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FHSU students raising awareness of child soldiers in Africa

By LIZ BRACK

Special to The Hays Daily News

Fort Hays State University students recently learned about the controversy surrounding Uganda and Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

The American Democracy Project sponsored the discussion in the lobby of Forsyth Library on April 11. According to the information provided by ADP, Kony reportedly kidnaps children and trains them as soldiers to fight against the government of Uganda in Africa. While this has been going on for some time, it wasn't widely known until a video called "Kony 2012" went viral on the Internet.

An organization called Invisible Children launched the video in order to shed light on Kony's actions and make the general public aware of the war and chaos that have erupted in Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo due to the LRA.

Members of the American Democracy Project gathered to ask questions, discuss and give opinions on matters relating to "Kony 2012," Uganda and Invisible Children. By doing this, organizers said they hoped to get different opinions on the subject.

Students raised questions such as: Should the United States get involved? Was the video the right way to focus attention on Kony, and how effective was it? What should college-aged people be doing to help stop Kony?

"We shouldn't be apathetic towards it, but this is more of humanity's problem. ... America is really good at solving short-term problems. We know how to fix stuff immediately, but have problems with long-term solutions, and Kony is a long-term problem," said Jordan Schmeidler, Victoria senior and project coordinator for the Center for Civic Leadership.

Americans are being urged to speak to to their senators to try to get the U.S. to provide some sort of support in the overall campaign against child soldiers in Africa, though no definite action has been taken by the U.S. government so far.

"The video was a good idea, and it sparked a lot of enthusiasm, but our generation also has a low attention span," said senior Jennifer Verhagen of Holland, Mich., and ADP student coordinator.

Shaley White, a student of the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science and ADP project coordinator, said, "It's really important to have knowledge in a subject if you're truly passionate about it."

The "Kony 2012" video has received more than 87 million views, and that's just on YouTube. The video also has ignited a campaign called Cover the Night, which took place April 20. Throughout the U.S., people were asked to cover the cities and towns they live in with posters about Kony in hopes to bring more attention to his actions.

Liz Brack, Hill City freshman, is a student at Fort Hays State University, majoring in communication studies with an emphasis in journalism.