“Each and every day, we were on the run for our lives,” Kizito told an audience of about 50 in Crounse Hall. “I’m glad I was among the lucky few who was able to escape being abducted.”
Escaping through the window was just one of Kizito’s close calls with the LRA. He has gone on to earn a high school teaching degree, and now mentors 34 Ugandan children, including orphans and children who have had to flee for their lives, much like he did.
But thousands of other African children’s stories do not end so happily. The LRA has a 23-year history of kidnapping children in Uganda and other neighboring countries and turning them into child soldiers, sending them out to kill — sometimes even their own parents — in order to maintain the organization’s power.
Other crimes the LRA has been accused of — disfiguring faces, forcing women into sex slavery, mass killings and causing the displacement of millions — are heinous enough that the International Criminal Court has designated Kony one of the most wanted war criminals in the world.
Invisible Children has been raising awareness about the LRA’s actions and lobbying since 2004 to put a stop to Kony by capturing and trying him for crimes against humanity. The group is known for its viral video campaigns and globally-coordinated activism events.
In 2009, Invisible Children got an estimated 85,000 people in 100 cities around the world to participate in an event called “The Rescue,” where participants “abducted” themselves to a public location and refused to leave until a celebrity showed up to “rescue” them.
Dyanna Jaye, one of the Invisible Children team members with Kizito at Centre Tuesday, participated in The Rescue inWashington, D.C.
Jaye said she was first introduced to the problems faced in Uganda and Invisible Children’s efforts when a high school teacher showed an Invisible Children film in her class.
“It kind of took over my community and I’ve just sort of stayed with it ever since,” she said.
Jaye, several other team members and Kizito are one of many teams touring the nation premiering Invisible Children’s newest video, focused on making Joseph Kony a household name in 2012 and keeping the pressure on the LRA. The stop at Centre was the second day of the team’s 10-week tour.
As Kizito explained to the audience, Kony has moved into other regions of Africa, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, since Invisible Children began achieving its goals.
In 2010, the U.S. federal government passed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which made it U.S. policy to kill or capture Kony.
Kizito credited U.S. government involvement — and Invisible Children efforts that pushed for the legislation — with forcing Kony out of Uganda.
“The old life is coming back, which is very exciting,” Kizito said of Ugandan culture. “We are getting to realize what it is like living in a peaceful community.”
Kizito said he likes being able to mentor Ugandan children and see them complete their education.
“Every year, I see a good number of children graduate from high school and go on to college,” he said. “I believe that (education) is one way we are going to be able to recover from the war.”
But while Uganda is recovering, Kizito is quick to point out the LRA continues to commit the same atrocities in other countries.
One program Invisible Children has helped implement is a system of high-frequency radios in villages in the area where the LRA is active, which allows separate villages to alert each other if the LRA shows up.
Lawrence Bremer, one of the Invisible Children team members, said the video screened at Centre will go live worldwide on the Internet Monday.
Besides summarizing the history of and current situation with the LRA in Africa, the video also calls viewers to participate in Invisible Children’s cause, including a major activism event scheduled for April 20.
“This country will wake up and they will know who Joseph Kony is,” Bremer said. “We want to use (the prosecution of) Joseph Kony as a symbol of what international justice looks like.”
To learn more about Invisible Children, sign up and participate in the cause or purchase Invisible Children merchandise that supports programs in Uganda, visit www.invisiblechildren.com. The group’s newest video, which was screened Tuesday night at Centre College, will premiere worldwide on the Internet Monday.