Imagine living your entire life without ever sleeping in your own bed, or even in your own house. Imagine needing to walk miles every single night into the nearest city, where you have to sleep on the cold, hard concrete floor of a bus park. You are not alone though; there are thousands of other children crammed into the small bus park next to you, sleeping tightly packed together as a man with a machine gun watches over you. You do this every night, and you wake up every morning at the crack of dawn to walk back home. You have done this every day for your entire childhood. You do this not because you want to, but because your life depends on it. You have never experienced the joy of being worry free.
To you this may seem like a horrifying nightmare that couldn’t possibly be real. Unfortunately, for many children of Uganda, this is their life. For the past 23 years – which is longer than most of us have been alive – the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda have been waging a war that has left nearly two million innocent civilians caught in the middle. The LRA’s goal is to overthrow the government. However, they have lost support, so in order to keep their ranks strong they abduct children and force them to become violent killing machines. They immediately desensitize the children by exposing them to violence and brutally killing and torturing those who disobey, making all the children aware of what will happen if they, too, disobey. Because of the abductions, the children of Uganda live their days in complete fear. Night is especially high-risk-time for abductions, so every night more than 40,000 children commute to the cities and sleep crowded together for protection.
Since the war started thousands of children have been killed and abducted; an entire generation has almost ceased to exist in Uganda. It is a grim situation for more than the children, though. In 1996, as a response to the attacks, the Ugandan government forcibly evicted thousands from their homes, relocating them into overcrowded camps in hopes of providing protection. Today, roughly one million individuals still live in these camps and struggle to survive among the effects of poverty, rampant disease, and near-certain starvation.
This situation was widely unheard of until 2003 when three American college students went to Africa and stumbled across these children. They created a documentary titled “Invisible Children,” and the non-profit organization with the same name. Invisible Childrens’ goal is to raise awareness of the situation as it believes awareness is the first step in obtaining peace. Since 2003 pressure from the international community brought the Ugandan government and the LRA to the negotiating table. However, they have yet to find a peaceful resolution and there is still much to be done. The children, as well as the people of Uganda, need quality education, the schools need to be rebuilt, they need financial stability and help resettling outside of the camps. Invisible Children is giving these people the power to take their future into their own hands.
But they need your help. Visit www.invisiblechildren.com to get informed. The site has dozens of ways you can get involved. Also the BU cghapter of Amnesty International focuses on this crisis and has invited the Invisible Children Organization to visit Bloomsburg University on April 15th at 8 p.m. in the Kehr Union Ballroom. Get informed and get involved, because you can make a difference and help these children.