It makes for a dynamic evening when a conservative U.S. senator, a contingent of human rights activists, and two filmmakers from California get together to talk Uganda.
At the U.S. Capitol yesterday evening, a diverse crowd drawn together by Invisible Children and Resolve Uganda gathered for a film screening and series of short presentations on the curse of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel force infamous for its recruiting techniques: an estimated 90 percent of its force is made up of child soldiers.
Enough co-Founder John Prendergast provided the overview of Africa’s longest running conflict, focusing on recent U.S. involvement in a military campaign aimed at apprehending leader Joseph Kony and his top commanders. The LRA leadership remains at-large and the force is on the move. Today, rebels roam through the region at the confluence of Uganda, Congo, Central African Republic, and Sudan, where they prey on the civilian population. “Let’s not just keep reacting to the symptoms of a crisis,” Prendergast said. He emphasized that the money that the United States sends to Uganda could be much more effective if it were used to pursue a comprehensive strategy to halt the LRA and implement programs to rebuilt and rehabilitate.
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) spoke about his “long-standing love affair with Africa,” noting that he recently returned from his 108th trip to the continent. “Those of us who go to Africa often see conflicts that most people don’t know about,” Senator Inhofe said, commending young activists for drawing attention to the atrocities committed by the LRA.
Filmmakers Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole of Invisible Children presented their most recent short “The Rescue,” which documented U.N. negotiators’ latest attempt at luring Kony out of hiding to sign a peace deal with the Ugandan government.
The film was released in March as a call to action culminating in demonstrations in 100 cities that will take place today, April 25. The Rescue of Joseph Kony’s Child Soldiers, as the demonstration is being billed, involves having activists “abduct themselves” in solidarity with the children in the LRA’s ranks. Activists will convene in “LRA camps” staged in prominent public areas until policy makers and the media in each city “come to the rescue” by pledging public support for the cause.
Organizers hope that the events this weekend will raise the profile of the atrocities being committed by the LRA throughout Africa’s Great Lakes region in the lead up to the June Lobby Days on Capitol Hill, co-sponsored by Invisible Children, Resolve Uganda, and Enough.
Speaking about the impact young activists can have in ushering in a final resolution to the scourge of the LRA, Laren Poole of Invisible Children said:
“Before I come to D.C. to lobby for Uganda, I often feel intimidated. But then I get here and realize that young people run this city. It’s young people who decide which issues get to their bosses desks. …The power is going back to the people.”
To learn more about the LRA, visit Enough’s special page.
Photo: IC’s Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole at the U.S. Capitol