Invisible Children pushes for visible change in Uganda

For almost 25 years, Uganda has been engulfed in a horrific civil war. Since 2006, the Marquette chapter of Invisible Children has been working to enlighten students and help bring peace to the war-torn nation.

Tonight, Invisible Children will showcase the film “Tony” from 7 to 9 p.m. in Emory Clark Hall. Peter King, a pastor in northern Uganda, will also give a firsthand account of the war. King mentors students the organization has given scholarships to.

The event is also a fundraiser, with Invisible Children merchandise on sale. All proceeds will go toward rebuilding education, establishing radio networks and funding rescue teams to help children escape and reconnect with their families.

Headquartered in San Diego, Invisible Children sends representatives called “roadies” to screen documentaries at different schools each semester. The current film shows the progress of a child named Tony over the last few years, and how Invisible Children has helped him.

Since 1987, Uganda has been engulfed in a fight between the Ugandan government and a group called the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony. The army, identified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Patriot Act, fights the government and represents the Acholi people, a group that claims to have been unjustly treated by the Ugandan government.

More than 30,000 children have been abducted by the LRA to serve as child soldiers since the beginning of the war, and more than 100,000 civilians have been killed, according to the United Nations website.

Christina Fiocchi, president of Invisible Children at Marquette, wants students to learn about the conflict and its effect on children.

“To instill fear, the LRA soldiers force the children to kill their families before abducting them,” Fiocchi said.

Fiocchi said many of the young girls abducted are forced to be wives of LRA soldiers and some are disowned by their families if they have a child by a rebel soldier. She said the LRA soldiers destroy villages so that if the children escape, they have nothing to go back to.

Since the late 1990s, the Ugandan government has sequestered citizens in displaced person camps as a safety measure. It was intended to be temporary, but there are still millions living in the camps, according to the U.N. website.

Fiocchi said Invisible Children at Marquette’s goal is to create awareness.

“We just want to get people involved and do what we can to help end the conflict,” Fiocchi said.

Dana Leonard, a sophomore in the College of Communication and member of the Invisible Children at Marquette executive board, thinks the event will make the conflict real for students. She said seeing the conflict on television is one thing, but hearing a firsthand account is another.

“This war has been going on for 25 years … that’s longer than I have been alive,” Leonard said.

Leonard said students do not recognize the impact Invisible Children is having on the world.

“History is being made right now,” Leonard said. “I don’t think anyone really knows it.”

Chima Korieh, a professor of African history in the College of Arts and Sciences, recognizes the work that Invisible Children has done and thinks it has made progress in raising awareness. But she said the conflict is far from over.

“The Ugandan conflict can be looked at as an outcome of ethnic ideology and conflict in post-colonial Africa,” Korieh said. “The LRA’s human rights violations are expanding beyond Ugandan borders to include the Congo and Sudan.”