Photo by Kelsey Richmond/The Siskiyou
Cindi Staller, left, and Kelli Horvath, right, stand in downtown Ashland holding signs in support of the Invisible Children Organization Thursday night.
A group of SOU students representing the Invisible Children Organization gathered in the Stevenson Union courtyard Thursday to raise awareness for the thousands of children who have been forced into the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda.
The event brought together nearly 20 people, some members of the SOU Invisible Children club and others. After meeting at the SU, the group marched down Siskiyou Boulevard with signs urging onlookers to educate themselves about the crisis taking place in Eastern Africa.
"People need to know that they have it so good compared to these kids in Northern Uganda," said Nicole Jolly, president of the Invisible Children club and main coordinator of the gathering. Using the term "nights commuters" the marchers walked after nightfall to represent the near 20,000 children that leave their rural homes in Uganda each night and migrate into safe areas of nearby cities for fear of being killed or abducted into the LRA.
The marchers drew the attention of many as they made their way to the plaza in downtown Ashland where a moment of silence was held for the displaced children.
Following the march a screening of the documentary produced by the Invisible Children Organization was shown for free. The film discussed the climate in Northern Uganda in regards to the unstable mental state that the conflict is creating for the future of the country. It also addressed the issue that the humanitarian catastrophe in Northern Uganda has for the most part gone unnoticed by the global community and powerful governments like the U.S., who have a history of providing humanitarian relief.
After the LRA was declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. through the Patriot Act in 2001, more attention was drawn to the crisis in Uganda, and in 2004 the U.S. Congress passed the Northern Uganda Crisis Response Act, which outlined the need for humanitarian provisions as well as diplomatic encouragement toward peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA. The Response Act also urges "leaders and members of the LRA to stop the abduction of children."
After the screening, members of the Invisible Children club met in the SU courtyard around 10 p.m., where they began to construct shelters out of cardboard in preparation for an all night sleep-out in dedication to the children who are forced to sleep on the streets of cities throughout Uganda.
Since the 2004 Response Act, little has been done within Uganda to stop child abduction. Many governments including the U.S. cite the LRA funding to be from the Sudan government and believe that the economic pressures being applied against Sudan, which are primarily in response to the genocide in the country’s Darfur region, to be sufficient.
Though diplomatically the peace process in Uganda is struggling, the awareness that has largely been created by the Invisible Children Organization is spreading and the non-profit group has raised more than $1 million.
In September of 2007, prominent music act Fall Out Boy released a song titled "Me and You" in partnership with the Invisible Children Organization and also made a music video for the song, which was filmed in Uganda.
Though these efforts may seem small to some, the awareness that has recently been raised for the children in Uganda has gained the attention of numerous national governments and the global community, representing a large step in a region that has been plagued by violence for more than two decades.