Saving Our African Children
Their uprising signaled the death knoll of the apartheid regime. On June 16th, 1976 in Soweto, thousands of African school children took to the streetsâ€”marching more than half a mile long to protest the inequality in education provided to the Africans compared to the whites and demanding their right to be taught in their own African languages
It was in 1976 that African children in Soweto, South Africa, sacrificed their lives to save the lives of other children and the future of the nation of South Africa. Their uprising signaled the death knoll of the apartheid regime. On June 16th, 1976 in Soweto, thousands of African school children took to the streetsâ€”marching more than half a mile long to protest the inequality in education provided to the Africans compared to the whites and demanding their right to be taught in their own African languages. Hundreds of these children were shot dead by the racist white apartheid government forces. The country was brought to standstill as two weeks of protests by Africans engulfed the country.
It was on this day that children changed the history of South Africa and subsequently put the plight of all African children before the international community. Today, the Soweto revolt appears so faded and distant in our living memory. We should be ashamed for such a lost in memory. We should continue to provide a spot in history for these children who died for what they knew was right not only for them but for South Africa and Africa at large. Many grown ups â€“and children â€“ have died in the hands of oppressive African regimes and in the hands of brutal police forces in New York, Los Angeles, London or Paris. But very few grown ups have stood up and offered to die for what they believe in.
When things become really bad to the extent that kids choose to die than live, then you should know that things are really bad. Celebrated African novelist Chinua Achebe said in his book Things Fall Apart, a frog does not jump out in broad day light for nothing. Something must be after its lifeâ€”something was after these kidsâ€™ lives. The children died for a cause and we should keep their flames burning. This is why we should support all the children desperately in need of our help in Africa. This is why we should condemned and bring to justice war mongers, rebels leaders and governments that have recruited and still continue to recruit children into their armed forces.
Leaders of countries like Uganda, Rwanda, D.R. Congo, Sierra Leon, Liberia and other countries still using children in their forces must be held accountable. A war has been raging on in northern Uganda since 1986 and very little is known about it around the world. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed or maimed and over 25,000 children abducted. It is clear that the impact of this war on children has been widely ignored by the perpetrators, the international community and the donor nations that support the warring factions.
These children end up missing the vital normal stages of childhood and they are forced to grow into adulthood. Consequently, after the war is over, they end up frustrated, disappointed and traumatized because the society has no room for them. Since 1986, UNICEF estimates that the rebels of the Lord Resistance Army have abducted well over 25,000 children and this figure does not include the number of children used by the government of Uganda as part of the national army or local militias.
These children have been used by the Ugandan government to fight in the north of the country as well as in Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. It should be remembered that Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda â€“he has just bribed the parliament with payments of five million shillings to legislators to lift term limits so he can become president for life â€“ rose to power by using children in his rebel army.
To support and highlight the plight of the children of northern Uganda, the Africa Peace and Human Rights Education www.africantransatlantic.org has initiated a project to publish an art illustration book on the experience and use of child soldiers in Uganda. A sample of the children's art can be found on www.africantransatlantic.org. Tax-deductible donations can help fund the book project via www.africantransatlantic.org/onlinedonations.htmc
Black Star News columnist Otika Okema can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org. For more reports please call (212) 481-7745 or click on â€œsubscribeâ€? on the homepage to receive the newsstand edition of The Black Star News, the worldâ€™s best Pan-African news weekly.
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