An Invisible Children Event personalized the war in Africa for students.
Ninety. That is the percentage of soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army who were recruited as children, and Oroma Nancy Knox was almost one of them.
“I was with a group of people on my way home from school when we were ambushed by the Lord’s Resistance Army,” Knox said. “I escaped, but many that I was with were killed.”
Knox, a native Ugandan, told this story to Temple students last Thursday. Invisible Children – a national organization dedicated to telling the story of the LRA in Africa and inspiring young people to make a difference – brought her to Temple.
The LRA, led by Joseph Kony, has been fighting the government of Uganda for more than 20 years. It has employed brutal tactics on the Ugandan people, including the abduction of 66,000 children for use in the army’s fighting force. The United States Department of State has labeled the LRA as a terrorist organization.
Knox’s narrow escape from the LRA occurred in 2002, but she said it still affects her today.
“There was so much fear – fear of being abducted, fear of being killed,” Knox said.
After the ambush, Knox continued walking home and found four people dead. She then experienced a second ambush, which she was able to escape from.
“I did finally reach home,” she said. “I never gave up on my life or my future – perseverance.”
Perseverance was exactly the theme of the Invisible Children documentary, “Tony,” which was shown to the audience prior to Knox’s testimony as part of the “Congo tour.”
The film told the story of Tony Bazilo, a Ugandan youth who changed the life of Invisible Children co-founder Laren Poole. Poole first met Bazilo when he traveled to Uganda at the age of 19. He said he was inspired by Bazilo’s fun-loving spirit in the midst of a war-zone.
“I need a girlfriend from the United States,” Bazilo said in the documentary, pointing out his fondness of Jennifer Lopez in particular.
Poole was amazed by Bazilo’s ability to laugh and listen to his favorite American rappers, or as he called them, “homies,” despite the fact that the war had forced him to become a “night commuter.” “Night commuters” are African children who travel from their homes in the country to the cities in order to sleep at night, where they are better protected
from LRA abductions. Tony and the other children had to mop water off from the floor before they could sleep each night and do their homework by dim candlelight.
Through his many trips to Uganda, Poole and Invisible Children members have learned that the homework Tony used to do on a wet floor each night was extremely important. After talking to many Ugandans, Poole said she believes education is the best way to rebuild the country and make the people independent.
In response, Invisible Children has created a legacy scholarship program to educate the children of Uganda and has set up Invisible Children chapters at universities throughout the country to spread awareness of the war in Africa.
“What got me involved in Invisible Children was the shock of knowing the war was going on and for my whole life, I had no idea – and I read the news,” said Michele Aweeky, the co-president of Temple’s Invisible Children chapter. “All of this stuff happens under the mainstream American media’s nose.”
This is one of the reasons Knox left Uganda – to share her story and make Americans aware of the LRA so that they can help.
“My life is a testimony that peace is worth fighting for,” Knox said.
Invisible Children is now fighting for peace with its new “Protection Plan,” which aims to build a rehabilitation center for child soldiers, create a radio network throughout Uganda, so that people can warn each other of LRA attacks and form a search-and-rescue team to return child soldiers to their homes. All of this is being financed through Invisible
Children’s fundraising campaigns that Knox advocated while speaking at Temple.
“What contribution will you give? What will you do?” Knox asked students. “The time is right now. Together we shall end this war.”
Amy Stansbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.