ABOUT THE WAR IN UGANDA
A war has been raging on in northern Uganda since 1986 and very little is known about it around the world. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed, maimed and over 25,000 children abducted. It is clear that the impact of this war on children has been widely ignored by the perpetrators, the international community and the donor nations that support the warring factions.
The purpose of this book is to highlight the neglected plight of abducted and abused children in northern Uganda. The book will be used to trigger a bigger global support for the fight for the rights of children caught up in situations of war. This book will also be used to communicate to a wider audience to expose the war and the gross human rights abuses being perpetrated on the children of northern Uganda. Similarly, the book will also be used to highlight the plight of other African children that have been forced to fight for both government and rebel forces as child soldiers. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to support the educational cost of the former soliders
Okema who is Coordinating this project grew up in war times in Uganda. Okema has seen many atrocities himself. Okema witnessed a lot of horrible acts perpetrated on innocent civilians and children in Uganda. Okema has lost many members of his family to wars including children. It is his hope that this project will be a stepping stone towards a healing process for Okema, his family and the children affected by the wars. This project is the firt steps toward a global effort for fighting for an end of the use of child soliders, justice,peace and human rights in Africa.
The problem of child soldiers in Africa is today one of the most ignored human rights problems of the world. As the African continent continues to experience wars in many countries, it is clear that the impact of these wars on children has been widely ignored by the perpetrators, the international community and the donor nations that support the warring factions.
Africa alone is estimated to have 70% of the world’s child soldiers. Of these, the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF estimates that 25,500 of these children were abducted by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA from northern Uganda. The United Nations and human rights organization have also accused the government of Uganda for recruiting and using children in its army. The UNICEF has identified many children in the Ugandan army. These children have been used by the Ugandan government to fight in the north of the country as well as in Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
The problem of child soldiers around the world has become very troubling. Many
rebel leaders and some governments have used child soldiers to fight for them.
Uganda is one such a country in which both the national army and the rebel
groups have extensively used and still continue to use children as part of their
force. These children end up missing the vital normal stages of childhood and
they are forced to grow into adulthood. Consequently, after the war is over,
they end up frustrated, disappointed and traumatized because the society has no
room for them. Since 1986, the UNICEF estimates that the rebels of the Lord
Resistance Army, LRA have abducted well over 25,000 children and this figure
does not include the number of children used by the government of Uganda as part
of the national army or local militias.
UNICEF has made some collection of similar children’s stories from northern Uganda. However, the collection is brief and does not focus on the human rights element that the book will expose. The pamphlet seems to narrate what UNICEF is doing in northern Uganda and does no intend to use the material to reach a wider global audience. This book will be different because it will focus on the children’s basic human rights and a call for the world to take action to curb this inhuman practice on the children. It is my hope that the average person and policy makers from both Africa and donor countries will be able to read and understand then book so as to compel them to take necessary actions.
What makes this book unique is the fact that the children have drawn these pictures themselves based on their personal experiences in situation of war. These children have not gone to any art school but their messages contained in these drawings are so compelling to the extent that trained artists could have otherwise not been able to convey. Even the stories are narrated by children and explained in clear innocent language understandable by both children and adults.
Okema has been working on this book project since the year 1999 when he was still in Uganda. Since then, he has colleted well over 150 children’s illustration showing war scenes, killings, abuses in the process and the children’ own appeal to the world to come to their rescue. Okema is also aware of the limited financial resources available out there and it is this reason that the book project has been slow to be completed.
Due to the above financial constraints, Okema has done his best to use his writing and computer skills to put together the materials needed for the book. Because it is not easy to get the money needed for almost everything. Therefore, Okema has used his own effort to write, do interviews and consult other resourceful individuals who are interested in seeing the success of my project. It is it very frustrating to accept the fact that, in spite of my books compelling human rights theme, very few organizations and individuals are willing to fund it. Okema has also been working with the local University of Pittsburgh chapter of Amnesty International of which he is a member and together, they plan to hold an art exhibition of the children’s work. We will ask for donations from willing supporters and put the money toward the cost of publishing the book. It is because Okema believes that he is doing the right thing and for the right reasons that Okema has persisted with it. Okema will continue to persist until the book is published.
Okema plans to use this summer of 2005 prepare all materials and publish the book. Okema has so far collected some of the most needed materials. Okema will use the summer to finish collection, put materials together and edit the book into a print ready material. Okwma plans to publish the first book and later continue to publish new editions in series or different volumes. This will be based on what is happening in different parts of Africa. The book will be used in the spread of this campaign for the plight of Africa’s child soldiers.
The Thomas Merton Center for Peace
5125 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Tel: (412) 657-8513