Recently, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill sending 100 military advisors to Uganda to assist the Ugandan military in its defense against the cult-like Lord’s Resistance Army, which is responsible for the death, rape and abduction of tens of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.
“The bill that was passed through Congress was mainly due to the efforts of the young generation,” Invisible Children Club President Rebecca Silverstein ’14 said.
Invisible Children is a non-profit organization created in response to a documentary filmed in 2003 by three young filmmakers who discovered the tragic lives of child soldiers and night commuters— or child soldiers fleeing from the LRA. The documentary, which has been seen by millions, is called “Invisible Children: Rough Cut.”
Since 1988, the LRA has been fighting to replace the current Ugandan government with one grounded in the Ten Commandments. This effort has led to a bloody civil war that has spread to parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and what is now South Sudan.
Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA and self proclaimed messiah, is one of the world’s most wanted war criminals.
The LRA’s abduction of children is especially troubling. According to Invisible Children, LRA members are thought to number around 200, but it is estimated that over 2,200 children have been abducted since December of 2009 and tens of thousands of children have been abducted since the civil war began. Abducted children are forced to live under terrifying conditions and are usually forced to be child soldiers, sex slaves or concubines.
“I think people don’t realize the ability they have to make change,” Rhys Tucker ’14, vice-president of the College’s Invisible Children Club, said. “Every small effort can help make a difference, even talking about the issue with someone…[If] more people know about it, it’s going to be a relevant issue.”
The William and Mary Invisible Children chapter helps to raise money for programs in Central Africa that increase the quality of education children affected by the LRA receive, rehabilitate former child soldiers, help with the resettlement of refugees, and foster financial stability in the region. It also funds special projects such as the construction of radio towers that alert people in remote villages if the LRA is approaching.
Another important aspect of the club is fostering awareness and creating a grass roots movement.
“As much as we want to raise money, the most important thing is raising awareness,” Victoria Mangiapani ’15, a member of the Invisible Children Club, said. “The war in [Central Africa] has been invisible to the international [community].”
While the recent actions taken by Congress and the President are a step forward, Silverstein knows that the club’s work is not complete. She sees it as the club’s responsibility to continue to raise awareness on campus and in government.
“Every single person that goes to William and Mary is so fortunate, and sometimes we can get consumed in our daily lives here and we don’t realize huge global social problems [exist].”
On Sunday, Nov. 13 Invisible Children and AMP are hosting a free benefit show featuring KOJI and Jeff Pianki, both musicians and human rights activists, to raise awareness of the needs of those affected by the LRA.
Tucker, who was instrumental in the upcoming concert’s production, had only high praise for KOJI.
“KOJI’s really special because he started his music career at the same time that Invisible Children was getting started. He’s attached his music with activism in general; he uses his music as a medium to speak out, and it’s something very special…You feel it…[He] makes you think beyond yourself.”
In addition, Invisible Children “roadies” and former Ugandan child soldiers and night commuters will be visiting the College on Monday, Nov. 14 for a discussion and special screening of the documentary “Tony.”
“Tony” tells the story of a former night commuter who ends up going to a school funded by Invisible Children.
The College’s Invisible Children Club is also holding some upcoming fundraisers including the sale of bracelets made by Central African artisans.
Invisible Children is working on and off campus to raise awareness and assist those affected by a bloody, little-known war.