Firstly, I can't praise the organization Invisible Children enough. They are a tireless group of young people dedicated to ending the war in Northern Uganda and bringing the Child Soldiers home.
The movement started in 2003 when 3 young film makers from California went to Africa without any particular plan in mind. The three young men, Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, and Jason Russell returned home with a remarkable story to tell. Africa's longest running and probably least publicized conflict is the one in Northern Uganda. It's not a very sexy conflict, there's no oil, no diamonds, no Muslims or communists to demonize, just people. Perhaps this is why so little is known about this conflict which has been running for 25 years. There are about 1.6 million people stuck in Internally Displaced Persons camps, and the unsanitary conditions are killing them at a rate of about one thousand per week. Approximately 60% of the girls in these camps have been sexually abused, and there's one toilet for every 4000 people. They are in these camps for "their own protection". The reason? One man named Joseph Kony and his rag tag army, The "Lord's Resistance Army"
It's impossible to know how many children have been kidnapped by this crew. Perhaps as many as 50,000. We will never know. The children of northern Uganda became known as the night commuters, because every night tens of thousands of them would walk for miles to find safe places to sleep, and then walk back home again in the morning. The people of northern Uganda were caught between a vicious rebel army who wanted to steal their children and a government who coveted their land and wanted them to disappear (the Acholi people are an ethnic minority). There was nobody to speak for them.
The three young lads from California came home and made a documentary called "Invisible Children". Determined to be a voice for these disenfranchised people, they used the power of the internet to launch their movie to a wider audience. By word of mouth and the power of the internet this movie became a cause as the children of North America embraced the message. This cause became an organization. The organization is built on social networking, blogging, tweeting, facebooking, and young people with limited budgets keeping in touch with one another the only way they could afford. They would organize rallys, and prompt one another to activity, they would badger and pester their representatives in parliament and congress until their voices could be heard. They would tweet, plurk, myspace, badger, bother and encourage one another into action. Guess what? Their voices were heard.
Yesterday the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act passed through Congress and it now only awaits President Obama's signature. Here's how that was done
Is there anybody out there that is still unconvinced about the power that social media has in the world today? Congratulations to the dedicated crew at Invisible Children, each and every one of you is truly an inspiration to me.