Invisible Children make selves seen at UMass

By Chelsea Whitton

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






One man – Joseph Kony, and his army have horrified five nations in Africa for 20 years, abducting and training thousands of children as soldiers and slaying those opposed to his militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army. But his political motivations and relentless murders have not gone without opposition or response.

Invisible Children, a non-profit group which has raised awareness and advocated for the end of Kony’s tyranny since 2003, brought over 200 attendees together last night in the University of Massachusetts’ Campus Center auditorium for the Invisible Children Spring 2010 Legacy Tour presentation – a 10-week tour visiting different regions of the U.S.

The event began with an Invisible Children documentary screening, based on the experiences of three filmmakers, Jason Russell, Laren Poole and Bobby Bailey, while they attempted to find a story to film in Africa. They arrived first in Sudan, but quickly found an untold story waiting in Uganda, specifically in the northern city of Gulu, where they found thousands of children fleeing from the LRA each night and children involved unwillingly in the LRA.

The documentary chronicled children who had fled from their vulnerable villages to shelters, where they would huddle side by side each night, hiding from the LRA. The children, mostly orphans, were invisible to the rest of the world and the Ugandan government. This greatly impacted the filmmakers, and upon their return to the U.S., they started Invisible Children in San Diego, Calif.

The staff of Invisible Children said since the documentary, the LRA has retreated from northern Uganda, and the children no longer walk at night to shelters.

Invisible Children has come to the aid of the ravaged people of Uganda, forming schools and scholarships for former child soldiers and those affected by the war.

The Legacy Tour promotes a program where donors give a monthly individual contribution of $35 to a fund dispersed throughout a secondary school in Uganda. Another Invisible Children scholarship funds Ugandan students participating in college, with $65 enough to cover a student’s monthly fee.

“It’s surprising to see how much even $35 can do,” said freshman Amanda Davis. “Its only three or four nights of giving up wings.”

After the documentary, the Invisible Children staff Roadies introduced Opwanya Innocent, a 20 year-old former LRA child solider, and freshman at the Kampala International University in Uganda. He stood on stage with a white sweatshirt and gray t-shirt, though Innocent proved to be a college student with quite a different background than most.

He was taken from his village in Gulu and forced to participate in the LRA until he had the opportunity to flee. After fleeing, Innocent described how he was able to study and prepare for his dream – to change Uganda’s government and create peace in a country that has seen war for some two decades. Making his attendance of Kampala International University possible is the Legacy Scholarship.

As for Uganda’s future, Invisible Children hopes to be there along the way, and so does Innocent.

“Uganda needs somebody fresh,” said Innocent, who announced he plans to run for president of Uganda in 2021.

“I need to forget about my past and start moving on,” said Innocent of his motivation to change the political landscape of Uganda.

Invisible Children’s influence on the U.S. government may be manifesting itself if the “LRA Disarmament & Northern Uganda Recovery Act 2009” is passed by the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

“You’ve got to start somewhere, the bill is a huge first step,” said UMass senior Danielle Soto.

Other than the potential for the act to be signed by President Obama, Innocent said, “We are going to the UN headquarters, and this is the perfect chance to talk about the condition of the war.”

The Act, if passed would address three ongoing problems in Uganda; the U.S. would work with Uganda, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan to enforce peace, it would work to keep innocent civilians protected, and it would help rebuild Uganda.

Omara Christo, Innocent’s mentor is confident in his aspirations.

“He’s seen the injustices, what the government is lacking. He knows first hand. He wants to change injustice and is the perfect candidate for doing so,” said Christo.

As for the 10 week tour in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut Innocent said, “I love it.” He has the semester off from Kampala International University to tour and will return to Kampala in May to continue his studies in economics and statistics.

The event was sponsored by UMass sorority Iota Gamma Upsilon.

For more information on Invisible Children or to contribute to the Legacy Scholarship visit, www.invisiblechildren.com and http://www.invisiblechildren.com/theMovement/National_Tour.

Chelsea Whitton can be reached at [email protected]