The night was hot as usual, but thankfully there was a slight breeze and the mosquitoes were merciful. James was sleeping soundly in his bed…dreaming about what 8 year olds normally dream about. In the distance, there is a rustling of what sounds like a medium-sized animal creeping towards the village. Suddenly, a scream of alarm breaks the silence, followed by a chorus of other screams…but these screams are no longer of surprise, but rather of terror and cries of anguish. The once peaceful night is no more.
Before he can fully comprehend what is going on, James is roughly pulled out of his slumber. His night of dreaming has suddenly turned into a nightmare. Men with guns are pushing him on his feet and away from his parents. His parents try to go after him, but their efforts are useless. James is helpless as he watches his parents get executed in front of him…first his mother, and then his father.
So…what happens next? The police arrive, right? These men are arrested and sentenced to pay for their horrible murders, right? The answers to both of these questions are “no”…because unfortunately for James, and thousands of other children like him, this did not happen in the United States. This happened in central Africa, where the villages are remote, there is no 911 emergency number, and where there will not be any retribution for the senseless attacks on his village or for the murders of either of his parents.
This is not a post about Joseph Kony, the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), or the Sudanese government…it is about James and the thousands of children like him. The thousands of children who were forced to take arms, to kill their parents, to kill other civilians, and watched as people were mutilated. They lost their homes, their siblings, and their childhoods. These children will no longer dream the same dreams.
I know some of you are thinking…this is “old” news by now but the sad thing is, there are still so many people in this world who have never heard of Joseph Kony or the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). I was going to let this topic pass me by, but with the recent arrest of George Clooney on March the 16th, during a protest against the Sudanese government (this arrest was unrelated to Kony or the LRA) and after watching the movie, Machine Gun Preacher (2011), starring Gerard Butler, this week…I just could not stop thinking about the atrocities happening half a world away.
Before you shake your head, I already know the criticism that comes with this situation. I know the main argument is, what can the United States do? This is not our battle to fight and the U.S. does not have any interests in Sub-Saharan Africa, except for concerns regarding oil. I agree with that concern, but isn’t the value of human life more important than the value of oil. Are we just supposed to sit back and let the mass killings of innocent civilians go unpunished…especially after we are aware of it.
Another argument is that, the crimes against children have been exaggerated. Invisible Children claims there have been about 30,000 children abducted while Machine Gun Preacher claims there are about 40,000 children abducted. My argument is, isn’t even 1,000 children, just one too many. I’ve heard how Kony is in hiding and how the LRA have dwindled to an army of only a few hundred soldiers, but regardless these men are still responsible, it doesn’t matter if there are only three of them left. And should we now teach war criminals that if they hide long enough, the world will forget about them and no longer pursue them?
The NGOs have also been scrutinized for the way they have been dispersing funds. As an advocate myself, who does work for a non-profit organization, I can tell you first hand, that it is not cheap to travel to D.C. and that funds do have to be allocated for travel and meal expenses. But you don’t have to donate to these organizations to make a difference. Spreading news by word of mouth is free. You can make your own posters and t-shirts. Calling and writing your district representatives and senators costs little in time and money. Yes, the U.S. government is made up of the few, the rich, the elite…but they are always aware of public opinion polls and key word computer searches are always tracked. I do believe there is power in numbers and when the general public act as one voice, there is a better chance that voice will be heard.
I honestly do not think that Kony will be captured in 2012 nor do I think that the U.S. will do more than they already have, which consist of deploying 100 combat-equipped U.S. troops to Central Africa in November of 2011. With this being an election year, I also do not think President Obama or the Republican nominee will want to introduce the thought of another foreign war funded by American money and American troops.
But still…I truly do believe in the power of emotions. I believe that stories like James’, Jacobs’ (from the Kony 2010 video), and so many others like them should be heard and acknowledged. While I don’t have the solutions, I know that most people feel that anyone who commits a crime against humanity should be punished and because the heart usually wins over the mind, despite all the concerns I voiced above, I think that with public pressure and awareness, Kony and others like him, will one day answer for all they have done.
If you are unfamiliar with Joseph Kony or the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) please take the time to watch these videos. They provide basic background information.
I don’t claim to know all the facts and I realize that there are so many more complex issues surrounding the crisis of North Uganda and South Sudan. These are just my thoughts on the situation. I love feedback. Please feel free to share your comments on this post below.
DISCLAIMER: I am not promoting nor am I affiliated with the Invisible Children, Machine Gun Preacher, or Amnesty International.
For more information visit:
James’ Story http://www.machinegunpreacher.org/kids-stories/
Machine Gun Preacher http://www.machinegunpreacher.org/
Invisible Children http://www.invisiblechildren.com/
LRA Crisis Tracker http://www.lracrisistracker.com/
The Ugandan Civil War and the LRA http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/lra.htm
Amnesty International http://www.amnestyusa.org/
All Africa http://allafrica.com/
How does it feel, man child
To bring the beasts of the earth down
To watch them fall to their knees
As if begging you to spare their life.
Do you feel powerful, holding a weapon
So deadly that it pierces muscle…
Made for running from predators,
Jaws with a 5,000 pound bite force,
And trunks strong enough to lift trees from their roots.
Do you know that they were once mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters
That they once hunted, fought, loved, and walked the ground with footsteps so heavy
It shook the earth upon which you now stand, aiming your gun.
As these beautiful creatures gave to you their last breath,
Did you notice the color of their eyes,
The curve of the water buffalo’s horns,
Did you count the spots on the civet’s fur coat,
Did you appreciate the width of the elephant’s ears…
Or did you simply cut off it’s tail
And pose for a picture.