**This post is from missionaries supported by Calgary Church and others. By missionaries we actually mean Ugandans in Uganda. Here’s Nicole.**
I know this is likely old news by now, but we have had power and internet issues and anyway, this is for those of you who were asking. Didn’t want to disappoint. It’s a collection of thoughts by Patrick and I. Hopefully, we will also get to be part of a larger discussion taking place within the communities of King’s bridge, The House and Calgary Church next month (end of April).
A lot of people have been asking us about this Kony thing, since it went viral. And since I am here in Uganda and married to a Ugandan, friends and family are looking to us to make sense out of the whole thing.
First of all, yay that everyone is talking about Uganda!
Second, I am no expert but being married to a Ugandan has helped me see and understand that there is usually more to any situation here than meets the eye.
So, here are a few thoughts. I’m sure someone somewhere has already covered all of this but since we haven’t had a) power, b) internet, c) high speed internet, it has taken a little longer to get back to you who have been asking the questions.
So, here goes…..
I first heard of Kony when I went to live and work in a place called Arua, in Northern Uganda in 2007. I remember my colleagues talking about the war and how Arua came to be a safe haven for many people because the river divided our side from the side where all the fighting was talking place. So, any concerns I might have had about the LRA invading our area, were quickly put to rest. In fact, Kony had been pushed out of Uganda sometime before I got there, around 2006, and the area was experiencing relative peace. We traveled freely and even went to South Sudan without worry.
One of my colleagues, a young woman, told me her story of being abducted by the LRA some years ago and how she escaped. And later I would meet two teachers from the war torn region who told some spine tingling stories of trying to live, work and survive in those days.
The closest I ever got to the LRA, was hearing they had passed through a town in South Sudan that we had planned to take some young adults to for an outreach. Needless to say, we chose a new location within Uganda for that outreach.
As for this movie produced by Invisible Children, I do have some critiques. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely, fully support the capturing of Kony and I do believe he needs to be tried for his crimes against humanity! But the producer of this film has made it sound as though Kony is still terrorizing Uganda, when in fact he has been hiding out in Congo for about 4 years now evading his capture. The LRA numbers, I understand, are even greatly diminished and they no longer have any real mission, they are just trying to survive by looting and razing various villages they come across in the DRC. Oh and as an aside, the producer tells us that Uganda is in Central Africa…wrong! Uganda is in East Africa. I was kind of surprised that someone living and working here and so committed to his cause would make such a mistake. Anyway, I suppose that is a minor boo boo, but it bothered me anyway.
The producer, Russell, also makes it seem as though nothing has been or is being done to capture Kony. Well, there are two things to mention here.
1. The UPDF (Uganda People’s Defense Force) as I mentioned above, were successful in chasing Kony out of Uganda, but not without their own heinous acts that should also be punished!
2. The government of Uganda may have had a reason to keep the LRA around for all those years (20+) because, well, just maybe it might have resulted in lots of aid from foreign donors, and perhaps a reason for the current president to remain in power too. I am speculating but others (Ugandans) are quite united on these facts, as just that, facts.
So, you see there is so much more going on than people realize. And what the Invisible Children organization fails to mention is that we are dealing with a corrupt government here, a failed democratic system, a leader who ignores his people’s cries and perhaps that is why countries from the west are hesitant to get involved. Well, unless of course there is recently discovered oil in the region. Oh, that might change things.
Well, I may sound cynical, but I have been living here, actually, living in the North as well as the Eastern parts of Uganda, both affected by the war. I’ve seen the lack of health care, the poverty, the poor infrastructure. I have lived with the power cuts, the water cuts. I’ve seen the protests happen and seen the protesters squashed beneath the ruling thumb of the current government. Innocent people tear gassed, shot, arrested. People here try to raise their voices, but are quickly silenced.
To sum up, I think Russell has missed the mark. Because, what the children of that war need, those ones who were abducted and released and are now growing into adulthood, is a look at the current situation.
Yes, Kony needs to be captured, but he is not a threat to Uganda as he once was. What is now a threat to Ugandans, is an approximately 85% unemployment rate, a failed health care system, HIV/AIDS, broken families, the trauma of the war, diseases like malaria, lack of clean water, a corrupt government. These things need to be addressed as emergencies, not capturing Kony.
There are a number of people and groups trying their best to meet these needs. And they are the ones who need our help.
The one thing I can be thankful for, is that this video has put Uganda on the map and people are discussing the issues. That is great! Let’s keep talking and see how we can best be of help to Ugandans.