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American Youth Rally for Child Soldiers in Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army


Over the past two decades, Ugandan rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army have kidnapped thousands of children, using them as soldiers or sex slaves. The LRA is also accused of killing villagers in Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Recently, hundreds of young people gathered in Washington to push the U.S. government to take action.

They came armed, with shirts, signs, and letters for their representatives in Congress. These young activists rallied in Washington on behalf of thousands of children abducted into Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army.

They were joined by celebrities, international experts and Ugandan officials. Their aim was to build support in Congress for a bill to get the U.S. involved in disarming the LRA and capturing its leader, Joseph Kony.

During a 23-year fight to overthrow Uganda's government, Kony's LRA has kidnapped an estimated 66,000 children.

Valerie Mirelez traveled all the way from New Mexico for them and says, "What makes a difference if these children are from America or if they are from Uganda, if they are from the Congo. What is the difference? They are all people and this is people. That is what we are here for."

The two-day lobbying event was organized by three groups, including California-based Invisible Children. Laren Poole is one of Invisible Children's founders; he hopes members of Congress will listen.

Poole says, "We think that their constituencies, politicians' constituents, flying from around the country to talk to them about a conflict 8,000 miles away will pull on their heartstrings to engage more."

To prepare for meetings with congressional aides, participants heard from a number of officials.

One was International Criminal Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. The court issued an arrest warrant for Kony in 2005.

Moreno-Ocampa says, "These kids are incredible, because they are showing how a citizen of the world has to be today, and it is fantastic to see them. It is literally, for me, wow, for me, it was one incredible day."

Uganda's Minister of State for International Affairs Oryem Henry Okello said he and his colleagues were also impressed by the enthusiasm.

Okello says, "I think if the bill comes through and the Obama administration enforces the bill, then that means that they should be able to give us the kind of equipment, the kind of intelligence, and what our armies need to be able to address the issue of the LRA once and for all."

Senator Russ Feingold was one of the original sponsors of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. He encouraged the participants as their meetings on Capitol Hill drew near.

Senator Russ says, "Your presence here - traveling from different parts of the country and taking time off of work and school - sends a loud and clear signal that the American people want this to be a priority."

The activists spread out by state and talked with more than 370 Congressional offices, before uniting for an evening rally.

After their lobbying effort, Invisible Children said dozens of senators and representatives signed onto the LRA disarmament legislation, bringing these abducted children one step closer to being invisible no more.

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