Saving the Child Soldiers: U.S. to Send 100 Military Advisers to End Terrorist Regime in Uganda

It seems that in recent years, heinous villains are running out of luck.  Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi have met their fate and hopefully Joseph Kony will soon be added to the list. Since the 1980’s, Kony and the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), have been tearing through Uganda, South Sudan, Congo and the Central African Republic, raping, killing and mutilating villagers, and stealing young boys for child soldiers to boost the army’s forces.

Over the past ten years, a growing awareness of the atrocities committed by Kony and his regime has surfaced in the United States. Invisible Children, a non-profit organization, along with the support of college students from across the country, sent powerful petitions to Congress pleading for the U.S. to assist in the capture and prosecution of Kony. The Bush administration did support an attack on Kony’s military quarters, but the attempt failed and the LRA continued to wage brutal assaults and killings on tens of thousands of innocent people.

In 1987, Kony founded the LRA  in an attempt to overthrow Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni by reigniting a religious uprising against the government known as the Holy Spirit movement. Kony took over as leader for his (supposed) exiled cousin, Alice Lakwena, who formed the movement with much support from the Acholi people. Kony did not receive the same backing as Lakwena from the Acholis and resorted to abducting children for combatants to fight the government’s offensives. It is unclear exactly how many children have been abducted, but several reports show a range of 30,000-50,000 children to have gone missing in the conflict.

Many of the children are no older than 11 and have been subjected to the most unimaginable circumstances. Forced to take drugs, kill and maim members of their village, schools and families, the child soldiers are extremely difficult to rehabilitate once saved from the regime’s control.

Sister Giovanna, an Italian nun who cares for children who have been abducted by the LRA shared her deep concerns in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal:

These children have been taught to kill without mercy. Those who are able to escape come back traumatized, she told Ms. Farrow of the WSJ. She pointed to a slight, silent boy of 11 or 12. That child was forced to kill his father, breaking his head with a log.

Do you think the children can ever forget what they did? Sister Giovanna said. They scream in the night.

In 2001, the U.S. Patriot Act declared the LRA to be a terrorist organization, making Kony and two of his highest ranking leaders wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and using children as combatants. Several other attempts to disarm the LRA were made by Ugandan forces, but none were enough to wipe out the regime.

In 2010, a law calling for “political, economic, military and intelligence support” for multinational efforts to apprehend Kony and the LRA passed with bipartisan support under the Obama administration. Many believe that the deployment of 100 U.S. military advisers to Uganda will be the deadly blow needed to dismantle Kony and his cronies once and for all.

Critics of the U.S. involvement may not truly understand the importance of this decision as a necessary strategy to end any further crimes against humanity in Uganda. The U.S. currently spends tens of millions of dollars each year providing humanitarian assistance to communities assaulted by the LRA, so this is simply the next and long-awaited step in ending a terrible war.

Photo by: Liz St. Jean Photography/Flickr

 

 

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