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by Jennifer Ching, student writer


Every day, we face the same commute from home to town for school or work. It’s an ordinary part of our day that always ends when we finally return home.

But in Northern Uganda, in Africa, a very different commute is happening, one that is driven by fear. More than a million Ugandans were displaced in 1996, and more than 10 years later, still can’t return home. Their situation is a result of a 21-year-long war between the Ugandan government and Ugandan rebels known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The LRA has been abducting from their homes and villages, children ages 7 to 17 and forcing them to become soldiers for the rebel army. As a result, approximately 40,000 children commute every night, traveling from their villages to towns where they hope to avoid being abducted while they sleep.
Most of the population of Northern Uganda—about 1.7 million people—was forced to relocate to Internally Displaced Peoples’ camps 10 year ago due to the war. Today these camps, which are overcrowded and vulnerable to rebel attacks, still house thousands of displaced Ugandans.

The situation in Uganda has received little international attention. However, three young men from California have started a nationwide movement to push for an end to the war and to help the people of Northern Uganda.

In 2003, these young men documented the story of the night-commuting children. Called Invisible Children, it has been viewed, according the Web site invisiblechildren.com, by more than 1.5 million people.

Part of this audience are the students of Paul Tran’s Social Work 2000 class. After viewing it, Jen Thorne, a social work major, said, “There was no way I could watch this movie and not want to get involved in some way.”

Thorne is now part of a group of HPU students who are organizing activities to spread awareness about the situation in Northern Uganda. Invisible Children was screened in the Sea Warrior Center on April 11, and a sleepover is scheduled for April 27-28 in solidarity with Invisible Children, Inc.’s nationwide campaign called “Displace Me.”

According to invisiblechildren.com, thousands of people in 15 locations on the U.S. mainland will leave their homes and be displaced for one night to raise awareness about those displaced by the war.

“ The war has been going on for 20 years,” Thorne said. “Why are we just now being made aware of it? . . . It is about time we get involved.”

Thorne hopes that by participating in these events, more people will become aware of the situation in Uganda, and that “We can finally return the displaced people to their homes and villages.”

Students interested in participating in a local sleepover should e-mail Thorne at juneaujen@yahoo.com.

For more information about the Ugandan conflict, visit www.invisiblechildren.com.



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