Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Terri Harber


More than 100 people came to Baker High School on Tuesday evening to hear about the massive effort to bring an African warlord to justice.

The group Invisible Children has sent representatives across the Pacific Northwest totalk about Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army - specifically how the LRA brutally victimized the populations ofeast and central Africa.

Similar groups representing Invisible Children are making the same presentations across the country.

The visitors showed a video called "Move" - a follow-up to the widely viewed "Kony 2012" that debuted in March and was viewed more than 110 million times.

"It really intrigued me" - especially how so few people knew what was happening there for so long," said Carley Johnson, a 16-year-old BHS sophomore.

"I wanted to hear more, to follow up."

Babra Akello, an administrator at Invisible Children from Uganda, spoke to the audience after the video was over.

"All human lives matter," Akello said. And "the power of our voice matters a lot."

Her father died in the war, leaving her mother widowed with children to support.

Four of her family members were abducted by the LRA as well.

Akello said her mother eventually moved her family to another town so they could all go to school and lead better lives.

"It was the best thing she did for us," Akello said. "It really gave me so much courage in life."

Akello graduated from college in 2007 and ended up working for Invisible Children's scholarship program.

"I'm so glad my mother was very strong," she said.

"It was a good presentation and I feel strongly about it," said Allisyn Ferdig, a 16-year-old junior at BHS. "And hearing Babra's personal experience ... it was interesting."

Babra "is very brave," said Lakalyn Thomas, a 15-year-old in 10th grade, also at BHS.

Kony and the LRA have abducted up to 30,000 children since 1987 and forced them to serve what is described as his cult and militia.

The young boys have been forced to act as soldiers and the girls as sex slaves.

Kony was indicted as an alleged war criminal and for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

He's still at large, however.

Invisible Children plans an event next week called "Move: DC." It's a schedule of events next week in the nation's capital.

World leaders will attend the Global Summit on the LRA on Nov. 17. Invisible Children hopes that President Barack Obama will attend.

There also will be a march to the White House. It's a demonstration meant to add an exclamation point to the statement being made by the organization: Kony must be apprehended and tried for war atrocities, and the LRA stopped.

Invisible Children representatives will speak to members of Congress about how the federal government could stop the LRA on Nov. 16, the day before the summit and march.

Controversy swirled

"Move," which debuted in October, also describes how interest in the earlier video spread like wildfire, and what that attention wrought for Invisible Children and its leadership.

The new video details the subsequent backlash against the organization. The credibility of Invisible Children was in question, as were some of the activities in which it had been engaged.

"When you wake up and you find someone writing 'Kony 2012 is a scam, the LRA leader has died a long time ago,' I was offended because I cannot wake up and start telling lies about my brother being killed," Jacob Acaye said in the new video.

Acaye was featured prominently in "Kony 2012."

"Why would I do that? They abducted me and they killed my brother with the machete," he said.

The backlash intensified when the creator of "Kony 2012," Jason Russell, was arrested after a public meltdown during which he ran naked in public, screaming.

His family said the episode was brought on by the sudden notoriety that caused him stress, exhaustion and "dehydration."

He subsequently described it as an "out-of-body experience."

Russell also emphasized in the new video that his recent troubles shouldn't be a reason to discount or ignore Invisible Children's efforts to help bring Kony to justice.

The awareness campaign tours will wind down next week as the summit date approaches.

The representatives spoke to groups of students at Baker High School during the day as well.

The presentation to the students was within the state's curriculum, which highlights contemporary regional and geographical conflicts.

The organization's campaign against Kony and the LRA has been most effective with younger people because of its heavy use of social media.

While many of those attending the Baker City event were young, there were a significant number of older people as well. Even some gray-haired community members were present.

People interested in supporting Invisible Children and Move: DC are asked to visit the organization's website: http://invisiblechildren.com/movedc/

A local group is being formed to travel to Wash., D.C. to attend Move: DC. It's being organized by Ashley Barnett of the Baker City business Parallel 45.

Call 541-519-6651 or 541-519-6651 for details.