BOSTON–For 18 years, families in Gulu, Uganda have lived in terror—only now is their story being told.
After college or graduate school, most young people live at home for a year or try to establish a career in the trade in which they majored. The volunteers of the non-profit organization, Invisible Children, instead travel the country living in a van, visiting various colleges to screen their documentary film GO, and getting the word out about the atrocities in Uganda.
On Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008, recent graduates from all over the world visited Boston University to promote Invisible Children. The name comes from children secretly escaping capture by rebels that force them into the corrupt Joseph Kony’s military regime.
For the past 23 years, the Government of Uganda (GoU) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have been fighting in a war that has left close to two million innocent civilians caught in the middle.
The LRA rebel movement started with a woman named Alice Lakwena, who believed the Holy Spirit spoke to her and ordered her to overthrow the Ugandan government. The Holy Spirit Movement, which consisted of Lakwena and her followers, grew as hatred toward the government increased. Later Lakwena was executed, leaving Joseph Kony, claiming to be Lakwena’s cousin, in full power. Kony morphed Lakwena’s followers into the LRA, and with not enough support for their army, the rebels began abducting children and forcing them into their military regime. It is estimated that more than 90% of the LRA’s troops were abducted as children. To escape, children walk miles in the dead of night to the safety of shelters instead of staying in their own homes, to avoid being abducted by rebels.
In the spring of 2003, three young men from California journeyed to Uganda in search of a story and with a mission to make a documentary. On their way to the border of Sudan, they were forced to stay overnight in Uganda where they met children now known as the Invisible Children. Back in the states they made the first documentary, Invisible Children: Rough Cut, launching the statewide campaign.
The majority of the event focused on the documentary GO, a 45-minute film highlighting three high school students’ first-time trip to Uganda. These students raised the most amount of money in the “schools for schools” program promoting education for students in Gulu. As a result, they won a trip to Africa, where they spent two weeks with kids their own age, living in Internally Displaced Person “IDP” camps, huge concentrations of tiny thatched huts with deplorable conditions. Families took refuge in these camps after their homes were destroyed by rebels, or fled to them for safety, as the IDP camps were the only place where they could not be touched.
GO preaches just that–get up and just go. Go help, go donate, go spread the word. The documentary’s theme is the phrase “how far would you go?” This documentary and the Invisible Children campaign has reached the hearts of millions around America, and since Invisible Children: Rough Cut was filmed in 2003, night commuting has stopped for the children of northern Uganda. In the past few years, the country has been moving steadily toward peace. From June 2006 to March 2008 in Sudan, the LRA and the GoU engaged in a series of peace talks to end the conflict. These peace talks allowed for the longest period of peace in northern Uganda’s 23-year war. They still, however, have a long way to go.
The question now remains; just how far would you go?