“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
Controversy is good. It makes people aware of the complexity of global issues. This is what we’ve all witnessed over the past week since Invisible Children launched their Kony 2012 video. As a non-profit organization working on the ground in Northern Uganda, we’re grateful that a light has been shown on Joseph Kony and his rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA has terrorized people in Uganda and Central Africa for over 25 years. Because of increased pressure on the LRA and peace deals between various governments in the region, the LRA was chased out of Northern Uganda 6 years ago and has not operated there since. However, the LRA continues to terrorize people in Congo, Chad, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. Moreover, the tens of thousands of people in Uganda who were displaced and brutalized by Kony’s forces continue to work hard every day to rebuild their lives.
In February 2009, the US provided intelligence, technology and monetary assistance to the armies of Uganda, Congo and South Sudan to launch an attack on Kony’s forces. The attack was not successful as Kony was tipped off beforehand. His forces fled and massacred close to 900 civilians as retribution for the attack. Later that year, the U.S. government passed the bi-partisan LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. The bill outlines US actions that could help end the conflict such as providing troops, investing in structural reformation, and continuing to fund relief to affected communities. The bill was the result of years of education, persistent advocacy, lobbying, and even a “hold out” at the office of Oklahoma State Senator Tom Coburn. Youth across the country partnered with NGOs, diplomats, Ugandans and others to call for the passage of the bill. As a result, last fall the Obama administration sent 100 military advisors to Uganda to help the Ugandan and other regional armies to apprehend Kony. Essentially, the goal of Kony 2012 is to advocate for keeping those advisors in place to continue the hunt for Kony, which has eluded various armies and the International Criminal Court for over 20 years.
Many organizations, including BeadforLife, are now working in Northern Uganda in the regions that were terrorized by the LRA. Although these people are no longer subject to random violence, they’re still in the process of rebuilding their lives, having lost everything when moved into IDP (internally displaced person) camps. BeadforLife has been working in the region for the past 3 years, creating markets for the shea nuts which women have collected for generations. We hope to create a sustainable income stream that will not only provide them with money, but will also help them to develop a sense of pride in that they’ll no longer have to depend on handouts by aid groups for their very existence. We accompany this market-led program with opportunities for people to improve the agriculture on which they depend, by providing access to ox plows, seeds, direct links to markets, and health products like mosquito nets.
We think it is important that people understand that Kony has not been active in Uganda for 6 years. The focus on catching him truly lies in Congo and other
countries in Central Africa. However, for the people displaced, who lost loved ones, whose livelihoods were destroyed, there is a huge and long-term journey ahead. Their work is to rebuild their lives, to heal from the psychological wounds of war, and to create a better future for their families. This is the need BeadforLife is helping to address with our Shea Program. If you choose to support this work through BeadforLife, you will provide income generating opportunities for women like Adit Sofia, Apio Rose and Sarah Omollo. We welcome your support by purchasing our shea products or beads, or hosting a BeadParty.