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northern Uganda

Originally posted in Prayer Warriors forum by mistake :embarasse

Hi everyone,
I spent 3.5 months in Uganda last fall, including some time in the war-torn north. There is a rebel army there called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) who are notoriously cruel. More than 80% of the army is made up of abducted children, often as young as 8 years old. More than 25,000 children have been abducted, including 15,000 in the last 3 years. They are made to do things you cannot even imagine - too graphic to post here. The things I *will* tell are things like hacking their families to death, smashing babies against trees, hacking limbs, noses, breasts, etc. off women and children collecting firewood, ambushing vehicles, etc. Often they, like the 1.6 million displaced persons living in IDP (essentially, refugee) camps, are near-starving, so they will attack the camps to get food and abduct children, often burning down huts and killing adults. When I was there we would often hear rifle and machine gun fire in the night.
Recently there has been a resurgence of activity, and in the past several weeks there have been several ambushes on foreign aid workers. I met many wonderful people there - please pray for their safety. One woman I met is a dynamic, Godly woman named Lois. She is a nurse from New Zealand and she lives there, taking care of 32 children. Every day a Ugandan man named Dave - their waterman - pumps over 700 litres of water by hand, transports it in jericans on a bicycle, and dumps it into their tank. Please pray for Lois and the kids as they try to raise money to build a new home where they will have a fence and their own water bore. All of the kids have been orphaned by either AIDS or the rebels.
Please pray also for the children who have returned to their homes after being abducted. Many spent years in the bush - some were born there to mothers who were sex-slaves, although those babies are often killed. Often the villagers don't trust the children who have been rebels, and often the children were forced to kill their own families and so have no one to return to. It's a brutal, tragic war - and the world knows little about it. It has been called the worst humanitarian crisis by the UN, worse than Darfur - and yet nothing is done. I am searching for a solution, or at least SOMETHING that I can do, but I am at a loss. Please pray for wisdom for me as I wrestle with how to go about this.
I can only trust these children to Jesus, and yet this all seems so senseless. The LRA claims to want to place their leader, Joseph Kony, as president of Uganda, so they can rule the country based on the 10 commandments. Apparently they did not read the "thou shalt not kill" part. You can imagine what non-Christians would think of Christianity as a result of the LRA. Also, Kony claims to be led by "spirits" who tell him what to do, including a Congolese spirit named Who Are You which tells him to commit the most heinous acts. Clearly this is as much a spiritual battle (or more) as a physical battle.
Please pray for the young girls who are used as sex slaves and who give birth in the bush. We had a 15 year old girl arrive at the hospital in labour - she needed a C-section. She was skin and bones, and the baby did not survive. This is very typical. Please pray also for the aid workers after they have returned home - there are few who can understand the things you see there and the ways in which they affect you. Even myself... I was only there a short time - a few weeks - and yet nearly a year later, sitting on my bed at Halloween I heard fireworks and just about jumped out of my skin. My stomach turned over and I was immediately back in Kitgum... you can imagine the impact on those who have lived there much longer.
I did not mean for this prayer request to be a dissertation :) It's just once you start praying for this area, there are just more and more things to pray for! Thanks for making it this far, and please pray as much as you can for this. Thank you!
Update: After the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for several LRA commanders in late October, the LRA has been targetting foreigners as an attack against the international community. In the past two weeks 5 foreign aid workers have been killed, more have been injured, and a British tourist who went to the aid of a group of river rafters was also killed when his vehicle was ambushed. I have heard from my friend Ann, who lives in the north with her baby and works with formerly abducted children. They are ok, but things are very tense. I have not heard from my friend Lois, who looks after the orphans. They do not have a fence or any security. Please continue to pray for them, and for peace in the north.
Lord Jesus, send your fearless Christian warriors of peace and justice to Uganda - to wash away the fear, terror and disease that sin-causing Satan want to keep alive in the hearts of Ugandans. Jesus sacrificed his life to save all of us from the terrifying injustices of non-Christians. Boost your supernatural healing inside the hearts of all Ugandans from those who are homeless and to those who are politicans who are so worried-concerned for the people's health and safety.:*:.
We Christians in our global community wait patiently for the coming of our victorious Lord Jesus, hopefully very soon in the future, so that Satan can be defeated and sin can be deleted once Jesus has transformed our old earth-born selves to new glorious minds and bodies of Christ...
As we socialize together as brothers and sisters of Christ in God's most massive and most modern place of Community: the Kingdom of God on a new oceanless planet Earth where Christ's supernatural joy will be so over-joyous, our hearts will be so very positive and our faces so very always smiling.:*:.

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Kony 2012


Kony social media campaign sparks scepticism

The 'Kony 2012' campaign aims to make famous the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, Joseph Kony, "not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice".Rebel leader Kony has been terrorising Uganda for 26 years, using his criminal gang to abduct young Ugandans and use them as child soldiers, and he is at the top of the International Criminal Court's most wanted list.Leaders of the Kony 2012 campaign - advocacy group Invisible Children - posted

this video

on Monday, asking people to share the call for action to ensure Kony's arrest and to donate money.

Rightfully, the campaign has provoked outrage at Kony, but it's also copping criticism, with some claiming it is driving emotional responses from uninformed "slacktivists" and collecting donations that could be better used elsewhere.Senior lecturer at Flinders University and president of the Africa Studies Centre, Tanya Lyons, fears the film is exploitative and ineffective."I think it's quite interesting the film producer was willing to exploit a young child in a good versus evil, very emotive, documentary, which is trying to tap into the western guilt for inaction," Dr Lyons said.

But while Dr Lyons believes there are better organisations to donate to for the cause - such rehabilitation centres for child soldiers - she does acknowledge the value in drawing attention to the issue, which has so long been neglected.

"I think it's great people are becoming aware of it. I think people should get a map out and look at Uganda and find out about the history of this country," she said.

More info at the link.

We got trouble.

I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m notalone. Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee. But it goes way deeper than that.The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. Thesebooks each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

More info at the link.

How is UNICEF helping child soldiers in Uganda?

How is UNICEF helping children in Uganda?
UNICEF focuses on the three key steps to assisting child soldiers:
Disarmament by taking the guns off children
Demobilisation by ensuring children are moved away from living in barracks; and
Reintegration by assisting former child soldiers to integrate back into society and the community.
UNICEF works with key local partners to assist formerly abducted children by supporting centres that provide family tracing and psychosocial counselling. UNICEF assists such centres in the provision of shelter materials, medical services, psychosocial counselling support and vocational skills-training, and facilitates the coordination between centres.

We also work to place the centre of support squarely on community members. This is essential to giving the formerly abducted their lives back.

The open participation of community members is an integral element in creating a protective environment for returnees and their families. Together, communities can address stigmatisation, limited economic viability and other common challenges faced by formerly abducted persons, and look together for solutions to reduce their vulnerability.

Providing job skills
Many former child soldiers in Uganda who have been freed from the LRA then find themselves being drawn again into armed conflict – this time with the national army.

Many of the former child soldiers have no other job skills and working for the army is often seen as a lesser of two evils. Yet those who have been abducted into the LRA need comprehensive rehabilitation. They need a chance to be reintegrated into the society. They need to find their families, return to school and have a normal life, which could take quite a long time.

UNICEF advocates for a period of disconnect between the end of captivity, and a time when the individual can make an informed decision on a future course of action.

More info at the link.

Invisible Children's response

Thank you for reading this and doing further research about Invisible Children and Kony 2012. In response to this explosion of interest about the Kony 2012 film, there have been hundreds of thousands of comments in support of the arrest of Joseph Kony and the work of Invisible Children. However, there have also been a few pieces written that are putting out false or mis-leading information about these efforts. This statement is our official response to some of these articles and is a source for accurate information about Invisible Children’s mission, financials and approach to stopping LRA violence.

Invisible Children’s mission is to stop LRA violence and support the war affected communities in Central Africa. These are the three ways we achieve that mission. Each is essential: 1) Document and make the world aware of the LRA. This includes making documentary films and touring these films around the world so that they are seen for free by millions of people. 2) Channeling the energy and awareness from informed viewers of IC films into large scale advocacy campaigns that have mobilized the international community to stop the LRA and protect civilians. 3) Operate programs on the ground in the LRA-affected areas to provide protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.
As you will see, we spend roughly one third of our money on each of these three goals. This three-prong approach is what makes invisible children unique. Some organizations focus exclusively on documenting human rights abuses, some focus exclusively on international advocacy or awareness, and some focus exclusively on, on-the-ground development. We do all three. At the same time. This comprehensive model is intentional and has shown to be very effective.

More info at the link.

Extract from an Opinion Piece - Playing heroes and villains with Kony 2012

I’m no Africa expert, so I found one – one of Australia’s best, Dr Tanya Lyons.She says it sounds like Kony 2012 are “cashing in” on a problem that’s been around for decades, and she warns that there really is no simple solution.
“I love Australian democracy and isn’t it wonderful that we have the choice to click on this link to make us feel better,” the Flinders University senior lecturer said.
“But they’re not heroes for clicking on a link. They’re just lazy. And giving money won’t help.”
Dr Lyons said Kony has support because he offers destitute people a job and resources. He has power, influence, and access to weapons. You can’t just take the one guy down and think that’s problem solved.
So what should people do with all their well-meaning enthusiasm?
“It would be better to put pressure on our new Foreign Affairs Minister to keep going for the seat on the Security Council so we can have a voice in the arena,” she said.
“But of course that’s boring, isn’t it?”

More info available, PM me for the link but this is the only useful contribution from the article, in my opinion.

Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions

About ten minutes into the video, the narrator asks his young son who “the bad guy” in Uganda is; when his young son hesitates, he informs him that Joseph Kony is the bad guy. In a sense, he let Kony off lightly: he is a monster. But what the narrator also failed to do was mention to his son that when a bad guy like Kony is running riot for years on end, raping and slashing and seizing and shooting, then there is most likely another host of bad guys out there letting him get on with it. He probably should have told him that, too.I don’t think that Invisible Children are naïve. I don’t think that President Obama was ever blind to this matter either: his own father, a Kenyan, hails from the Luo, the same tribal group that has suffered so much at the hands of Kony. My hunch – and hope – is that they see this campaign as a way to encourage wider and deeper questions about wholly inadequate governance in this area of Africa.

And as far as President Museveni is concerned, my thoughts are these: if thousands of British children were being kidnapped from their towns each year and recruited into an army, you can bet that David Cameron would be facing some very, very serious questions in the Commons. You can bet that he would be grilled on why, years after the conflict began, there were still about a million of his citizens slowly dying in squalor in ill-equipped refugee camps. You can also bet that, after twenty-odd years of this happening on his watch, he wouldn’t still be running the country.

More info at the link.

Obama Takes on the LRA

Until the underlying problem -- the region's poor governance -- is adequately dealt with, there will be no sustainable peace. Seriously addressing the suffering of central Africans would require engagement of a much larger order. A huge deployment of peacekeeping troops with a clearly recognized legal mandate would have to be part of it. Those forces would need to be highly trained, have an effective command structure, be closely monitored, and be appropriately equipped with sophisticated surveillance equipment and helicopters, among other things. It would require a long-term commitment and would be targeted not only at chasing the LRA. Moreover, it would make the protection of the local populations a key priority. Finally, the deployment of such a force would need to have emerged from concerted efforts in international diplomacy -- including with the African Union, the United Nations, the ICC, and governments in the region -- not as a knee-jerk reaction to the most recent media splash.

Such a mission is unlikely to come about. Nonetheless, it underlines the point that a superficial focus on the activities of one man and a few of his commanders largely sidesteps the point. Kony and his colleagues lead a dreadful but relatively small organization that punches above its weight. If achieving stability and relative prosperity in this blighted region of Africa is the real objective, devoting the month of November to the LRA will obviously not be anything like enough.

More info at the link.

If you've watched Bowling for Columbine the "What a Wonderful World" montage was exactly what I was thinking of when I read this article. VERY concerning.

Uganda: ACHOLI Clergy Opposed to Military Action Against Kony

ACHOLI religious leaders are opposed to the US military strategy against Joseph Kony, saying it will only make the conflict and suffering spill over to more people.Recently the American government sent troops to Uganda saying that they are to help the UPDF in pursuing Kony and his rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Part of the 100 troops would be based in Uganda while others will be in the DRC with the regional forces.
In a press conference on Friday, the chairman of the Episcopal Conference Gulu Archbishop John Baptist Odama said the religious leaders wrote to the American government denouncing the military engagement just as they were beginning to discuss sending troops.
"Our stand as Acholi religious leaders is that we do not want the aspect of pursuing Kony with military means. That is an engagement, isn't it? History has taught us. Pursuing these people militarily will just make the conflict and suffering spill over to other places," Archbishop Odama said.
He said that there are other ways that Kony can be brought out peacefully.

More info at the link.
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