Beyond Kony: Rebuilding Life in Northern Uganda
Mothers of northern Uganda have horrid stories to tell in regards to the LRA war. We have heard some already and for some, we might never hear, but for every narration, it breaks a heart, a soul, it breaks your system down.
Many lost a father, a child, a husband and relatives. Just a few of them can count themselves lucky to have sailed through with their families intact. Northern Uganda is fast changing though. Changing for the better.
At about the same time the Invisible Childrens’ Kony2012 video was trending worldwide, another NGO, The Children Of the Nile (TCON)– also run by Americans was in Bungatira Sub-county in Gulu doing an honest job in my opinion helping widows of the two decade war.
While the Kony2012 video depicted Kony to be routed in the jungles of Northern Uganda, abducting men and children, raping women, and slicing off peoples lips, TCON was in those “Jungles” trying to empower widowed mothers because of the war.
Contrary to the picture painted by Kony2012, a bunch of Americans were in Odek, Kony’s village as the video trended, racing towards the 100million tape, from where Craig Nason, TCONs Networking and Communication Director tweeted;
“Sitting right now with the widow of #josephkony older brother. 18 years in IDP camp, finding Kony not her priority, rebuilding life is.”
The video predictably received a backlash from Ugandans who thought it misrepresented the facts on the ground. Among the most elaborate reaction was a youtube podcast by one of Africa’s finest bloggers, Rosebell Kagumire who claims the video portrays the usual outsider trying to be a hero by rescuing African Children and she goes on to urge for sound intelligent campaigns geared towards real policy shift. Rosebell appeals for focus on the real current issues affecting the children of Northern Uganda like the nodding disease.
There is also a group of professional Ugandans who came with UgandaSpeaks, an online social media platform that encourages motivated Ugandan media makers to tell their own stories. They were directly encouraged by the misrepresentation of facts in the Kony2012 video.
Unlike the Invisible Children with hundreds of staff members and perhaps thousands non staff, TCON, comprises of just eight staff members (3 in Uganda and 5 in the US) who over the years have directly extended help to hundreds of women and children in north-eastern and northern Uganda. That withstanding, Invisible Children has contributed to some extent towards the well-being of the Children of Uganda.
The Children of the Nile primarily focuses its programs to directly assist poor and vulnerable women because, in their own words; “when a woman is equipped and empowered she can become a change agent for her entire family.”
In Bungatira Sub county headquarters, hundreds of widowed mothers received 5kg maize seeds amidst traditional Acholi dances. TCON aims to increase food security for the mothers and their families who are just trying to rebuild their lives after the war. In over a month of distributions, over 30.000 widows received each 5kgs maize seeds.
The message passed unto the widows was an encouragement to self sustenance. The widows were encouraged the widows to plant the seeds, harvest, make some income from the harvest while saving some seeds for replanting.
TCON does not stop at just helping widowed mothers. They have CON constructed a 15,000 square foot facility designed to provide palliative care for 120 patients in an effort to offer the highest standards of care and to restore dignity to the acutely sick and terminally ill widows registered with TCON.
They’ve also helped an estimated half a million children by providing the necessary resources to launch agricultural business initiatives, better access to health and palliative care, educational support for the youth and orphans of the region and through hosting conferences and training opportunities to strengthen community networking and development.