Film Screening and Congressional Briefing to Highlight Northern Uganda’s War on Children

March 15, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
Created by three young filmmakers from California, Invisible Children packages powerful footage that provides a window into the lives of children affected by the conflict. All three of the documentary’s creators as well as several members of Congress will be present at the screening.

“We have been screening this film all across the country, and Americans are always shocked by what’s going on,” said film director Jason Russell. “They want to see more response from their government.”

Thursday’s briefing will be chaired by Congressmen Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Donald Payne (D-NJ). Panelists will include representatives from the U.S. State Department and Agency for International Development, as well as Rima Salah, Deputy Director of UNICEF, John Prendergast of International Crisis Group, Jemera Rone of Human Rights Watch, and Colleen Mone-Hardy of International Rescue Committee.

“The situation in Northern Uganda, of the night commuters and Joseph Kony, is one of the world’s worst tragedies,” said Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), who co-chairs the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. “The ruthlessness of the Lord’s Resistance Army—who cuts off ears and lips, rapes women, and forces children to kill their own parents—requires our immediate attention.” The world’s “worst neglected humanitarian crisis”—as described by the United Nations—has led to the forced displacement of over 1.6 million people and causes an estimated 1000 weekly deaths.

These events are being co-sponsored by the Africa Faith and Justice Network, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and the Uganda Caucus. They are open to the public, and no RSVP is required.

Background information:
For the past 20 years, the people of northern Uganda have endured a conflict involving the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the government of Uganda. More than 1.7 million people—eighty percent of the population—have been displaced by the conflict and forced to live in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps where deplorable conditions have caused emergency-level mortality rates. These camps remain largely unprotected, and LRA attacks continue to terrorize the population. Nearly 30,000 children have been abducted by the rebel group and taken hostage as soldiers and sex slaves. To escape this fate, an estimated 35,000 children commute nightly to sleep in the relative safety of town centers. These children, known as “night commuters,” remain vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse.
The conflict is increasingly a source of regional instability. The LRA recently expanded into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where clashes with the rebel group caused the death of eight UN peacekeepers, and LRA activities in southern Sudan continue to disrupt return of refugees and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Last week’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections as well as recent restrictions on free speech and political association also have provoked concerns about the strength of democracy in Uganda.