Government moved too slow on Uganda

By Heather Scroering

It’s 1 a.m. in an Acholi village just off the border of northern Uganda. Three children are sleeping soundly between their father and pregnant mother when a group of rebels, no older than 12, ambush the hut. Two shots are fired into the mother, one in her stomach and another in her forehead. The rest of the family is forced out of the hut. The eldest son is given a gun, and the rebel leader tells him to shoot his father. If he doesn’t do it, the rest of his village will die.

This story is not much different from the personal accounts of countless central Africans who have been terrorized by the Lord’s Resistance Army. After millions of people have been killed, displaced, brutally raped and abducted, someone is finally doing something about the LRA. It only took 25 years.

On Oct. 14, President Barack Obama released a statement to Congress affirming that 100 military personnel were sent to Uganda to seek out Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, and his other military leaders, all of whom have been wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2005, according to its website.

Kony founded the LRA as a reaction to the discrimination of northern Uganda by the Ugandan government. Losing the north’s support, the terrorist group has been consistently attacking communities, capturing their children and forcing them to fight for more than two decades.

In May 2010, Obama signed off on the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which unanimously passed in the House and Senate. The bill was pushed by many human rights organizations, including Invisible Children and Resolve.

The president, as leader of the nation’s military forces, has the power to send troops on small missions. It’s not as if he’s sending 1 million active-duty military personnel to central Africa to hunt down Kony.

According to Resolve, more than 2,000 people have been killed, 3,000 have been abducted and 450,000 have been displaced in the areas in which the LRA has resided since September 2008. Just in northern Uganda, Kony has seized approximately 30,000 children, forcing them to serve as soldiers.

If kidnapping children wasn’t enough, Kony’s militia abducts women, repeatedly rapes them and forces them to act as sex slaves. However, we’re desensitized to terms like “rape,” “murder,” “abduction,”—but what about “cannibalism?” That’s not something that’s seen on the news every day.

There are many accounts from children who have escaped from the rebel army and tell of witnessing cannibalistic activity. Some say they were even forced to eat other children—friends, brothers, sisters—they knew who were killed because they would not cooperate with the LRA. So if there’s still any question of whether it’s time to put this conflict to an end, it’s well past time.

The fact of the matter is, 25 years is a hell of a long time for a terrorist group to go unnoticed, rampaging and pillaging villages.

It’s not just Uganda that Kony has been attacking, either. He’s moved into the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and southern Sudan. Why? Because he’s a blood-thirsty individual, and these countries, weakened by civil war and corrupt or inadequate government, are easy targets.

These atrocities should never have gone on this long. Was no one in the media making enough noise about it? Or was it that, as a superior nation, American leaders have the privilege to not acknowledge lesser nations’ pain, no matter how much they cry out?

No matter, Obama was the first leader of this nation to finally make the lives of these African people a priority. The fact that Congress agreed on something is just as exciting. Sadly, the thousands of lives lost is a hard lesson that our foreign policy makers should learn from in the future.