by Youngbee Dale, special to Communities Digital News
WASHINGTON, March 9, 2012 – Kony Campaign 2012 is waking the world to fight for the children’s rights in Uganda, even as critics point to the sensationalism and propaganda style message. The statement of young victims show that the Kony 2012 video offers only a glimpse into the reality of kidnaping, rape, and drug ordeals at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Invisible Children, a nonprofit for children’s rights in California, launched the Campaign Kony 2012 to raise awareness of the 26-year reign of terror of Joseph Kony, the world’s most sought after war criminal.
The Lord’s Resistance Army is a Ugandan rebel Guerilla group in the Northern region of Sudan. To maintain his rebel group, Joseph Kony trafficks young boys to use as child soldiers, abducting young girls to use them as sex slaves.
The campaign urges the international community to encourage leaders to find and arrest Joseph Kony in order to prosecute his as a war criminal.
Young boys and girls that are able to escape recount the horror the endured at the hands of LRA rebels. Abducting children from their home, they are drugged and forced to join his military group. The tales of the horrors these children are enduring are heartbreaking.
During the captivity, the children had to carry heavy weapons many miles, subject to random physical abuse and forced kill their enemies as well as friends:
A 13 years old child victim recounts her experience as follows:
“When I was abducted in 2003, we had no food for three days, we lived only on water. Then the rebels made us move and when we reached Asamuk the rebels decided that we should prepare some food. They told us to decide among ourselves who should be eaten.
At first, we thought it was a joke until they decided themselves on a certain girl whom they slaughtered and cut into pieces. Then they told us to cook the pieces. When it was ready, the rebels forced us to eat the cooked girl.”
The rebel also forced the girl to kill her own grandfather:
“After that we were told to kill an old man who was helpless. After a week, the rebels brought us to Amaseniko camp [Amuria] where we had been abducted and told us to burn houses. I was told to kill my grandfather. When I tried to refuse, the rebels beat me hard until I accepted to kill him using heavy stones.
Then we went ahead to kill two more people we came across.”
Rape and sexual violence were part of their lives. One child told a researcher that a rebel forced her to cut a child’s leg. When she failed to do so by only cutting the child’s foot, the rebel beat her up and told her that he would kill her next time.
Drug abuse and rape became mundane to these children. One 17 years old boy remembers a commander cutting his neck, inserting herbs into the wound creating a sense of confusion and creating a dependency on the drug.
Rebels used drugs to perform rituals. During the rituals, the rebels would drug the children with herbs, forcing them to kill someone.
A 17 years old girl recounts her rape as follows:
“I was raped twice in the bush by our commander and his bodyguard, in Pader, and I felt so bad because I was still young then and not ready for sex; worse, I am not sure to date if they were free from HIV/AIDS”
After the Ugandan government force invaded LRA, some children managed to escape. Even so, returning home to family and relatives did not release children from traumas during the captivities. The war also changed their home environment.
“My mother was killed, so I felt it was better to go back to the bush, this way you don’t find anybody dead at home.”
One girl says that a tree in her village reminded her of abduction and violence by the rebel. Many children found themselves with lack of support, no money for education, and the absence of parents.
Some of them became a head of the household upon their return to the community. They had to look after their younger siblings. Because of trauma and troubled home environment, some children said they have considered rejoining the LRA.
“You cannot be completely happy with all these wounds – both in your body and in your mind.”
Other children faced hostility by their family members:
“My parents ran away when they saw me, I had to follow them, they thought I would abduct them.
My old mother got shocked, she got a heart failure. I was then taken back to AACAN for three days. When I came back home, I couldn’t enter the house because everybody was fearing me. So I sat by the church, some people brought water for me until finally my mother greeted me and expressed happiness that I returned.”
Some people criticize raising awareness of the plight of Ugandan children will not end with Campaign Kony 2012. Others argue that it makes the current Ugandan president, Museveni, sound like an angel from heaven who came into power by relying on child soldiers
A public awareness campaign becomes sensationalism or propaganda, if it exaggerates or manipulates the truth to stir up public sentiment. But, if anything, the children’s statements show the video only offers a glimpse of their ordeals during their captivity.
The arrest of Kony will not end children’s plight, nor will it offer solution to their continueous emotional trauma. But it is a beginning. Had Invisible Children not launched this campaign, would activists, students, journalists, celebrities, legislators, and even President Obama be paying attention to these children?
The answer is clear. Kony’s reign has been mover than 26 years long. It is past time for Joseph Kony to be arrested and held accountable for his crimes.