Ugandan children once were forced to become soldiers.
The Peace and Justice Studies department hosted grassroots movement Invisible Children on November 16, screening one of their films for students. The film, titled Go, tells the story of three high school students and their experiences with the Invisible Children organization promoting community development in northern Uganda.
The students, each coming from dramatically different social and economic backgrounds and different parts of the United States, were each awarded the trip after promoting fundraisers for Invisible Children at their high schools.
The three students, Amanda from Collegedale, Tenn., Tye from Louisville, Ky., and Brittany from Newport Beach, Calif., were motivated by their drive to understand and change the world. Each was sent to the Invisible Children headquarters in San Diego, where they prepared for their trip, along with nine other students from high schools across the nation.
Once they arrived in the country, the students were able to see the fruits of their fundraising efforts at work in Ugandan communities. The students were shown a newly constructed girls’ dormitory at the Sacred Heart High School and began constructing a new classroom for the school.
The three students immediately befriended the Ugandan students; Amanda befriended a young woman named Grace, Tye befriended a young man named Pepito and Brittney a young woman named Lillian.
The film then offers a brief history of war-torn Uganda. In 1987, Joseph Kony formed the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group of rebels who started the nation’s longest-running war against the Ugandan government. Kony built his army by forcing children to join his army – or else – and arming 10-year-olds with AK47s and forcing them to “kill or be killed.” This has led to a movement of night community – the movement of children from village to village in the night to continue hiding from abduction by the LRA.
Because of the war, families were forced into IDP (International Displaced Person) camps, where conditions are deplorable. Space is very confined in these camps and there is very little or no sanitation. The government rations for food are meager, certainly not enough to provide for families let alone individual people. Furthermore, the government soldiers are often corrupt; instances of rape and other human rights abuses are prevalent within these camps.
Each of the high school students returned home as changed individuals. Seven months later, in late 2005, a bill was put forward in Congress to allocate spending on military support and community development in northern Uganda. The three students traveled to Washington to tell the stories about their experiences to various U.S. Senators. Moved by their experiences, Congress signed a bill that gives $17 million to help rebuild Uganda.
Since the production of this film, the Lord’s Resistance Army has been driven out of northern Uganda and peace has finally come to the country. Invisible Children and its supporters are almost solely responsible for promoting the LRA Disarmament Bill that helped remove Kony from the nation.
While war has ended in Uganda, the LRA has moved into Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Congo, where the fighting continues. Invisible Children is now starting new projects in these nations to raise awareness and promote peace and justice in Africa.
For more information on the movement and how to get involved, visit www.InvisibleChildren.com
By Ryan Whitecar