President Obama did something really, really good this week. He sent 100 Special Ops military “advisors” to Central Africa to help local government forces get rid of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group of crazed, vicious thugs who have been terrorizing people in four countries for as long as many in the region can remember.
The New York Times reports: “For more than two decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Africa,” Mr. Obama wrote in a letter to Congress announcing the military deployment. “The LRA continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.”
You don’t even want to know what kind of atrocities he’s talking about. Joseph Kony and his men are depraved, sick torturers, rapists and murderers who have been at it so long that I doubt they can ever be rehabilitated. They are part of a long cycle of violence in Africa that begins with the kidnapping or luring in of young children, boys and girls, who are then drugged, beaten and raped into total submission to the authority of the adults, and grow up indoctrinated into the lifestyle of terror.
For an inside story, read Ismael Beah’s memoir A Long Way Gone, or the chapter in my anthology African Women Writing Resistance by former girl child soldier China Keitetsi, whose memoir Child Soldier is available in an e-book edition.
I can’t help but think that there is an element of racism in the fact that it’s taken so long for the international community to unite behind the mission of bringing true security to Central Africa (including the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some of the worst human rights violations in the world are taking place daily, with women and girls disproportionately targeted.)
When Bosnian men were massacred, people thrown out of their homes, and women and girls imprisoned in rape camps by the Serbs, the Clinton Administration waged an all-out war to stop it. All that and more has been happening in the DRC and neighboring countries for decades. Decades.
Eve Ensler has done a tremendous amount to get the word out about the impact of all this violence on women, not just in Africa but throughout the world. I particularly admire her because she has used art as the medium for her outspoken calls for solidarity and resistance with victims of rape and violence–starting with “The Vagina Monologues,” and moving on through a host of books and plays.
She’s also used digital media to get her word out and build a global movement to end violence against women, and I don’t think anyone does it better–check out her website, vday.org, to see for yourself.
Eve Ensler is a great example of a woman of privilege who has used all of her talents and gifts to reach out and help others–and not through begging, cajoling or guilt-tripping, either, but through the sheer power of her spoken and written word.
President Obama has the power to send in the military, and it’s good he’s at least taken the first step in that direction.
We ordinary people have power too, more than we often realize. We can open our eyes to what’s really happening in our towns, our country and our world, and then allow our hearts to show us the way to action for positive social change.
There is no more urgent task for each of us in our lifetimes. This is what we came here to do.