In March 2012, Invisible Children launched their 'Kony 2012' campaign, to bring warlord and rebel leader Joseph Kony to justice. A year and a half later we appear to have forgotten all about it.
However, there is still the need for continued support for the thousands of former child soldiers in northern Uganda and the affected communities. In my Masters studies at the University of Guelph, my research project examined the benefits and challenges of integrating post-conflict development with reintegration efforts for former child soldiers in northern Uganda.
Research studies and NGOs agree that successful reintegration requires bringing together rehabilitation, community reconciliation, peace and security and post-conflict development. Furthermore, there needs to be a transition from short-term humanitarian aid to long-term development approaches.
Communities need to be rebuilt so that there is something to be reintegrated into for victims such as former child soldiers. Simply reinserting children and youth back into an environment of poverty, inaccessible education and a lack of appropriate employment opportunities will not lead to successful reintegration.
Youth must be reintegrated into communities that offer sufficient economic and social support. There are numerous NGOs working in northern Uganda, yet the challenge is in increasing the coordination of these different approaches and creating a comprehensive framework for long-term development.
Last year, Invisible Children's 'Kony 2012' video was watched by millions of people. Soon after its release there was criticism of the inaccurate portrayal of conflict in Uganda and people began to question the credibility of Invisible Children and its founders. There was heated, yet promising, critical discussion.
Today, it is no longer on people's minds. Public interest was lost as fast as it had first been gained. However, we cannot simply forget. The victims of this two-decade conflict are still in need of help. NGOs still require international and local support to help assist post-conflict development and reintegration efforts.
One example is an organization called Children of Hope Uganda which uses education to empower youth and promote the recovery and reintegration of war-affected children.
Lorna Pitcher, a retired school teacher, and a team of volunteers in Canada have raised over $500,000 in the past six years to help fund programs in northern Uganda that provide education and vocational skills training for former child soldiers.
The Ugandan programs help pay for school fees and materials, operates a vocational school, supervises income generating activities and currently provides university sponsorships for 12 Aboke girls. The programs are run by local Ugandan staff.
Further, Children of Hope sells items that are made locally, such as jewellery, bags and stuffed animals, to help raise money in support of their programs. Students who are interested in supporting Children of Hope are encouraged to start student clubs and can visit http://childrenofhopeuganda.org for more information.
Invisible Children's Kony 2012 campaign increased global awareness of the LRA conflict. But, discussion regarding reintegration efforts for former child soldiers and post-conflict development for affected communities needs to continue. NGOs and other development agencies in northern Uganda need our continued support and assistance. We cannot forget about the victims.
Stephanie Scott earned her anthropology degree from the University of Manitoba before moving to Guelph. You can follow Scott on Tumblr at www.positivedevelopment.tumblr.com