Carrying blankets, pastries and high hopes, about 35 GW students left Kogan Plaza Saturday afternoon to join a nationwide, overnight rally against the abuse of children in war-torn northern Uganda.
“It’s been going on for 20 years. No one’s been paying attention to it whatsoever,” said senior Jacqueline Burgess, founder of the GW chapter of Uganda-CAN. “A whole generation has been wiped out because no one has been paying attention.”
The international Global Night Commute, organized by Invisible Children, Inc., was an assembly for almost 1,200 college students, high school students and community members at John Marshall Park in downtown D.C. The protesters, who spent Saturday night in the park, gathered in memoriam of the 20,000 to 50,000 children who are abducted to fight in what has been repeatedly labeled as the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”
Invisible Children, Inc. began to spread the plight of Ugandan children when three University of Southern California students traveled to northern Uganda and created one of the most celebrated documentaries in the college and high school spectrum. The film and organization is centered on northern Uganda’s child soldiers, who have been continually forced into one of Africa’s longest wars at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebellious force that has fought for the disestablishment of the Ugandan government.
“The use of child soldiers is agreeably one of the greatest human rights violations of our time,” sophomore Damien Shirley said. “I’m hoping to raise the profile. It’s nothing less than a human rights conflict,” he later added.
Joining him was senior Trinh Tran, who studied abroad in Kenya. “To show your presence, showing your face, showing solidarity,” Tran said was the key to an effective response to what she described as the United States “getting really disattached from issues in Africa.”
The rally featured one of the film and organization’s directors, Bobby Bailey. Bailey stood with a megaphone facing more than 1,000 of the area’s concerned citizens, encouraging them to be proactive and communicate their concerns and demands with their senators.
“They’re going to be bombed come May 1,” yelled Bailey, referring to the approximately 60,000 letters the Senate would receive within the next few days. “This is the one war we think we can end,” he said as a massive cheer of approval arose from the crowd of neon signs stating slogans such as “unite Uganda.” The D.C. rally was one of many held around the country Saturday. Organizers said around 60,000 people participated nationwide.
This article appeared in the May 1, 2006 issue of the Hatchet.