Friday, June 19, 2009

News and Human Rights 3: Uganda and the LRA

Things haven't been good in Uganda for a really, really long time. As Lindsay put it last night, "Remember The Last King of Scotland?" Yeah, that was Uganda. In fact, I would venture a guess that things haven't been great in Uganda since about 3,000 years ago when everyone was a hunter-gatherer and the worst enemies of the people were lions and crocodiles.
Be that as it may, things are looking pretty grim right now.
Uganda is currently recovering, or trying to recover, from a 23 year war that left the country in absolute ruin. I don't mean a wrecked economy or burned villages or civil war or anything as simple as that. The reality is far more nightmarish. What I mean is the abduction of an estimated 66,000 children who were forced to become child soldiers under penalty of death, some as young as five years old. Children who speak of the murders they were forced to commit in voices still unchanged by puberty, the murders of other innocent men, women and children, some even among their own ranks. Children who tried to escape their captors were brought back and killed by their fellow child soldiers, sometimes hacked to death with machetes, sometimes trampled with bare feet. Of course, these were only the boys. The girls were used as sex slaves, or given as wives to high ranking officers, at which point nearly 100% of them contracted sexually transmitted diseases. Many are now teen mothers, orphans themselves, with no means of survival and no hope.
The group responsible for this is known as the Lord's Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, a former witch-doctor turned bat-shit-crazy Christian rebel leader. The Lord's Resistance Army began in 1989 in northern Uganda in armed opposition of the government. At first they were supported, but they were quickly seen for the maniacs that they are, and their support dwindled. This is when they turned to abduction, a practice that they carry out in the name of Jesus Christ, who they claim described the conversion to Christianity as the process of catching fish.
Everything the LRA does is carried out in the name of Christian virtues. Officers sprinkle holy water on the child soldiers before they go into battle, in order to shield them from bullets. It's a good thing too, because the soldiers are specifically forbidden to seek any kind of shelter. For this reason, the LRA's battles are notoriously bloody. (Side note: Members of the LRA are also not allowed to kill snakes or bees. I don't know if that has anything to do with Christianity, but it serves to demonstrate how deranged the LRA is.)
Also, while it is widely disputed just exactly what the LRA is trying to accomplish, it is generally recognized that Kony would like to establish a theocratic government in Uganda based directly on the ten commandments (a contradiction so obvious that I feel it requires no commentary.)
On the warpath to establish his Christian state, Kony is responsible for some of the most obvious and jaw-dropping cases of human rights violations in recent memory. During the height of abductions by the LRA, an estimated 40,000 children would walk for hours every night in order to sleep in the protection of the major towns. The government responded to the LRA's campaign of terror by placing 2 million northern Ugandans into Internally Displaced Persons camps. The IDP camps were so poorly run that, according to one report, 1,000 people died every week due to inadequate health and sanitation provisions. 1.6 million people still live in these camps, and 70% of these people are children.
Today, the LRA has retreated for the most part to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a shit storm of epic proportions that deserves its own blog) but the damage they have done is everlasting.
I think it's easy not to be surprised by this sort of thing. We hear about it all the time, child soldiers, brain washing, mutilation and rape, mass murder, yadda yadda yadda. Oh what a terrible atrocity, yeah yeah, we get it. The fact of the matter is, it is astounding and awful and should be really, really surprising. These aren't Africans who are made to suffer, these aren't Ugandans, they are people, real people, as real as you. These are children from Christ sakes (no pun intended.) I mean, the US invades Iraq to liberate the people because we care so much about human rights, and in the meantime aid is being cut to Africa, where some of the most heinous atrocities ever take place year after year? Does that make sense? DOES IT?

Oops, sorry, don't know where that came from. For another time, I suppose.

If you want to learn more about Uganda and how to help the millions of people Joseph Kony has left in his wake, click on the site below. It's where I got most of my information.

Village of Hope Uganda

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