Resolve will take to the road this spring on THE RESOLVE TOUR, accompanied by one of the most powerful voices in music today, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, artist and activist Koji. The six-week tour of the United States will take place in March and April of 2011. The presentation will be a powerful combination of music, storytelling, media, and visual art, with an emphasis on empowerment to create change and build community. Following each event will be a workshop for those interested in getting further involved through concrete and effective action.
Here’s a sneak peak at Koji:
Want Koji and Resolve to come to you? Nate Dorough at Phantom Creative Group, who represents Koji, will be booking the tour. We are seeking hosts for events who are passionate about both supporting art and helping humanity. Target venues will range from schools to legitimate small music venues, and from local art galleries and libraries to intimate house shows.
Those interested in hosting THE RESOLVE TOUR are encouraged to get in touch with Nate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 2005, Resolve has worked together with communities in central Africa seeking an end to the brutal violence committed by Joseph Kony and other top leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group at the center of Africa’s longest and arguably most ignored war. For more than two decades, the LRA has abducted tens of thousands of children, forcing them to become child soldiers and sex slaves in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. This war has been largely ignored by the international community even though it is characterized by widespread, brutal violence against civilians, namely children.
The dedicated team at Resolve conducts in-depth field and policy research related to the LRA crisis and facilitates nationwide advocacy campaigns in order to both motivate political leaders to make ending this crisis a genuine priority and guide their efforts toward effective, responsible policymaking.
Let’s keep going. Join us for a performance by Koji and THE RESOLVE TOUR.
This week our friends at Human Rights Watch, who’ve done several recent trips to LRA-affected areas in central Africa, posted video messages from people in LRA-affected communities to President Obama and world leaders urging them to take action to stop LRA atrocities.
People in LRA-affected areas are not the only ones speaking up. As one of our supporters said in a message to President Obama, “The violation of basic human rights is atrocious and if we can do anything to make a difference, then we should.” Well, the good news is you can. If you haven’t yet, take 20 seconds to make your personal pledge to read President Obama’s LRA strategy—due later this month—and ask your friends and family to do the same. Your voice can help make sure it includes the major investment of new resources and leadership needed to achieve peace. And this week, Resolve is proud to announce our first-ever contest—come up with a creative way to promote the pledge, and you could win fabulous prizes!
And now for this week’s news:
The Good: Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA4) released a statement this week, saying “The Lord’s Resistance Army is a menace to the people of East Africa and the world. I will review President Obama’s strategy and support efforts to stop the LRA from maiming, raping, and killing once and for all.”
A UN humanitarian chief called for better protection of civilians in South Sudan from LRA attacks, and stressed the need to ensure access to humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations amid potential conflict surrounding next year’s referendum on southern independence.
An article in the Economist examines the devastating consequences of the LRA’s campaign of violence across central Africa, and highlights the potential of Obama’s upcoming strategy on the LRA to turn things around on the ground.
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
A Ugandan government representative promised to support former LRA abductees and reward war veterans as they work to rebuild their lives. He made this announcement at the funeral of a notable northern Ugandan radio presenter who led a successful radio program encouraging LRA abductees to defect and return home.
The Ugandan electoral commission announced this week that it has registered 13.9 million voters—nearly 100% of the country’s eligible voters—for next year’s Presidential elections, and has also set up a forum for dealing with election-related complaints.
Survivors of LRA atrocities from DR Congo and the Central African Republic called on President Obama to take urgent action to protect civilians from atrocities and bring the perpetrators of war crimes to justice. Watch a powerful video of their appeals on Human Rights Watch’s website here.
Our friend Sam Bell over at Genocide Intervention Net/Save Darfur Coalition wrote a great piece yesterday drawing attention to the implications of possible links between the Sudanese government and the LRA on President Obama’s recent decision to offer to withdraw Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List. The moral of the story? President Obama and his Sudan envoy Maj. Gen. Scott Gration need to do more to investigate reports that LRA commanders are in South Darfur and trying to get supplies and support from the Sudanese army. What do you think?
SHOULD SUDAN COME OFF THE STATE SPONSORS OF TERRORISM LIST? GI-NET/SDC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR WEIGHS IN
The Obama Administration announced that Sudan could come off the State Sponsors of Terrorism List (SSTL) as early as July. As I wrote yesterday, we don’t see this as a fundamental change in strategy because the Administration has pledged not to lift the associated sanctions until progress is made on Darfur and CPA implementation. However, legally it is unclear whether or not Sudan can be de-listed given its past and possible current links with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Intelligence officials for a long time have insisted that the Government of Sudan has been helpful in the Global War on Terror, including detaining militants on their way to fight U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Of course, Government of Sudan famously invited Osama bin Laden to live in Sudan in 1993 and only expelled him after pressure from the U.S. in 1997.
Without having access to classified intelligence, it is impossible for us to know if the Government of Sudan is cooperating with the U.S. on counterterrorism and to what extent. At least some legislators with access to the classified intelligence challenge the notion that Khartoum is an ally in this area. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in July 2009, Senator Feingold, who also serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, disputed the suggestion that Sudan be removed from the SSTL and asked, “What tangible evidence have you seen that Khartoum is actually acting in good faith?” He said Sudan’s cooperation to end terrorism had been “overstated.”
Even if Khartoum has at times been helpful to U.S. counterterrorism efforts, it does not follow that it is not sponsoring terrorist organizations. It is widely believed that Khartoum armed and supplied the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as it terrorized Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2001, President Bush placed the LRA on the Terrorist Exclusion List, where it remains today. Recent reports suggest that the LRA is likely near the CAR-Sudan border or in South Darfur, and some recently escaped members of the LRA report that LRA commanders are trying to renew links with the Sudanese government. Given its history of support for the LRA, the international community should investigate whether or not Khartoum is arming and supplying the LRA again. Even if the Government of Sudan is not supplying the LRA, it is unclear whether or not it is preventing international efforts to apprehend LRA leaders and/or protect civilians who could be victims of LRA attacks. By law, for Sudan to come off the State Sponsors of Terrorism List President Obama would have to certify that the Government of Sudan has not supported terrorism over the prior six months.
Before President Obama makes that certification, he should be sure that Sudan is not arming or has not recently armed the LRA, a group identified by the State Department as a terrorist organization. Doing so won’t be easy, but there are several ways the US can make sure that ties between Sudan and the LRA are not renewed. For one, Special Envoy Scott Gration should make clear to Sudanese officials that renewed support for the LRA will prevent the US from removing Sudan from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List, and should encourage Sudan to arrest any LRA forces that enter South Darfur. At the same time, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice should encourage the UN peacekeeping missions in Darfur and South Sudan to investigate allegations that Sudan has recently started to resupply the LRA.
Check out this video from our friends at Human Rights Watch. Anneke van Woudenberg and Ida Sawyer have conducted five research missions in recent months to remote villages in northern Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic that have been hard hit by LRA violence. While in the region, they listen to the stories of hundreds of people affected by the LRA, many of whom recorded video messages to President Obama and other world leaders urging them to take action to stop LRA attacks on their communities.
Now that you’ve seen it, you’re probably wondering how you can join your voice with theirs. There’s an easy way. Join the pledge. Make a public commitment to read President Obama’s soon-to-be-released strategy to end the violence perpetrated by the LRA and assist the recovery of affected communities, set to be released in a few days.
Your participation helps President Obama understand that Americans do care about what happens to families in central Africa. Along with your name, you can even write a message to the President explaining why this matters to you.
So, check out the messages on the video and add your name to the pledge to demonstrate your commitment to stand with the people of central Africa as we call on our leaders to turn their promises into the action needed for peace.
Put on your thinking caps and get our your crayons. It’s time to get creative. (To our fellow DC wonks, we found the definition of creative here.)
We’ve only got a few more days before President Obama releases his strategy to help end LRA violence in central Africa. We want to see 10,000 people pledge to read President Obama’s strategy when it is released. Right now, more than 4,000 of you have made that commitment. Let’s do the math.
10,000 – 4,000 = We need your help.
In order to increase that number substantially, we need to get attention in new ways. So… we’re issuing a challenge. Can you think of creative ways to get your friends and family to pledge with you to read President Obama’s strategy?
We want to know your ideas. Share them with us here. Then, get started. Make your videos, sing your songs, plow your crop circles, release your carrier pigeons…..Do whatever creative things you do best to convince the people in your circles of influence of how important this strategy is and that they should pledge to read it.
Some of you have already gotten started. Check out this video put together by our friend Willie Chase, a talented musician and committed activist from Southern California, who wanted to help us get the word out by sharing the pledge his friends and fans of his music.
Oh, and one last thing: The person whose creative idea gets the most “likes” on Facebook will receive a FABULOUS PRIZE PACKAGE, including a $50 online gift code from our friends at Ember Arts. (And as a bonus, we may throw in a signed photo of our intern, Brian.)
Earlier this week, we posted statements from some of the thousands of constituents who have made a personal pledge to read the President’s strategy on the LRA when it is released in just two week’s time, as part of our From Promise to Peace campaign. We continue to be inspired by your dedication and resolve to see LRA violence ended, and wanted to share some more statements with you. If you haven’t already, tell us why you are pledging to read the strategy—and then ask your friends to do the same.
As a young person becoming increasingly conscious of how much of the future is going to be determined by how my generation reacts to the problems our world faces, I know that I cannot stand for such vile things existing in the world as the LRA. I want to live in a world where such injustice is not tolerated. And I want to live in a country that stands up to it.
—Carissa Perkins, San Diego, CA
My family in Uganda has been part of the target group… And my parents and other family members are still suffering the effects of the atrocities of the LRA. My colleagues at school were abducted. Others are not yet [returned]. Some of my friends came back with parts of their bodies mutilated. Young girls abducted from our neighborhood came back home with children against their will. I am a living witness.
—Francis Ouma, Baltimore, MD
After spending four months studying post-conflict transformation in and around Uganda, I feel very personally involved in seeing that this war is stopped. One can only hope that a plan is still being developed and taken seriously on your end. I truly hope that your words turn into action and that we can come together and bring justice to this region.
—Tonia Hauser, Grand Rapids, MI
Know, Mr. President, that this act has the potential to be one of the most important things accomplished during your administration. Changing the world for hundreds of thousands of people now—and generations of people in the future—is an achievable goal, with the appropriate strategy. Do this the right way, with the knowledge it is the right thing to do for Africa. This is something hundreds of thousands of Americans are crying for, this is an opportunity thousands have worked for years to bring to your desk, we have faith in your abilities, we know that you will do what is right. Thank you.
—Adam Stephens, Huntington, WV
Because this is an international issue of the gravest kind. The LRA ruins entire generations of young Africans at a time when they need young leaders in order to rise up to their true potential. They need your help, and you are capable of giving it to them. The question is: Are you willing?
—Kaylee Krege, Minneapolis, MN
The violation of basic humans rights is atrocious and if we can do anything to make a difference, then we should.
—Elisa Fox, New York, NY
I pledge to read your strategy on the LRA because it matters. Because they are people. Because they deserve peace. Because they are my brothers and sisters, and yours too. We have the ability to help them and the responsibility. I will use my voice to keep you accountable and to make sure that justice is served.
—Laura Hopkins, San Diego, CA
This week the Senate bids farewell to two congressional champions on LRA issues, Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sam Brownback (R-KS). Feingold and Brownback, the original cosponsors of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, have both worked tirelessly for years to keep ending LRA violence and helping affected communities on the agenda of our government. Brownback retired from the Senate in order to serve as governor of Kansas, and Feingold was defeated by Ron Johnson (R-WI) in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
As chair of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on African Affairs, Feingold worked tirelessly not just on LRA issues, but also led advocacy on Sudan and Somalia. And Brownback, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and a fellow human rights advocate, helped Feingold spearhead the passage of the LRA/Northern Uganda bill, which earned the cosponsorship of 64 fellow Senators and was signed into law this May. They will be sorely missed, and we hope that in their absence other Senators will take up their mantle and keep the US government’s attention focused on LRA atrocities and northern Uganda.
The Good: Representative Sue Myrick (NC-09) committed to reading and responding to Obama’s LRA strategy.
The Bad: Mid-level LRA commanders face a number of barriers to defection from the ranks, including fear of hostility from the local community, misinformation about amnesty, and LRA reprisals if caught.
The Ugly: Several LRA-affected areas of northeastern DR Congo face severe food insecurity due to insecurity and high levels of population displacement, says the UN. Regional Security
A new Enough Project report examines the changes undergone by the LRA since 2008, and emphasizes the importance of preventing Sudan from providing support to the LRA, and the need to encourage LRA defections. It also notes that the LRA is employing sophisticated technology to enhance their capabilities, including GPS systems, satellite phones, and solar powered laptops.
A top Ugandan military official said that the LRA may have as few as 200 fighters in its ranks now, and that its numbers have been dwindling in recent years.
The UN reports in DR Congo, unlike in most African countries, people are actually worse off than they were 40 years ago as measured by human development indicators of health, education, and income, because of instability and armed conflict. Uganda, however, has made significant progress.
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
Human Rights Watch made a statement highlighting the importance of protecting media freedoms and prosecuting past human rights abuses in advance of next year’s national elections. “Voters and the news media need to feel safe to debate ideas and to express themselves if Uganda is going to have a free and fair election.”
The Uganda Human Rights Commission said in an annual report that the Ugandan Police Force is the biggest human rights abuser in the country. The Ugandan military has made slight improvements on human rights issues, but concerns remain about long sentences and sluggish processing of backlogged court marshal cases.
A White House memo explained recent waivers of restrictions on military aid to countries using child soldiers, maintaining that DR Congo, Chad, and Sudan are working to fix this problem, and that they believe the best way to help change their behavior is to keep working with them. Many human rights groups, however, remained unconvinced.
The Trust Fund for Victims, which provides counseling, medical treatment, and vocational support to victims of LRA abuses in conjunction with International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations, is facing severe funding shortages.
In Dungu, DR Congo, USAID officials met with civil society leaders, local officials, and UN personnel to discuss a project to expand radio telecommunications networks to serve as early warning systems, helping communities warn each other and notifying peacekeeping troops about impending LRA attacks.
In just a couple of weeks, President Obama will be releasing the first ever U.S. strategy to help end LRA violence once and for all. Thousands of Americans across the country have made a personal pledge to read and respond to the President’s strategy when it is released. In doing so, these individuals have voiced their commitment to hold President Obama accountable to his promise to “help bring an end to the brutality and destruction that have been a hallmark of the LRA across several countries for two decades, and to pursue a future of greater security and hope for the people of central Africa.”
Our deepest thanks to all of you who have already pledged. The Resolve team has loved reading your personal statements of commitment and we’ve included a handful of particularly inspiring ones below.
If you haven’t yet, tell us why you are pledging to read the strategy. Then, help us spread the word and reach our goal of 10,000 Americans pledging to read the President’s strategy.
This world is small, and no one should for one moment stop caring about these people and what is happening to them. We are a global community, and I refuse to let my neighbors be massacred.
—Emma Quarnstrom, Minneapolis, MN
We might be struggling with our economy, but every day, thousands of children in central Africa are struggling with their lives. As a teenager of only 15 years, I have much to learn. I want my generation to help the world for the better, and I want to participate in that change. President Obama, whilst running for election, you assured change. Here’s an adjustment you could make happen.
—Joanna Laquerre, Santa Rosa Beach, FL
Mr. President: I have personally sat across a table with children who have lost families and all forms of freedom because of the LRA and their atrocious wars. I promised them that I would tell their stories and be their voice. I won’t stop until they are heard.
—Steven Romeo, Tampa, FL
The elimination of the LRA became a passion for me on April 25, 2007, my 37th wedding anniversary, when I slept in a cardboard box in a field outside of Atlanta to help raise awareness of the plight of Northern Ugandans as a result of Joseph Kony’s cruelty. Please fulfill your pledge to devise a plan that will bring a measure of peace to these people. I was the oldest participant at the Displace Me event but we were all ONE, united for the good of our family in Africa
—Linda Price, Greenville, SC
As a teacher, I want to be able to tell my students that the American government recognizes the rights and liberties of all children and honors its promises to them.
—Jennifer Burks, Midlothian, VA
President Obama, the man that inspired me to get involved in politics and realize the true power of one single person is you. It is for this reason that I am pledging to read your strategy on the LRA. You, Mr. President, are a symbol of hope and hard work, which is exactly what we need to stop the LRA. The fact that the war in Uganda has been going on for so long breaks my heart and makes me question human compassion and action. It seems like in this age people would much rather ignore the atrocities that take place around the world instead of trying to fix them. They would rather not get involved because it is the easy thing to do. If you are the man that I think and hope you are, then you will not do what is easy in this situation but instead you will do what is right and just… I hope that I will be able to read your strategy and think, “Wow this is how the world should approach its problems.” You are my president and my hero and I really hope that your strategy on the LRA reflects that. I want peace. Thank you so much in advance for all of your hard work and dedication.
—Cassandra Carver, Virginia Beach, VA
It’s a busy time in DC! In just 22 days President Obama will release his strategy on the LRA, and we’re delighted that two more Members of Congress—Representative John Boozman from Arkansas and Paul Tonko from New York—have shown their resolve to end LRA violence by committing to read and respond to the President’s strategy when it is released.
The US midterm elections are also just a few days away, and before you head for the polls, we encourage you to check out your representatives’ records on the LRA with our Congressional Scorecards. After reading their report card, click here to send them an email and let them know how much you care about this issue. If they’ve got a good score, congratulate them! But if their grade could use some improvement, let them know that as your representative in Congress, you expect more from them. And regardless of their score, let them know they can score some major extra credit by committing to read the President’s strategy as part of our From Promise to Peace campaign.
The Good: Representatives John Boozman (R-AR3) and Paul Tonko (D-NY21) both committed to read and respond to Obama’s LRA strategy.
The Bad: One person was killed and another injured in an alleged LRA attack near Yambio, South Sudan. Local self-defense forces pursued the attackers and killed two. The Ugly: The UN’s refugee agency expressed concern over the massive displacement of civilians due to LRA attacks in the Central African Republic (CAR) and neighboring countries.
On Monday Barack Obama waived a ban on military aid to four countries that use child soldiers—DR Congo, Chad, Sudan, and Yemen—citing “national interest,” and raising outcry from human rights groups.
In an Enough Project blog, Ledio Cakaj warns against an overly optimistic response to the AU’s recent announcement of a joint response to the LRA, noting that they may be overestimating their own military capacity, and that without more engagement with the Sudanese government, a strategy to deal with the LRA is unlikely to succeed.
Networks of Congolese churches, with support from the UN and our partners at Invisible Children, are working on expanding radio networks to serve as early-warning systems to notify villagers of impending LRA attacks and alert peacekeeping forces.
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
A probe team is investigating allegations of voter fraud in the recently held primaries for Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. Current President Yoweri Museveni, who won the party’s nomination for next year’s Presidential elections, said that a re-vote will be held in the contested polling stations and the primary’s results will be re-evaluated.
Ugandan political opposition leader Kizza Besigye, set to run for President against Museveni in 2011, criticized the current government’s record on education, saying “Education has been almost decimated by the disastrous policies of the NRM,” and promised to do a better job if elected.
A group of US doctors are working with a hospital in Gulu, northern Uganda, to conduct free reconstructive surgery for victims mutilated by the LRA.
In a statement released this week, a Congolese bishop expressed indignation against the international community for their lack of attention to the LRA crisis. “The assailants are still present and roam freely given and known to everyone. What is surprising is the silence of the Congolese Government in this terrible affair that has made many victims in our families.”
Human Rights Watch elaborated on their article in Foreign Policy earlier this month, explaining that US logistical and intelligence support for a multilateral operation to apprehend LRA leaders could significantly enhance the odds of success, and urged a strong focus on civilian protection and encouraging LRA defections.
If you’re not yet familiar with Resolve’s Congressional Scorecards, this post might just change your life. OK, that might be a bit melodramatic, but we really do love this resource and we think you will, too. And with US Congressional elections just a week away, now is the perfect time to re-introduce you to this little gem.
Our Congressional Scorecard is a handy little tool we’ve developed over the past few years to keep track of our Senators and Representatives’ engagement on LRA issues. We take a look at what actions they’ve taken, such as cosponsoring related legislation, signing on to letters to the Administration or the UN on the issue, or making public statements about the crisis. We look at how long they’ve been in Congress, assign them a grade based on how many opportunities they’ve acted on—and how many they haven’t—and assign them a grade. For more on how the scores are calculated, go here.
As members of Congress campaign for your vote, your opinions and concerns are at the forefront of their minds. Now is the perfect time to let your members of Congress know how much you care about this issue and that you expect them, as your representatives in government, to make ending LRA violence a priority… and to remind them that you’ll be holding them accountable at the ballot box next week.
So, what grades do your current representatives have? Are they running for re-election? Find out here. All current members of Congress are listed by state, and the bolded names indicate those who are running for re-election.
What should you do now? Don’t get us wrong—we’re not encouraging you to base your vote on our scorecard alone. There are certainly a variety of factors that guide your decision on who to vote for and you should consider a candidate’s position on a variety of issues. But, as a constituent who cares about this particular issue, we thought you’d like to take it into consideration when you go to the polls.
With that in mind, here’s something you can do right now to influence your representatives (even if you’re too young to vote yet). After checking your representatives’ scores, click here to send them an email. If they have a good score, congratulate them—everyone loves positive feedback, and people rarely take the time to congratulate representatives on a job well done. But if their score has some room for improvement, let them know you expect more out of them. And regardless of their grade, let your representatives know that they can score major extra credit by committing to read and respond to the President’s LRA strategy when it’s released in November.
Remember to vote on November 2 (check here to find your polling place), and happy election season!
We just hit the 30 day mark on the countdown to President Obama’s LRA strategy release. That means that there’s less than a month to make as much noise as possible to let the President know that we are watching, and that we will hold him accountable to providing the leadership and commitment needed to finally see this crisis ended. If you haven’t already, make a personal commitment to read the President’s strategy, and ask your friends to do the same.
And now for this week’s news:
The Good: The African Union (AU) held a meeting last week to discuss the LRA, and promised to put into motion bold new initiatives to address the crisis.
The LRA allegedly attacked a village in Yambio county, South Sudan on Wednesday, looting and burning houses, killing one civilian, and wounding another. Local self-defense forces who were recently armed by local authorities pursued the attackers and killed two of them.
Ledio Cakaj of the Enough Project discusses the difficulty of locating LRA leader Joseph Kony, and explains that a comprehensive solution to the LRA crisis will likely require diplomatic and military elements and target a number of top LRA leaders, not just Kony.
The governor of South Sudan’s Western Equatorial state said, “I have collected concrete information that the Sudan Government is preparing a proxy force to destabilize Southern Sudan through its neighboring Central African Republic and DR Congo.”
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
This week, my colleague Kaitlyn talked with two Ugandan civil society leaders, who expressed concern that upcoming elections will not be free and fair and could destabilize the country. Watch the whole interview here.
At a peace conference in northern Uganda, cultural leaders expressed concern about disputes over land ownership, which have been prevalent in the north as people uprooted by LRA attacks leave displacement camps to return to their villages.
Although the agreement made at the AU summit to improve cooperation in dealing with the LRA is a positive signal, it remains to be seen whether these countries have the political will and resources to actually implement the recommendations, which include appointing an LRA envoy and forming a “joint brigade” to pursue the rebel group. Read our full analysis of the African Union summit here.
Representative Parker Griffith (R-AL5) released a statement on the LRA after a local lobby meeting with constituents, saying “The time to end this conflict is now, and I applaud the Administration for formulating our nation’s first strategy for US assistance in resolving this horrific war.”
We’ve posted several stories from Sister Giovanna Calabria, a Comboni nun who has worked for decades with LRA-affected populations in South Sudan, and northern Uganda. She wrote to us again recently to share the story of a young boy she met in Nzara, South Sudan, where she works, and we wanted to share the story with you, too. Twelve-year-old Richard* told her:
On March 13, 2010 the LRA attacked my village Baite, near Dungu in Congo. They abducted all of us—my mother, my father, my 15-year-old elder brother, and my two sisters, thirteen and eight years old. My parents refused to follow them into the bush so they were tied to a tree, and they killed them, along with my brother and my two sisters, in front of me, beating their heads with a log. One LRA told his companions not to kill me as I was going to be trained as a soldier like them.
I stayed with them almost two months. Some abducted people in the meantime were able to escape. To prevent this, they tied me together with two other abducted men. One day we were attacked by the UPDF soldiers, and fighting started so we all scattered. It was not easy for us to run as we were tied together, but we managed to hide, lying down in the grass. Shooting stopped completely but we still remained in the same position for fear of meeting the rebels. We managed to cut the rope and free ourselves from each other. We walked for hours in the bush until we met a man who was cutting down some trees; he was from Yambio. The other two abductees went on their own way while this man, after listening to my story, invited me to go to his home. I felt better because I did not know where to go, as my family had been killed. I also heard that my village had been attacked by the LRA three times and no one is there. I wonder if even my relatives have been killed.
“Richard was brought to me today by one of our Catechists as he needed assistance, decent clothing, a blanket, and a piece of soap. He asked me for a pair of shoes; I gave the money to the Catechist to buy it for him in the market as the boy is still a bit lost and confused. We talked together, we shared and I invited him to come again. He agreed with a smile whispering ‘thank you.’”
“I always feel moved when I see and hear people and children going through these traumatic experiences that will mark their lives forever. I ask the Lord to touch the hearts of these LRA and of the Government leaders to stop the activities of these rebels who are causing a lot of suffering.”
—Sr. Giovanna Calabria,
Nzara, South Sudan
September 11, 2010