Over 30,000 Ugandan children have been abducted over the course of 26 years.
Some children are forced to be soldiers where they slice off ears, noses and limbs of their victims. Some are sold as sex slaves for officers. Some are brainwashed into killing their parents and siblings with machetes or blunt tools.
Since 1986, Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, has received accusations of viciously abducting and manipulating these children in an attempt to overthrow the government. When that failed and the LRA was pushed out of Uganda in 2006, Kony began moving around in neighboring countries, and his location is unknown.
On March 5, Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children, an organization trying to stop LRA’s violence, posted “Kony 2012,” a half-hour video on YouTube explaining the conduct of Kony to raise awareness about the situation.
The video went viral, receiving over 85 million views on YouTube in less than 25 days.
As junior Ryan Boatman thought back on his experience on the 2011 Drake University Uganda trip, he remembered his professors talking about the LRA and the violence that Kony instructed his army to use on its victims. Boatman recalled having conversations with the people of Uganda specifically about Invisible Children.
“Watching the video hit home because I know the Uganda area and have friends that reside there,” Boatman said. “Actually visiting a country that has that type of widespread violence makes the video that more touching because I interacted with residents of Uganda who had personally been affected by the violence.”
Even though the video is receiving support from many, it also sparked many questions about the Invisible Children’s intentions and whether it was too little, too late.
Junior Erika Owen also travelled to Uganda last summer through the Drake University program and said that she was glad the organization was spreading awareness about the situation, but the timing seemed a bit off.
“I was confused at whether or not the video was made truly for the Ugandans or with another intention in mind,” Owen said.
While Owen was in Uganda, she talked with many citizens about Invisible Children. She said that many knew of the organization and had positive things to say about it. Most also had family members that were victims of Kony.
Owen said she still talks to two students and one professor in Uganda. They were happy about the video, but also worried about whose interests the video was created for.
Owen is happy with the awareness the video is spreading, but advises people to read the Ugandan papers to become more informed about the situation.
“Get outside of the U.S. bubble and gather your own opinion,” Owen said. “The movie is a great perspective, but it’s not the only perspective.”
The Invisible Children began its work in 2005 and soon employed over 100 Ugandan professionals. According to the organization’s website, its goal is to end the use of child soldiers in Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in central Africa to peace and prosperity.
Invisible Children has also received some criticism because of its financial distribution. Only 37 percent goes toward central Africa programs and 26 percent goes to awareness programs. This caused many people to question giving donations to the organization.
Sophomore Ashley Ester, president Drake University U.G.A.N.D.A. Youth works directly with Invisible Children through fundraisers and campus events.
“The money Invisible Children sends does have an impact, even though it might not look like a lot,” Ester said. “It really adds up and helps the people of Uganda.”
Ester hopes to inspire Drake students to do more than just watch. She plans to put up posters around campus to raise awareness and intends on having an event next fall to raise money for the KONY 2012 cause.
“The videos are sad to watch, but this one moved me to do more,” Ester said. “I hope it opens eyes because a lot of people don’t actually know what goes on in Uganda.
While people can donate to the organization and help the child soldiers, many focus more on finding the man behind the chaos.
According to a CNN article, The African Union plans to deploy 5,000 troops to find Kony, not only because of his work with the LRA, but because the International Criminal Court also wants him for war crimes.
The mission has support from the United States, and Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo will supply soldiers for the mission.
Alex Kamushiga, a Uganda resident and friend of Boatman, supports the KONY 2012 campaign from Invisible Children, but realizes it will not end until someone finds the man behind the violence.
“Joseph Kony needs to be stopped,” Kamushiga said. “It will be good to see him punished.”