Another town in Africa – “Lira”
Uganda's Child Soldiers (Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army)
Presently there has been a cease fire in effect for over two years and the LRA has moved and is being hunted down in nearby Democratic Republic of Congo with limited success.
A child goes missing, abducted, in the United States. The police are notified and they issue what in America is referred to as an Amber Alert. Radio stations begin broadcasting descriptions, while TV stations flash pictures of both the abductor and abducted across the screen. Billboards along major roads flash pertinent information regarding the abduction. The police move out in force with helicopters and planes and the Army National Guard may even be engaged. Everything is put into operation to bring a child home to its family. At the same time, they go after the abductor to put him behind bars, so she or he cannot harm any other child.
In another part of the world, on the other side of this globe, in the northern districts of Uganda, 30,000 children have been abducted in the past 20 some years. Most every family in the Acholi and now Langi area has been affected. Many families have lost a child through abduction, or their village was attacked and destroyed, families burned out and/or killed, and harvests destroyed by an army of abducted children known as The Lord’s Resistance Army. The countryside is virtually empty and people have moved into safe villages that are supposed to be protected by the government, but that has often been in words but not in deed. At night the children of the north flee into towns to sleep, fearing that they might be abducted. They find safety in numbers in towns such as Gulu where even the local bishops and ministers have joined them as they seek safety from the Lord’s Resistance Army.
This Lord’s Resistance Army is led by Joseph Kony, a former altar boy, self-styled mystic, demonically inspired medium, ruthless leader, and merciless person who has brought Northern Uganda to a virtual standstill. People are frozen in fear, commerce has become non-existent, fields go fallow, villages have been decimated, and children have grown up without a future or hope. There is no peace from Lira to Gulu and all points in-between.
Joseph Kony comes from the Acholi area of Uganda. His niece is Alice Lakwena, who led thousands of disaffected Acholi soldiers into battle against President Museveni, who had defeated their army. Soldiers were led to believe by Alice Lakwena that holy oil would keep bullets away, songs would slay their enemy, sticks would become swords, and rocks would turn into grenades and mortars. Alice Lakwena—her last name means messenger—was certainly a warrior priestess. Joseph Kony took upon himself her mantle of leadership, but the two were miles apart in their ways.
Lira, located 215 miles north of Kampala, was one of those sleepy towns in Africa where you could simply be. It hardly made the international news, and one of the few articles I read about it was in “BBC – Focus on Africa,” where it described its background and culture and went to great lengths to describe Lira-Lira, a local potent drink. Its other claim to fame is that the former President Milton Obote had his home here, which you can still see, or what is left of it. I, on the other hand, simply enjoyed the drive along tree-lined roads coming in from the Ugandan savannah to the town of Lira.
Lately, Lira is making news around the world. It is not so much the things the people of the town are doing, but what is being done to them by this wild-eyed jok (jok is a spirit, good or bad) by the name of Joseph Kony, whose Lord’s Resistance Army has been raiding villages, towns, and camps of refuge that have become camps of death and destruction.
War in itself is bad, but this conflict has been going on for 18 years with no resolve in sight. This war is hellish in that the Joseph Kony’s army recruits its soldiers from the villages and schools of northern Uganda through abductions. Thousands of children have been robbed of childhood and, in many cases, of life itself. Boys and girls are turned into ruthless killers who no longer feel, but are numbed within, and their souls have become seared by the atrocities they have seen and in which they have forced to participate.
Children 10 years old are taught to kill, often beginning with their own families. Others are killed and a child is let to live and then the child is commanded to kill in order to stay alive. If children do escape, they will never be the same again.
Joseph Kony claims to want to make Uganda into a state based on the Ten Commandments, but he has broken every one of them. Today no one thinks Kony and his movement represents a loving God and Christianity or Islam, but all know it is about demonic control of children, boys and girls, young men and women, doing the bidding of a crazy man. Many of the leaders in his army were abducted 10 or 12 years ago, but have known nothing else but death and destruction.
In Lira, the name of Joseph Kony and his army of child warriors is dreaded. The town that was on the verge of blossoming in the Northern Ugandan savannah has shriveled up and died. There is fear and anger, thousands more people are without the services so desperately needed. Hospitals and clinics are without medicine. There is a lack of food and water, medical care. But thousands are flocking in for safety; tens of thousands want to remain near just to be safe. Lira, that jewel of the north, has become a scorched piece of real estate and unless a miracle takes place there is no hope.
The most recent atrocity was 200 people killed when a refugee camp was overrun by the LRA. The defense militia was helpless and the army far away. President Museveni came and blamed Kony’s army. Kony’s army is a rag tag group of children that believes in the mystical powers of their leader, children who run into the line of fire believing that the bullets can do no harm, and their weapons are often from the Sudanese military. The Ugandan Army, on the other hand, are for the most part adult men, well equipped and trained, who have helicopters, trucks and tanks but no victory. After 18 years, this war goes on and now Lira is another city dying in the north of Uganda.
Lira and the Kony Rebels is a never-ending story of children dying, of children being abducted, a loss of childlike innocence, and yet no one seems to care, it is just another story from Africa. Here in northern Uganda there is no Amber alert, there no news headlines across the bottom of Television screens, there is only the silence after another town or school are raided and children are taken. The reads something here and there about this situation. They may think it is interesting, sad, horrendous, but still, like in the in Congo, like in Sudan, like it was in Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone, it is only Africans killing Africans and no one cares, after all the world stood still in the spring of 1994, and been for the most part inactive in regards to Sudan. Here we are in Uganda, East Africa with no Interpol alert; no helicopters out searching for one abducted child, much less 20,000 abducted children. There are no hourly updates, just President Museveni who periodically says that Joseph Kony and his children’s army will be defeated, even he is trying to get UN help.
Lira today is overwhelmed with people who have fled there to find a place of refuge, to find safety from the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The town has been become overcrowded with ten of thousand of refugees seeking protection, needing food, shelter and medical attention. I recently read the appeal of the Mayor of Lira for help, food, tents, and medicine since the local hospital and clinics were simply without.
Is there a solution to the problem to "the war in the north?" That is how this conflict is referred to in Uganda. There are solutions, from military ones that have not yet succeeded, to one of cutting off the bases and support in Sudan by the Sudanese government. There is the one attempted by religious leaders of northern Uganda, the one of a treaty leading to a peaceful resolution. None of them have yet worked, but people still need relief, still need food and shelter, medicines and care
Just recently I received an email from a very dear friend of mine, Trevor Stevenson, a man with a big heart who runs a small non-governmental agency called “Fields of Life.” Over the last 14 years they have started hospitals, schools, vocational schools, agricultural teaching farms, clinics and more. The most pleasant thing is that Africans run them, unlike some organizations, where Africans do the work and Westerners manage. Here, Westerners raise the funds and Africans run the projects. Trevor wants to start a health center in Lira. Doesn’t Trevor know that there is a war going on and that Lira is quite dangerous?
But then you do not know Trevor and his wife Ruth, longtime Africa Hands who have taken the hell out of humanitarian aid and added a lot of heaven and want to bring some to Lira. Trevor knows that people need help now, that people need medical care, need food, shelter. It is his desire to take the killing fields that surround Lira and turn them into healing fields of life. You might want to join them in the plowing of the fields of Lira, and maybe our joint efforts and prayers would bring a solution to this conflict and an end to the abductions of thousands of boys and girls…and Lira can become, another town in Africa…rising out of the Ugandan savannah…jon originally written in 2005
July 1, 2009 Press Release from the LRA written by David Nyekorach- Matsanga Leader of the LRA Peace Delegation and Chief Negotiator. Interesting propaganda read with supposed quotes from Joseph Kony.
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Uganda's Child Soldiers (Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army)
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