Former Child Soldier Speaks at San Marcos High

U.S. Tour Educates Audiences on Conflict in Northern Uganda

Invisible Children, an organization dedicated to bringing peace to northern Uganda through education, hosted its first event of a ten-week tour to educate U.S. audiences on the conflict in Uganda and what they can do to help. The event, held at San Marcos High School Friday morning, featured a screening of Invisible Children’s documentary The Rescue of Joseph Kony’s Child Soldiers and a special guest: Jacob, an eyewitness and survivor of child abduction.

Jacob, second from right, was abducted at age 11 to serve in a rebel army known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda
Anna Pollock

Half an hour before the event, Jacob calmly helped set up a table for t-shirts, handmade bracelets, and DVDs in front of the San Marcos auditorium. Wearing a green Invisible Children t-shirt , blue jeans, and tennis shoes, a casual observer would never guess the incredible story behind this young man’s gentle demeanor.

In 2003, three young men from California filmed Rough Cut, a documentary focused on child soldiers in northern Uganda. Jacob was one of the children in the film. Now, six years later, the three documentarians have started an international campaign to bring peace and education to Uganda. As part of the organization they founded, called Invisible Children, Jacob received a scholarship to go to school, and is touring the United States for ten weeks, bringing his story to audiences on the West Coast.

Jacob, like over 30,000 children in northern Uganda, was abducted at age 11 to serve in a rebel army known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). After his escape, he joined many other displaced people in Uganda who lived in refugee camps by day but fled to cities by night to avoid abduction. The young man in the Rough Cut documentary expresses deep fear, and an almost complete loss of hope; Friday morning at San Marcos High, Jacob expressed hope for the future and an expectation of change.

Now, the 23-year war between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army continues, but the LRA’s presence in northern Uganda has significantly dwindled. As such, Invisible Children has started campaigns to educate the youth of Uganda, to “educate future leaders of peace.” Jacob’s ten-week Legacy Tour is one of many initiatives to educate not only youth in Uganda but people internationally, to raise awareness of and funds for a country that continues to be plagued by the devastating destruction of a rebel madman.

After the film screening, Jacob spoke briefly about his experiences and responded to questions. One student asked Jacob how he felt being in the United States knowing that so many other children faced much harder fates back in Uganda. He replied that he was happy to be here because he knew he was helping raise awareness and aid for those children.

I spoke to Jacob briefly before the event. He spoke with a wide but timid smile and gestured with outstretched palms. He is 20-years-old, and will be starting law school next fall. To his tastes, our food has no salt, no soup, and lots of raw stuff like salad. He said he would like to see the hollow tree that the road passes through near San Francisco. When asked how he felt about the film, he responded “Personally I don’t love to watch it, but I watch it to advocate for the rights of people.” Jacob uses his story to advocate for the rights of people; his story is not easily nor lightly told.

Jacob will be speaking again tonight, February 19, at the First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara at 7:00 p.m.

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