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Emma's Kony horror

WAR CRIMES: Emma Ocholla wants Clarence Valley residents to support the social media campaign aimed at raising awareness of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. Photo: JoJo Newby
WAR CRIMES: Emma Ocholla wants Clarence Valley residents to support the social media campaign aimed at raising awareness of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. Photo: JoJo Newby

WHEN Grafton man Emma Ocholla heard about the plight of his countrymen at the hands of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army on Thursday morning, vivid memories came flooding back about his encounter with the regime controlled by the world's worst current war criminal.

Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a guerrilla group that has forced more than 60,000 African children to fight in a murderous armed conflict that has continued for more than two decades.

The focus of their private war has been in the border regions of Mr Ocholla's former home of northern Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

LRA members have been accused of murder, rape, torture and sexual enslavement.

Media reports out of Africa say the LRA has massacred civilians inside churches, forced them off cliffs, burned them alive and even made them eat dead bodies.

In 2005 the International Criminal Court (ICC) named Kony the number one criminal in the world because of his crimes in Uganda.

Shortly after the ICC indicted Kony, he fled Uganda and officially has been in hiding since 2006.

Mr Ocholla said he strongly encouraged Clarence Valley residents to support a social media campaign aimed at making Kony 'famous' in order to raise awareness of the LRA and bring the indicted war criminal to justice.

"I am really excited about the social media campaign about the 'invisible children' that is spreading the word about Kony," he said.

"If I could get my hands on 'invisible children' posters I would put them up around Grafton."

Mr Ocholla said when he got word of the campaign, memories came flooding back about the day a bus he was in was captured at gunpoint by the LRA.

"When they capture you they pick the strong ones. If they know that you're weak they will shoot you," he said.

"I was on the bus with a pregnant woman next to me and the driver got shot - that's how they stopped the bus."

Once captured by rebels armed with AK47 machine guns, he said he was made to carry the LRA's bounty from robberies into the bush before undergoing a test of strength

"The way they test you is they make you fight someone ... Women get to pick a partner and they are assigned to that partner to fight for the rebels.

"If you are a man they make you wrestle with one of the women who were captured by the rebel group.

"If you fight her and beat her she becomes your partner to fight with in the rebel group."

Fortunately for Mr Ocholla, a member of the LRA who was a former classmate recognised him and let him and a woman escape the clutches of the LRA by advising them to walk through the bush to the nearest town.

Mr Ocholla fled his war-torn homeland in 2005 and has since enjoyed living in Grafton where he has his own business, IT and Video Solutions.

To find out more about the invisible children campaign, visit invisiblechildren.com.

The Guardian has an in-depth review of the accusations made against the invisible children charity and the complexity of the Ugandan situation.

Topics:  africa, joseph kony



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