See it, Sense it, Stop It

Volunteers say they intend to build makeshift huts on a stretch of the National Mall on April 28 to simulate camps for people driven from their homes by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group accused of murder and of kidnapping children in Northern Uganda for use as soldiers and sex slaves.

Invisible Children, Inc. is sponsoring the events in Washington, Nashville, New York and San Diego. “It’s going to raise awareness of the issues and we want [the government] to take notice of this and push toward helping. We are much closer than we were last year to peace talks,” said Drew Bratcher, publicist for the event.

According to Invisible Children, Inc more than 1,000 Ugandans die each week and an expected 1.5 million will starve to death by the end of 2007. The organization said it hopes to gather thousands of Americans from their homes and have them experience what it is like to live as slave to war in Uganda.

The camps in Uganda originally were established as a temporary solution to the war to better protect civilians from the Lord’s Resistance Army. The camps however, are far from secure and house up to 1.8 million people, according to a press release distributed by Invisible Children.

Participants in the simulations are expected to send a statement to the U.S. and Ugandan governments demanding that they take an active role in peace talks and the food crisis. Uganda has lost 50 percent of its United Nations food rations and thousands of citizens have been violently evicted from their homes and transported to overcrowded camps by Lord’s Resistance.

Bratcher said that last year there was an “excellent turn-out” and this year more than 3,300 people have already signed up to take part in the simulation.

The creators of Invisible Children, Inc. were three college students from the University of Southern California who went to Uganda and encountered a massive number of displaced people, Bratcher said. “There had not been much coverage so they made a movie called ‘Invisible Children’ about the 21,000 kids abducted in Uganda,” he said.

The movie landed the students on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show. “They wanted to take it a step further to get people in the U.S. really involved and aware of what was going on,” Bratcher added.

Leah Terrell, a student at University of Maryland-Baltimore County, is planning to register and attend the simulation on April 28. “I think it will be an eye opening experience for so many people. People need to see what it’s like for less advantaged people on a first- hand basis,” Terrell said.