May 19, 2006

Flight of the Child Soldiers

by Zack Pelta-Heller

Every night in northern Uganda, thousands of children trek from their bush villages to cities in search of refuge. If they stay at home, they risk being kidnapped, abused and forced to fight in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group led by Joseph Kony that has abducted more than 30,000 children and displaced 1.6 million people in the past 20 years.

Most of the world has failed to notice this harrowing situation. Now it's the subject of a powerful new documentary called "Journey Into Sunset", which recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Directed by Rick Wilkinson and starring Don Cheadle, the film chronicles the plight of these brave children, also known as "night commuters."

Since 1987, the Lord's Resistance Army has terrorized the Acholi people of northern Uganda in an attempt to create an "ethnically pure" state, based on Kony's distorted interpretation of the Old Testament. Despite the Ugandan military's best counter-efforts -- and an investigation by the International Criminal Court -- the LRA's brutality has recently spread into eastern Congo and southern Sudan, where Kony moved his training camps. . . .


"Lord's Resistance Army Terrorizes Northern Uganda," Agence France-Presse, November 9, 2003

"Darfur, Sudan: African Muslim vs. African Muslim," The Wisdom Fund, April 3, 2004

[The International Criminal Court has said it expects Uganda to meet its obligation to arrest the leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army rebels. . . . The LRA has been weakened by a military offensive, but in recent months, the rebels have spread across southern Sudan and into DR Congo.--"Uganda 'must arrest' rebel leader," BBC News, May 18, 2006]

[The world's most neglected emergency, according to the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, is the ongoing tragedy of the Congo, where six to seven million have died since 1996 as a consequence of invasions and wars sponsored by western powers trying to gain control of the region's mineral wealth. At stake is control of natural resources that are sought by U.S. corporations - diamonds, tin, copper, gold, and more significantly, coltan and niobium, two minerals necessary for production of cell phones and other high-tech electronics; and cobalt, an element essential to nuclear, chemical, aerospace, and defense industries.--"High-Tech Genocide in Congo," Project Censored, 2006]

[A campaign launched in the 1980s claiming to defend the rights of the Acholi people in northern Uganda had become a byword for sadism. Years of abductions where children were forced to kill their own parents in a brutal initiation had left them feared but hated. Their leader and self-styled messiah Joseph Kony was supposed to be on the point of surrender, with his diminishing band of fighters contained in a transit camp awaiting the signing of a peace plan.

Instead the terror has been transplanted, this time to the remote north of Congo. The bewildered victims of this campaign know nothing of the cause espoused by those that are hunting them - they have never been to neighbouring Uganda.--"The deadly cult of Joseph Kony," Independent, November 8, 2008

[Human Rights Watch says the group has brutally abducted at least 697 adults and children over the past 18 months.

Civilians were said to have been taken in remote regions of the Central African Republic (CAR) and the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo.--Martin Plaut, "Uganda LRA rebels 'forcing civilians to join them'," BBC News, August 11, 2010]

Daniel Howden, "The Lord's Resistance Army's new reign of terror," BBC News, August 13, 2010

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