It was a pretty day here in North Carolina. Lots of sun and the green of leaves are various shades of green due to the time of year. There is one leaf on the edge of the river which has lost all of its leaves.
It isn’t always pretty in many parts of the world. There are places in South America, Uganda, Sudan, the Congo where there is a disturbing lack of children. There are places controlled by the LRA, the Lord’s Resistance Army. In Uganda, they are considered the worst of the rebel or terrorist groups. For over twenty years they have been fighting a vicious civil war with the Uganda government in power.
I started doing research and I found that I though I understood child soldiers but I didn’t really. The LRA and other groups go into villages and torch them. They drag out all of the adults regardless of gender or age and they are killed. People sometimes get out and they are part of the migrating populations wandering Europe looking for a place to be safe and secure.
They are running from torture, murder, abduction and rape. The LRA is known for its atrocities and they take the cake for sheer brutality. They have been known to cut off the noses and lips of people as a warning to others who might try to resist them.
The real horror story is the children. Children are valued and needed for these ongoing wars. The UN has estimated that ten thousand children have been taken in the last twenty years. So a village is invaded, burned, adults are killed and the children are stolen. Can you imagine just how terrified a hand full of children can be after watching all of this? Even children who attempt to resist are killed.
The children are then made to carry all of the stuff the rebels have plundered back to jungle camps. They may even been carrying their own possessions or their grandparents. The boys are then forced into the army, little ones carrying guns as big as they are. They are killed if they refuse. So we have child soldiers who will begin indoctrination but mostly I believe their fear is what keeps them there.
The little girls, if they are lucky, are married off to soldiers. It gives me shivers to use the term ” married off ” because it makes me want to retch. So these are the lucky girls and then there are the others. These little girls are used for menial tasks and labor or are sold as sex slaves for the rest of their lives.The LRA leader is Joseph Kony, who is a self-styled Old Testament prophet who feels God is a God of vengeance and retribution.
His second in command is considered more vicious. There is legend that he once attacked his home village, killing over two hundred friends and neighbors. No one is even trying to guess how many deaths and child soldiers he is responsible for over the past twenty years. His name is Otti. They are both wanted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
This group moved in Sudan apparently with an invitation of the government. These groups are like ghosts so they are not held accountable for their crimes.They are armed to the teeth and have surface to air missiles. Many of the groups fighting each other are using child soldiers.
Prostitution is rife, Aids endemic, corruption rampant, families dysfunctional and life expectancy is approximately forty years.
Then the are the children whose villages have not been attacked and who walk for miles from the camps into nearby towns to evade the LRA.Thousands of children, Night walkers. Thousands and thousands of frightened children who want an education and who want to live. They walk for miles to escape the LRA. They call them ” the invisible children.”They sleep wherever they can find a place to curl up. In the mornings, they walk back to school; usually without food. They do this every day. Day after day. I can’t imagine our kids being willing to do this for an education.
So now we know where the children have gone. Now what do we do to change the disappearance of all of these child soldiers and sex trafficked girls?
I am not able to do much to help. I write to you all so you can do what you can. But I do suggest joining Amnesty International and write letters, I suggest writing to the UN and asking what can be done by regular people like us. I am going to begin with Amnesty International. The more noise we make, the more often this is talked about, the sooner the official agencies will begin to dismantle these corrupt, brutal groups.