Invisible Children Come to Edgewood

Posted: April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Julie Johnson

 

Imagine a world where all the children in the grade school next door could be kidnapped and forced to carry guns and machetes. They would be told to use them to kill, or they would be killed themselves. Boys could be forced to shoot or dismember anyone, including parents, siblings or friends. Little girls would be forced to walk all day long, and then made to sleep with an older man, one of the abductors, every night, and bear his children. This kind of world is so far beyond the stretch of our imaginations, but it is reality for the children of northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Sudan, and part of Central African Republic.

This kind of world is so far beyond the stretch of our imaginations, but it is reality for the children of northern Uganda. Imagine a world where all the children in the grade school next door could be kidnapped and forced to carry guns and machetes.

This horror is the reality of the longest running war in Africa’s history; the conflict of the Lord’s Resistance Army lead by Joseph Kony versus the Ugandan government under President Museveni, in its 25th year.

On Monday, April 11, at 7:00pm, Invisible Children is coming to Edgewood College for a free screening of their recent film, Tony. This film documents the life of one of the escaped child soldiers the film makers had met on their first trip to Uganda, how he overcame his suffering under the LRA and how he fights to bring resolution to the conflict. They will also provide an update on the conflict and explain how to become involved and help end this war.

In 2003, three young filmmakers went to Africa looking for something interesting that they could capture on film. They began filming child soldiers and in the process became advocates for these children. Since then they have started a non-government organization called Invisible Children, which, among other things, takes the stories of child soldiers and makes them public through film. Ekaterina Strekalova, a journalist for World Bulletin, of the United Nations Association reported on their activity. In her article, American Youth Take On the Cause of Child Soldiers, she states, “According to the survey for War-Affected Youth, conducted for Unicef in Uganda, more than 66,000 children and youth were abducted by Joseph Kony within a 15-year span.”

“The Lord’s Resistance Army began when Joseph Kony took over for his “cousin,” Alice Lakwena, who was the leader of the Holy Spirit Movement among the Acholi people of northern Uganda, and east Africa. This movement caused some resentment towards the government, and Lakwena was exiled. As its new leader, and under its new title, The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Kony was not well received by the Acholi people. In order to keep his army strong he resorted to abducting children. These children were made to believe that Kony had special powers from the Holy Spirit: he could walk on water, and was invincible to bullets and anything else that could harm him. It is estimated that more than 90% of the LRA’s troops were abducted as children. (According to Invisible Children) In an effort to help these villages that were being raided, keep children from being abducted, and offer some form of protection, the Ugandan government moved the people into displacement camps in 1996. Instead, these camps became places of poverty, disease and starvation.

In an effort to educate the youth of the Western world, Invisible Children sends out teams of “roadies” who travel throughout the different regions of the United States, and other countries as well On Monday, April 11, at 7:00pm, Invisible Children is coming to Edgewood College for a free screening of their recent film, Tony.

“In recent years more and more international attention has been focused on this crisis. In 2001, the US Patriot Act officially declared the LRA to be a terrorist organization—a huge step in drawing attention to the conflict and the atrocities committed by the LR A. In 2004, congress passed the Northern Uganda Crisis Response Act, the first piece of American legislation to address this disaster. And in 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrents for Joseph Kony and four of his top commanders.” (According to the Invisible Children website)

Invisible Children, along with other groups, has been lobbying the government to help resolve this conflict for some time now. They have been successful in organizing grassroots campaigns and mobilizing high school and college students to march on Washington. Celebrities such as actress Kristin Bell, actor Val Kilmer, Ryan Gosling, Fallout Boy’s Pete Wentz, director Jon Turteltaub have also gotten on board to lobby and talk to politicians about ending the war. Former Senator, Russ Feingold also a strong supporter of Invisible Children and their efforts, and has worked in Washington to stop Kony and bring him to justice. The UN, working with the Ugandan government, organized a peace treaty with Kony to end the war on four different occasions, but Kony refused to sign any of them. In 2010, President Obama signed the LR A Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act into law.

Radhika Coomaraswmy, a special representative of the UN secretary-general for children and armed conflicts, emphasized the importance of offering education in areas of conflicts, “Just as we set up water and sanitation, we should also set up schools,’ Coomaraswmy said. (Strekalva)

In an effort to educate the youth of the Western world, Invisible Children sends out teams of “roadies” who travel throughout the different regions of the United States, and other countries as well, to show the documentaries made of the conflict and the children involved. They also bring a Ugandan youth who was directly involved in the conflict to personally tell his or her story during the talk back following the film screening.

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