless. Their voices are not heard. Some protest as much as they can without jeopardizing their safety. Children are taught not to cry because they will be immediately killed if caught by the rebels. Crying is considered thinking about home and family and captured children are not to have those thoughts.
The Ugandan government has been split between north and south for many years and did not wish to get involved with the LRA at first because it thought the LRA posed no direct threat to the capital or the government. The government started fighting against the rebels in 2002 after first offering amnesty and forgiveness in 2000 to anyone involved in the LRA if they stopped. Kony and the rest of the LRA will not listen to peace talks or amnesty offers.
This mountainous problem would not have even reached America’s ears if it had not been for three college students looking for an adventure to film in a documentary in 2003. They learned about the “invisible children” once in Africa and decided to make the documentary about them. The movie is like no other. More than a million people have now seen “Invisible Children,” and enough donations have been made to put 300 of these children in school and also employ at least 150 Ugandan citizens. The organization’s goal is to help 100,000 children by 2007.
Since this problem has been made known to the U.S. government, the government has labeled the LRA a terrorist group, which is good for showing how serious the problem is but bad since it also labels the captured children as terrorists. Some children have only known life in the LRA and many suffer from mental disorders because of the trauma.
As the problem in Uganda gets worse, more people are concerned for the children. Some volunteers still travel to Uganda to listen to children’s stories and offer their compassion and let the children know that they are not forgotten. On Aug. 29, Invisible Children Inc. has organized a Global Night Commute to take place in 136 U.S. cities. Volunteers will spend the night outside in designated locations on behalf of the invisible children of Northern Uganda. This will raise more attention from the media and aim to raise awareness of the children’s situations. It is also a plea to our government to help put a stop to this 20-year war and free the children.
The original movie “Invisible Children” can be bought at http://www.invisiblechildren.com. Also, bracelets made by Ugandan citizens can be purchased, donations can be made and more information can be obtained. All funds go directly toward aiding the children. The invisible children need help and attention from everyone.