A former child soldier, who testified before a House of Representatives committee on the dire needs of children in northern Uganda, says she got a sympathetic hearing but Congress needs to act on what it has learned.It isn’t enough to hear testimonies like Grace’s—people must act. Congress must act. We must act.
Grace Akallo, 26, testified before the House's African subcommittee on the plight of children abducted by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and who are forced to fight against their will. She was acting as a spokesperson for World Vision.
"Members of Congress agreed with me and other witnesses agreed with me. But agreement does not mean anything unless action is taken," she said after the hearing.
In particular Akallo urged Congress to exert pressure on the government of Sudan to stop supporting the LRA, which operates from bases in Sudanese territory.
After the hearing, Akallo recalled how Sudanese government officials and soldiers would turn up on a monthly basis to LRA camps, bringing food, munitions, and guns. "I'm not just formulating stories. I saw it happen," she said.
The children in Northern Uganda are being terrorized by rebel leader Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony fuels his army by abducting children and forcing them to be soldiers, laborers and sex slaves. According to World Vision, more than 30,000 have been kidnapped since the war’s beginning in 1987, and more than 1.7 million people have been forced into displacement camps, where food and water are scarce and disease is plentiful. But children aren’t safe even in these camps. So, up to 50,000 leave their homes and the camps each night and walk miles to cities and towns to sleep on sidewalks or, if they are lucky, a shelter where they lay on concrete floors with thousands of other children. This nightly routine has earned them the name “night commuters.” (For more information, see World Vision’s synopsis or see the posts in this category.)
As the folks say at Invisible Children (who just released on-line a fantastic video—if you like good music with a powerful message go see it), this is a fire we in America can help to put out. How? Take World Vision’s advice and get involved:
· Pray for peace and healing in northern Uganda, and for the safety of children.Or visit Invisible Children’s site. Consider buying one of their bracelets (I did). I applaud World Vision for keeping this issue before us, reminding us to continue to pray and act, to do what God would have us do.
· Make a one-time gift to help war-affected children.
· Make a monthly pledge as a Gulu Community Partner.
· Advocate for Uganda's children. Contact Congress.
· Sign the "No Child Soldiers" Declaration.
(Image: Invisible Children)