Grace Nimaro visited Weber State University with countless cards, posters, stickers and bracelets promoting the Kony 2012 campaign.
But this was no presidential candidate she was promoting.
Nimaro hails from the northern part of Uganda and grew up during Joseph Kony’s rebellion in her country. Kony has been waging a war for 26 years in Uganda, Congo and the Central African Republic, kidnapping children, forcing boys to become child soldiers and forcing girls into sexual slavery. During this time, many of Nimaro’s relatives and friends were killed or abducted by Kony’s rebel army.
“This really kept me in a lot of fear, thinking who would be the next person who would be abducted or killed,” Nimaro said.
During this time, Nimaro missed two years of school, but never gave up studying. Afterward, Invisible Children, a movement to stop the use of child soldiers in Uganda, came her way and paid for her to continue her education. She has now graduated at the college level, majoring in business computing. Now she is traveling around the United States to promote the Kony 2012 campaign, which aims to raise awareness of Kony’s atrocities in order to put pressure on the international community to track Kony down and arrest him.
After a documentary screening on the conflict, Nimaro lectured that, while northern Uganda is relatively peaceful now, the war has moved on to the Central African Republic. She stressed the need to raise awareness about what is happening there.
“What I faced during the time of the war is what is happening to the communities in Central Africa,” she said. “Their properties are being looted. Their children are being abducted and forced to fight as child soldiers. Their houses are being set on fire. A number of killings are taking place in Central Africa.”
WSU STAND member Zachary Stickney was the primary contact for Invisible Children. After watching the Kony 2012 documentary online, he contacted Invisible Children and asked them to come speak at WSU. A number of campus organizations participated in Monday night’s event. Among them was the Center for Diversity and Unity, the Multicultural Center, the Nontraditional Student Center, and the Women’s Center.
“I was really impressed with the amount of community we got out here,” Stickney said, “just community members, and that’s something we haven’t really seen to this extent before this event, so I was really happy about that.”
Stickney talked about his desire to continue the campaign against Kony at WSU, as well as canvas school grounds with Kony 2012 posters and start an online community.
“I bought the action kit that they had available,” he said, “and what I’m thinking about doing is seeing if I can get some kind of online campaign on Facebook through our Weber State STAND group and just see if we can get some movement going that way.”
Stickney said he looks forward to continuing the campaign and bringing awareness to the situation in Africa. He said he is encouraged by the deadline attached to the campaign, which is designed to encourage everyone to spread the word and take action quickly to get Kony arrested.
“What’s really impressed me the most about this group has really been this whole idea of ‘let’s make it happen this year,'” he said. “And I think that’s really important to getting people involved in it, because if you just sort of look at something as in indefinite problem that’s going to keep going and you don’t set a firm goal, I think it can set you back in some ways.”
Those who desire to get involved were encouraged Monday night to buy the Kony 2012 action kits, which included bracelets and other materials on how to spread the word, share the Kony 2012 documentary that is available online for free, and donate money to help forces on the ground in Africa who are tracking Kony and rebuilding communities. Those interested can also join Invisible Children as volunteers.
Sunee Washom, a full-time volunteer with Invisible Children, has sacrificed her semester to travel around the country with Nimaro.
“I actually saw a presentation. I saw Invisible Children’s first documentary,” Washom said. “Just coming from a community where looking outside of ourselves wasn’t common, it really struck a chord with me.”
Both Washom and Nimaro will continue traveling through the western United States and plan to reach 50, 000 people with their message. Nimaro said that the more people know about Kony and his atrocities, the more people will pressure the international community to arrest him and stop the conflict.
“We believe in the power of the people like you,” she said. “We can make a difference in human life.”