Students shocked by Ugandan crisis

Voices were hushed as students, community members and faculty filed into Herrick Auditorium and quietly took their seats in front of the movie screen. Normally, if a movie is shown in Herrick, students come toting blankets, pillows and popcorn while still in their pajamas. But this movie wasn’t like all the others – it presented everyone with a more serious topic to consider.The movie, “The Rescue of Joseph Kony’s Child Soldiers,” was hosted by an activist group called Invisible Children. They have been traveling around the region for 10 weeks spreading the word about the more than 24-year long war in Northern Uganda.

Unsettling photos and videos of boys not more than 12 years old holding machine guns in the jungles of Uganda stunned the audience. Simultaneously shown were the mutilated and dead victims of the war, which caused audience members to gasp. But there was more to this movie than just shock value.

The documentary was meant to educate people specifically about Joseph Kony, a rebel leader in Uganda who claims to have spiritual powers and leads the Lord’s Resistance Army against Uganda’s government. In order to provide troops for his army, children are abducted from their villages while they sleep and are forced into being soldiers. Along the way, he wreaks havoc by having his troops rape, mutilate and kill their fellow Ugandans. Kony has been backing out of peace deals for more than 20 years and there are no signs that he will stop. So far, he has captured more than 30,000 children and is now continuing his rampage in the Congo.

But Invisible Children wants to change that. By fund-raising in the United States, they have generated millions of dollars to put children in school and rehabilitate victims. With more funding, they are now proposing a Congo Early Warning Radio Network to be built in order for neighboring villages to warn each other when the LRA are planning to attack.

Akello Brenda, a young woman from Uganda, told the audience her story after the movie. She and her father had run from the LRA when they attacked her village. Although they escaped the LRA, her father suffered a heart attack shortly afterward. With no one else to support her, Brenda gave up hope.

“I didn’t know that I would have a future again,” Brenda said.

She went to the Invisible Children organization and applied for a scholarship. She received it and also joined the group to travel around and spread the world about the war.

Students were taken aback.

“The movie was so sad. It was a good idea to show the movie because you could actually see the gruesome photos and video they took and it was really shocking..I had no idea that was going on” said Brynn Campbell.

Lilly Derbyshire, a sophomore, was sympathetic, but put it into perspective.

“Well, I thought it was really inspiring and shocking, but at the same time I feel like there is a lot of this going on everywhere . But I want to get involved in one of these groups. It’s one of those things where I want to quit school and go change the world!”

That is just what people like Brenda want to inspire.

“The reason I am here today sharing my story is to empower you and let you know that even though you are young, you can change the world,” she said.

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