OGDEN — Grace Nimaro remembers a night 11 years ago that started like every other.
Then 15, Nimaro and her extended family members headed for the Ugandan jungle when dusk came, because night was when rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army would look for houses, to kidnap children they would force to be soldiers. Adults and babies often were killed, and women were raped, Nimaro said. Homes were looted and burned.
But that one night, 11 years ago, stands out in Nimaro’s memory.
“They took my cousin, and we don’t know if he is still living or dead,” Nimaro said. “He was 12. His name is Blessing Lubanga-Ken. I spent that night in a different place, and when the new day came, I heard he had been taken. We thought he would escape and get back home after a month or so, but he never made it back home.
“If they had found me, they would have taken me, too.”
Nimaro will speak at Weber State University on Monday night, and will share her story and that of the 26-year war in Uganda. She will introduce a 24-minute documentary, “KONY 2012,” about the anti-government Lord’s Resistance Army Leader, Joseph Kony.
The free event is at 6 p.m. Monday in Room 229 of Elizabeth Hall. Weber State is at 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden.
“Our main goal is to make Joseph Kony famous,” said Nimaro, now on an educational tour for Invisible Children, an organization that gave her a scholarship to continue her education. Invisible Children works to stabilize the war-torn communities of Central Africa, and opposes the LRA’s violence and use of abducted child soldiers, according to its website, www.invisiblechildren.com.
“Few people know about this conflict, and fewer people know about Joseph Kony’s atrocities,” Nimaro said. “We believe if many people get to know the story, people will demand his arrest. Many terrorists have been made famous, like Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and Adolf Hitler. We believe if we make him famous, and if people get to know more about the atrocities he has caused to human life, they will demand Joseph Kony’s arrest. We believe this is going to happen this year.”
Nimaro said LRA fighters tried to kidnap her uncle as well. They chased and he ran, stripping off the white shirt that made him easy to track in the darkness. He stumbled into a deep ditch, landing next to a large snake, but he kept his silence and escaped.
“As these guys walk around, sometimes they can sense there is someone hiding,” Nimaro said. “Maybe you cough, or something scares you in the distance and you react.”
Nimaro said young children usually are taken a long way from home, forced to kill, then told their families would never welcome home a killer. Some child soldiers grow up and try to return, but the natives fear for their lives and attack the young adults, who by then are unschooled, uncivilized, lack empathy and are comfortable with killing.
“No proper record has been kept, so it’s just an estimate, but over 600,000 people have been killed,” Nimaro said. “But beyond that, many people have been displaced, and some of the children have never found their families again.”
Nimaro was separated from her family, and has found some members but is missing others. She used her scholarship and earned a business degree from Uganda Christian University. Sometimes Nimaro thinks it would be nice to leave Uganda behind.
“But I can’t, simply because I have five siblings to take care of,” she said.
But until her tour ends, she’s focusing on her work for Invisible Children.
“I’m here to create awareness,” Nimaro said. “I’m here to speak for those who can’t speak on their own. If the people of the United States can stand with us in making Joseph Kony famous, I believe this war can end this very year. That is what I strongly believe.”