Kony sparks interest in Africa Week

As a part of the university’s acknowledgment of Africa Week, students, faculty and staff will discuss African guerrilla leaders and their effect on the continent today.

Today is Cover the Night, an international event created by Invisible Children, an organization that uses film to attempt to end Joseph Rao Kony’s actions. Kony is the leader of a Ugandan guerrilla group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, accused of kidnapping children and forcing them to become sex slaves and soldiers for his army.

The Invisible Children video on YouTube about taking action against Kony has reached nearly 88 million views. Kony is being discussed at SIU as a part of Africa Week, an annual event, which promotes African and African-American heritage and community diversity.

The movement has recently come under public scrutiny, especially after the Internet release of the breakdown of Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children and creator of the Kony video. The Internet upload showed Russell running in a San Diego neighborhood in his underwear yelling incoherently and disrupting traffic.

Stephanie Young, a junior from Pittsburgh, Penn., studying university studies, said she agrees with the message Invisible Children spreads but doesn’t agree with the organization on certain issues.

Young said she supports other organizations such as Worldvision, an organization that allows donators to determine exactly where and how much money they donate, and Kiva, an organization that helps pay for student loans for individuals who can’t afford them around the world.

She said she supports these organizations more because they have a repayment rate of more than 90 percent.

Though the movement against Kony is prominent this week, other events such as Vic Hamer’s story have taken the spotlight as well.

Hamer, a Sparta native, helped with the construction of a well in the Kenyan village of Kasarani and is raising money to build more wells. Hamer has been raising money by selling African bracelets and jewelry in the Student Center made by a 14-year-old orphan from Africa.

Hamer said he became a part of the project when Ruth Manyara, a senior from Kasarani, Kenya, studying event planning, told him her village in Kenya needed water. After talks with Manyara’s father, Hamer said he helped raise money for the project through fundraisers such as public speaking events and benefit concerts from the Sparta-based bluegrass and gospel group The Gordons.

He eventually raised about $20,000 for the $17,500 well. The rest of the money went to local feeding stations and orphanages.

Hammer said he has been helping the people of Kenya because he wanted to give them a chance at a better life. He said he will continue to be involved with projects in Kenya.

Margaretmary Emefiele, a junior from Nigeria studying political science and international relations, said Africa Week has been a success. Emefiele has been the president of African Student Council at SIU for two semesters.

Emefiele said the event brought in more interest this year, and their food festival Wednesday sold out. She said everyone appreciated the African culture.

Emefiele said donations for African countries have been accepted all week for Mama Hope, a nonprofit organization focused on building self-sufficient communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The week provided students with a presentation of “The African Dream,” a stage production; a forum bridging the gap between Africans and African-Americans; a showing of the documentary “God Grew Tired of Us”; a food fair; and an art auction fundraiser.

Africa Week ends with an annual barbecue from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Rinella Field.

 

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