While wasting time on Facebook recently, I came across a group called “Save a Random African Country.” This description clearly mocked those who are involved with aid programs to Africa, asking why they bother when America still has problems of its own. I understand that to the creator of the group, the problems plaguing the continent of Africa may seem distant and irrelevant, but the problems of America don’t hold a candle to those of Africa and other third-world countries. We have an obligation to do something.
The sight of a malnourished 6-year-old boy begging for food isn’t a common sight in D.C., but it is an everyday occurrence in downtown Cairo. I don’t think that enough Americans realize how lucky they are to live in a country as rich in natural resources as the United States, especially considering that our government actually pays some farmers to leave land fallow, while people in sub-Saharan Africa starve to death.
In addition to an abundance of resources, we enjoy unparalleled safety and security compared to the people in many African countries. Americans can go to sleep in their own beds and not worry about being woken up in the middle of the night by a gun in their faces, a constant thought in the back of the mind of those living in northern Uganda.
This Saturday, thousands of Americans will camp out for one night in 136 cities across the country to raise awareness for the invisible children in northern Uganda who walk for miles every night to find a safe place where they can sleep. Each day, an estimated 30,000 children walk from the rural villages of this region to cities so they can sleep packed together in bus stations, hospitals and schools. All this because it is not safe for them to spend the night with their families in villages that are prey to the killings and kidnappings of that nation’s Lord’s Resistance Army.
This is a call to all GW students to take action. Participate in the Global Night Commute and stand up for change today. GW students are meeting at Kogan Plaza at 6 p.m. on Saturday to walk to John Marshall Park. Bring your sleeping bag, flashlight, guitar and board games. You can also learn more about the conflict and sign up at www.invisiblechildren.com.
In 20 years of civil war, an estimated 25,000 children have been abducted by the LRA to serve as soldiers, servants and sex slaves. The LRA prefers to kidnap young children for its army because they are easier to indoctrinate than older ones. Of the abducted, 7,500 are girls and 1,000 of them have conceived children during captivity. An unknown number of them have also been killed. Since the passing of a general amnesty act in 1999, horrific stories of rape, mutilation and retaliatory killings have surfaced, underscoring the inhuman conditions in Uganda.
Almost two million people have been displaced by the war in northern Uganda. Each week, an estimated 900 people die in the region as a result of the violence and unsanitary conditions in camps, and the death rate there is three times that of Iraq. According to a recent report by 50 prominent non-governmental organizations, northern Uganda is one of the world’s worst war zones with the least amount of media attention. America didn’t get involved in Rwandan crisis of 1994 until it was too late – let’s learn from our mistakes and demand that the United States take a firm stand on peace in Uganda.
-The writer, a senior majoring in Middle Eastern studies, is a member of Uganda-CAN.